Fluidinfo – a database aiming to socialize information

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.