By bblfish on Oct 07, 2009
Let us imagine a future where you own your data. It's all on a server you control, under a domain name you own, hosted at home, in your garage, or on some cloud somewhere. Just as your OS gets updates, so all your server software will be updated, and patched automatically. The user interface for installing applications may be as easy as installing an app on the iPhone ( as La Distribution is doing).
A few years back, with one click, you installed a myPhoto service, a distributed version of fotopedia. You have been uploading all your work, social, and personal photos there. These services have become really popular and all your friends are working the same way too. When your friends visit you, they are automatically and seamlessly recognized using foaf+ssl in one click. They can browse the photos you made with them, share interesting tidbits, and more... When you organize a party, you can put up a wiki where friends of your friends can have write access, leave notes as to what they are going to bring, and whether or not they are coming. Similarly your colleagues have access to your calendar schedule, your work documents and your business related photos. Your extended family, defined through a linked data of family relationship (every member of your family just needs to describe their relation to their close family network) can see photos of your family, see the videos of your new born baby, and organize Christmas reunions, as well as tag photos.
One day you wish to print a few photos. So you go to web site we will provisionally call print.com. Print.com is neither a friend of yours, nor a colleague, nor family. It is just a company, and so it gets minimal access to the content on your web server. It can't see your photos, and all it may know of you is a nickname you like to use, and perhaps an icon you like. So how are you going to allow print.com access to the photos you wish to print? This is what I would like to try to sketch a solution for here. It should be very simple, RESTful, and work in a distributed and decentralized environment, where everyone owns and controls their data, and is security conscious.
Before looking at the details of the interactions detailed in the UML Sequence diagram below, let me describe the user experience at a general level.
- You go to print.com site after clicking on a link a friend of your suggested on a blog. On the home web page is a button you can click to add your photos.
- You click it, and your browser asks you which WebID you wish to use to Identify yourself. You choose your personal ID, as you wish to print some personal photos of yours. Having done that, your are authenticated, and print.com welcomes you using your nicknames and displays your icon on the resulting page.
- When you click a button that says "Give Print.com access to the pictures you wish us to print", a new frame is opened on your web site
- This frame displays a page from your server, where you are already logged in. The page recognized you and asks if you want to give print.com access to some of your content. It gives you information about print.com's current stock value on NASDAQ, and recent news stories about the company. There is a link to more information, which you don't bother exploring right now.
- You agree to give Print.com access, but only for 1 hour.
- When your web site asks you which content you want to give it access to, you select the pictures you would like it to have. Your server knows how to do content negotiation, so even though copying each one of the pictures over is feasible, you'd rather give print.com access to the photos directly, and let the two servers negotiate the best representation to use.
- Having done that you drag and drop an icon representing the set of photos you chose from this frame to a printing icon on the print.com frame.
- Print.com thanks you, shows you icons of the pictures you wish to print, and tells you that the photos will be on their way to your the address of your choosing within 2 hours.
In more detail then we have the following interactions:
- Your browser GETs print.com's home page, which returns a page with a "publish my photos" button.
- You click the button, which starts the foaf+ssl handshake. The initial ssl connection requests a client certificate, which leads your browser to ask for your WebID in a nice popup as the iPhone can currently do. Print.com then dereferences your WebId in (2a) to verify that the public key in the certificate is indeed correct. Your WebId (Joe's foaf file) contains information about you, your public keys, and a relation to your contact addition service. Perhaps something like the following:
:me xxx:contactRegistration </addContact> .Print.com uses this information when it creates the resulting html page to point you to your server.
- When you click the "Give Print.com access to the pictures you wish us to print" you are sending a POST form to the
<addContact>resource on your server, with the WebId of Print.com
<https://nasdaq.com/co/PRNT#co>in the body of the POST. The results of this POST are displayed in a new frame.
- Your web server dereferences Print.com, where it gets some information about it from the NASDAQ URL. Your server puts this information together (4a) in the html it returns to you, asking what kind of access you want to give this company, and for how long you wish to give it.
- You give print.com access for 1 hour by filling in the forms.
- You give access rights to Print.com to your individual pictures using the excellent user interface available to you on your server.
- When you drag and drop the resulting icon depicting the collection of the photos accessible to Print.com, onto its "Print" icon in the other frame - which is possible with html5 - your browser sends off a request to the printing server with that URL.
- Print.com dereferences that URL which is a collection of photos it now has access to, and which it downloads one by one. Print.com had access to the photos on your server after having been authenticated with its WebId using foaf+ssl. (note: your server did not need to GET print.com's foaf file, as it still had a fresh version in its cache). Print.com builds small icons of your photos, which it puts up on its server, and then links to in the resulting html before showing you the result. You can click on those previews to get an idea what you will get printed.
So all the above requires very little in addition to foaf+ssl. Just one relation, to point to a contact-addition POST endpoint. The rest is just good user interface design.
What do you think? Have I forgotten something obvious here? Is there something that won't work? Comment on this here, or on the foaf-protocols mailing list.
print.com sequence diagram by Henry Story is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at blogs.sun.com.