James Governor's Monkchips

Screen Scraping for 2 euros. Enter the Feed Mercenary

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During a recent conversation with Microsoft Servers and Tools uberhoncho Eric Rudder I argued that web service interfaces are being increasingly standardized in interesting and useful ways (stating the bleedin’ obvious in other words!), pointing to John Udell‘s very lightweight, yet very powerful integration of Amazon, bookmarklets and online library catalogs, which allows you to find out whether your local library has a copy of the book you just found on Amazon. I argued that Microsoft’s “integrated innovation” development approach will hurt the company as the current wave of web services explodes (examples include flickr, google, furl, eBay, delicious, audioscrobbler) because MS apprently doesn’t have a near term product “wave” in which to deliver native RSS and service splicing and aggegating support. I argued that syndication is changing the way people collaborate, work and deliver services to partners and consumers, and that Longhorn was too far off to be a feedworld user interface. Consumers surenly wont wait 18 months or more for this stuff, and google is not going to hang around…

i must admit i was surprised when Rudder was unimpressed with the Amazon to library example – “you have been able to do that for years with screen-scraping…”

Its true i am sure – but when did screen scraping ever cost around two dollars? That is apparently the current going rate for somone to make a page feedable. The rather wonderful term for such as person, evidently coined by Joseph Lorenzo Hall, is a “feed mercenary“.

So who is the feed mercenary – step forward Carlo. Copyright and deep linking issues aside, i would argue that somone offering to screenscrape a requested site for 2 bucks, paid for using paypal, is a an intriguing model. This is *not* your father’s screen scraping.

And its not your father’s business model either. Steve Gilmor explains it very well in a blog called: RSS for Food

“Sean Gallagher may not have coined the term, but his early use of the phrase Blogging for Food to describe my old CRN blog continues to resonate. While most bloggers don’t derive direct income from their sites (save for some Google bucks,) they certainly take advantage of viral marketing, brand management, and the virtual equivalent of a pan-handler’s pasteboard sign on 25th and Lincoln.”

My point is that something new is happening, whether or not the core concepts are new. There is nothing new per se about Service Oriented Architecture, or even Enterprise Service Bus, as Bob Sutor is arguing, but they will drive down total cost of integration… dramatically. I dont’ think we’ll see IBM Global Services offering custom screenscraping at $2 an interface anytime soon – but then again unless Microsoft changes its current product delivery schedules-it may not be providing the enabling software either. So if IBM isn’t providing the services, and MS isn’t providing the software – who is going to make all the money? We’ll find out…

One comment

  1. Adam Bosworth weighed in on related issues today – and is not only more aggressive in his statements, but can be considered an authority on MS product development and delivery for obvious reasons.

    “These days Microsoft gives birth to new products at a pace that makes an elephant seem quick, about every 60 months, that means in the time that a service can make 60 adaptions to its customer’s needs, Microsoft makes one. It used to be that they shipped every 12 months. Then 18. Then 24. And so on. The creep is driven by the ever increasiongly complexity of features, hardware, os variations, and backward compatibility of the API’s so ably designed to lock developers in. They locked the developers in all right. The Microsoft ones. This alone to me has been a compelling argument that when a product can be delivered as a service, it should be.”


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