OAuth - Breaking down barriers

OauthThe “final draft” version 1.0 of OAuth was released yesterday. OAuth is an Open Authentication spec that is attempting to become the standard for cross-platform information exchange.
- The Problem -

Let’s say you have accounts on a wide number of websites: Facebook, Netflix, Flickr, Amazon, Twitter, etc. Combined you have a network of sites that perform unique functions as well as store your personal information. Currently, however, information about you that is available to one site is inaccessible to the next. For instance, Netflix has no idea what you’ve purchased on Amazon and vice-versa, information that would allow both sites to offer better, more personalized recommendations that would help you find more movies you want to watch while increasing sales at the same time.

Cross-functionality isn’t an option either; there’s currently not a way to automate a Twitter post letting your friends know that you have just posted a new photo album titled “____” on your Flickr account. In order for this to work, each account would need your personal login and password credentials of the other, giving both sites full access to sensitive information as well as the ability to modify it. While the sharing of unique personal data and the utilization of cross-functionality would be useful, the difficulty of safely transferring info from one site to another has not been surmounted, leaving each account existing in a vacuum.

- The Solution -

OAuth is a protocol that enables the secure transfer of login credentials across platforms, making the examples above easy tasks. With OAuth, people can enjoy cross-functionality among different accounts without ever exposing their passwords. In addition, people are able to select the level of access granted to other sites for each of their accounts. For example, a person could give Match.com access to their Facebook interests, but not to their wall posts or friends lists.

Programmers developed OAuth by combining what they saw as the best features from other protocols (such as Google AuthSub, AOL OpenAuth, Yahoo BBAuth etc.), and they hope to solidify it as the open authorization standard. One feature that really sets OAuth apart from the rest is that its built with support for not only websites, but desktop apps and mobile devices as well.



Micropledge - get software made - A crowd-chipin compared to crowd-sourcing

micropledge

MicroPledge allows users to support software projects by making small pledges which add up to pay the developer.

There are several projects that I can think of which will probably cost $500 or so to do. Unfortunately those projects are not worth $500 to me, they are worth $15-$20.

So I can submit an Idea for the project on the MicroPledge and pledge $20 for it. Hopefully there will be others who need something similar and they might pledge $5-$10 for it and then you have a pool of money that is just enough for a developer to code the project.

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Any user can submit a project idea or pledge to existing projects. Developers can quote to develop projects and get paid.

This is sort of like crowd sourcing in reverse- crowd-chipin, let’s call it.

Funny thing is that I saw this happen in health care industry for a major project once. Hospital A needed a piece of code written, developer wanted $1.5M for it. We got the sister hospital involved and the vendor was able to give us names of a few other hospitals that had similar systems, we called them up and got pledges to up their license fee by $200k if the new code is written. The developer had $1.5M+ in pledges and the work got done. The hospital A, ended up getting the software almost free because they agreed to beta test the code. Because the pledge was an increase in the license fee, the developer made a lot more than $1.5M. I was counsel to the first hospital and prepared the software development and implementation agreement for that deal.

There are times when the model is perfect! It is a great deal for the developer; they have the development funds pledged and the fact that it is a desirable piece of work, also means that the developer can license it or shareware it and improve his return. It is a great deal for the consumer, they get custom software written for a fraction of the cost.


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Pinger: Did they hear your voicemail?

pinger logoYou left a voicemail on someone’s cell phone. Now you are sitting around wondering if they listened to you message. What do you do? Call them back? Wait it out? Now there is something that you can do!

Enter Pinger, a cool cell phone voice mail application. When you sign up for Pinger, it allows you to call a phone number and leave a voice mail on any cell phone.

This is where it gets really neat. Pinger has introduced a new feature where you can actually see whether your message was picked up or not - an ear icon shows up next to the item in the outbox of your web account, when your message is played.

Pinger turned out to be remarkably easy to install. Like all web based mobile apps, you give them your mobile number when you open an account. They text a code to your phone, which you use for verification.

The feature that worked really well was the address book. You type in names of your contacts. When you want to leave a voicemail for them, you just speak their names into the phone. The name recognition worked well (seems to even pick up on foreign sounding names). You can also send a broadcast voicemail to a group of people.

pinger mail box

According to John Lai, Product Manager at Pinger, they have several other new features such as Pinger Promotions.

“This service allows our partners to post a widget on their website so that users can subscribe to receive audio clips from the partner. This also works if the partner already has a subscriber list whose members have opted into receiving content on their mobile phones. “

Previously we wrote about YouMail, a service that makes your voicemail a whole lot more exciting, by allowing you to customize your outgoing voicemail greetings, along with a host of other handy features.

Pinger provides a convenient voice alternative to text messaging.It is scary enough when people drive down the highway talking at length on their cell phones (while reading the newspaper, and eating at the same time), they don’t need to be sending SMSs as well. Hopefully, a service like Pinger will dissuade that kind of behavior!

Pinger is based in San Jose, and received $3M in series A funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and $8M in series B in a round that also included a new investor, DAG ventures.


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Microsoft releases new health website HealthVault

Microsoft has released a new site for storing health records, called Health Vault. It is generally acknowledged that in this day and age of mobility, it is necessary to have some way to digitally store medical histories, in a way that they are securely and permanently accessible. To be useful, however, health care providers have to buy into the system. That is where the challenge is going to lie for Microsoft and a host of other start-ups in this field.


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