spanish startup

Fluidinfo – a database aiming to socialize information

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Fluidinfo is a small startup based in Barcelona, with a tight international team working on what appears to be a unique idea. The idea came out of its shell just over a week ago, with their free to use launch. Fluidinfo is the child of Terry Jones, who has been working on the concept for years. It’s currently funded by its employees, friends and family, and via a seed investment from Esther Dyson. Currently, Fluidinfo is free of charge.

Fluidinfo’s core product is FluidDB (or Fluid Database). They like to refer to FluidDB as the ultimate social database – it “simply provides an information architecture that is more flexible than the ones we’re used to. It provides a fairly simple answer to the question of how we might work with information more naturally when using a computer” (Fluidinfo’s blog).

The goal is to revolutionize how information is used, crossed and mashed, making it easy to share and integrate data built on FluidDB. Unlike other databases, that appear similar—for example Amazon’s SimpleDB, also an hosted online cloud database, wherein each application stores data in its own database, Fluidinfo turns the concept upside down; all data is centrally stored, enabling information flow.

“The reason this is so different and much more social is that FluidDB gives applications and their users a world in which they can always contribute information. It can take us from a default read-only world to one in which we can all write. Without stopping to ask if it’s ok, and without anyone having to anticipate what we might one day want to do,” says Jones.

The way it’s built, Fluidinfo makes it very simple and scalable for developers (experienced and otherwise) to develop on FluidDB. Because the FluidDB is centrally stored, social and public (based on permissions the developer assigns it), it can naturally serve as an easy to use API or middleware for any of the applications built on it. New ideas and projects—big and small will or could sprout. Fluidinfo is more interested in small, unique, specialized, peculiar datasets that crossed with other data can offer useful applications. It’s a way to extend an invitation to participate to a much greater audience.

Speaking with Terry, it’s difficult not to get caught up in the idea, to dream along and imagine a viral avalanche, a collaborative heaven for developers and hence for us consumers, who will benefit from how information can be stored and then used to mash into new, small, but useful utilities. Sounds a bit like Wikipedia, doesn’t it? And who knows, it might happen. But this is, I believe, is Fluidinfo’s primary challenge: To transform eager developers into an army of marketeers and crusaders. Think of Mozilla and their Firefox extensions. How will Fluidinfo do it?

Their business model is not yet completely decided on. Or rather with a technology like theirs, there are countless interesting business models to explore and exploit. Currently, Fluidinfo is free of charge, clearly an invitation to developers everywhere to test and create. And they should. It will probably remain free for quite some time. Eventually, however the possibilities are endless. Think about it, if Fluidinfo can truly socialize information, you can do just about anything. One of these could be an information marketplace. Essentially, anyone who creates and stores databases on FluidDB can then sell its usage to a third party. It’s much easier to use than any other database, easier to integrate with any component of another, share and mix data. It’s a lot to take in.

There are two sides of the coin of course to having so many options: being so flexible and having an open-ended goal gives a lot of room to run into the successful model. But it also makes it easy to get caught up and disperse efforts and focus. Time will tell. I’m certainly eager to see where Fluidinfo will go and how quickly.

  • deciara

    I’m still not clear from this article on what FluidDB does which is different from a straightforward cloud-based DB? Just giving write permissions for the DB?

    • njr

      Deciara: the models is really quite different from most DBs. Information is stored by attaching tags, which can have arbitrary values, to objects. The objects are persistent and shared, and identified by a Unique, persistent ID and (optionally) a unique system “about” tag. Any user can tag any object with anything they like. And the tags have a rather fine-grained permissions system that allows users to specify who can see, read, write, update etc. their tags, so that they give particular applications to work on some or all of their tags on their behalf. You may get a better idea for the feel of the storage model from


      Nick (njr)

  • Barry Hunter

    Havn’t looked in depth, but this seems very similar to ?

    • Terry Jones (@terrycojones)

      Hi Barry

      There are some pretty big differences from Freebase, though you’re right that Freebase (and Amazon SimpleDB) are nearby objects in the space of hosted databases).

      In Freebase everything is readable, so you can’t build apps that have private or semi-private shared data. In FluidDB you can, and in addition because FluidDB objects do not have owners, anyone is still free to add information to one at any time. So there’s a very different model of information ownership and control.

      Freebase has a complex query language. Queries will be generated by programs, not entered by people. FluidDB has an extremely simple query language, designed for people. You can learn the whole thing in about a minute.

      Perhaps most importantly, Freebase places a lot of emphasis on ontology, whereas FluidDB has no ontology or semantics at all. It’s designed to let users (via apps) add anything to any object, without asking permission, without being anticipated. Given that, one nice way to look at it is as a personalization engine – any time an app wants to let a user personalize or customize something, FluidDB gives it a place to put that extra information (what some call metadata). And the important bonus is that disparate data from many users can be on the same object and be searched across. In a sense the data is social, due to the ownership/control model.

      Sorry, I don’t fee like I’m being very coherent – I just woke up :-) Have a look at some of the articles at and the high-level description of FluidDB at

      Thanks for your interest!


  • Marina Zaliznyak

    Terry, thanks for filling in the gaps.

  • Terry Jones (@terrycojones)

    Here’s the beginnings of an app, created in the last couple of days by @onigiri

    He (@onigiri) and @njr0 are sharing information about the same geo-tagged locations and the mashup displays the information on Goolge maps. This is exactly the kind of easy-to-write and highly personalized app for which FluidDB will shine.

  • Adam Moore

    Actualy sounds a lot closer to Ted Nelson’s work – Xanadu and ZigZag

    Ob.Disclaim – I work with Ted on ZigZag

    • Terry Jones (@terrycojones)

      Hi Adam

      Please say hi to Ted and Marlene from me! I think there are definitely overlaps with Xanadu, though Xanadu is much more ambitious and broad. It’s not the first time I’ve been told this :-)

      I talked to Ted at length in Oxford last year and it was great. He gave me a demo of zigzag (perhaps written by you?) which I liked, but I had trouble getting my head around it. I guess that’s how other people initially feel when they look at FluidDB.


      • Adam Moore

        Hey Terry – I’d be happy to talk to you more about ZigZag, if you’re still interested?


  • Terry Jones (@terrycojones)

    Hi Adam

    Yes, sounds great. I’m in the Bay area this week and not so easily reachable by phone / skype. Maybe next week when I’m back in Barcelona. I’m terry fluidinfo com.

  • Ariel

    Congrats Marina for your post on TechCrunch… well done! Very interesting indeed.

  • Auntie Bud

    When will you have a year or two o explain it to me? xxxx

  • Terry Jones

    Bud! Hi there :-)

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