On-site Client-centric Socialization

What is On-site Client-centric Socialization (OCS)? It is a term that I made up in order to describe an interesting concept, since I could not find the applicable terminology for it. The idea turns the tradition Internet up-side-down, by moving part of the control from a server-centric model to a client-centric model. The end result of this are that:

  1. When a user goes to any website, user suddenly is now able to see additional material on that website and socialize with other users visiting the same site.
  2. It would have the appearance that the original website has been enhanced in some ways, even if such material and socialization features are not available on the original website.
  3. ..

Looking at it another way, it would appear that a virtual layer (or dimension, if you are a physics geek) has been added on top of the existing internet. Following are some examples of what could happen inside this layer, even if the original website does not offer them:
1. Visitors to a website are able to add comments and view other's comments.
2. Visitors are able to vote on various topics related to the site, or propose topics to be voted on.
3. Visitors are able to see a list of recommended links related to current site, or add links for others to see.
4. Visitor are able to enjoy augmented features, such as clicking on a word to show search result, show related map or translation, etc.

There are many other possibilities of what could be done within this layer.

So why is OCS interesting?

The standard Internet assumes a publisher-centric model, i.e., what you see on a website is entirely controlled by its publisher. If a user is allowed to do something on that website, such as adding a comment for others to see, it is only because the publisher allows it. The visitors have absolutely no control in how the website should be like.

OCS in fact upends this publisher-centric model. OCS is on-site it injects new functions and content onto the website as it is being visited. It is client-centric because it shifts part of of the control to the visitors. And among the functions that can be injected onto the website, the most interesting one would be for socialization which connects visitors in the context of the said website.

Is what OCS does even legal?

I would believe so, since the original website is entirely untouched, and only those people who have installed the said browser extension can participate in activities inside this virtual layer.

If any legal expert has insight on this, by all means please enter your comments below.

Crowd-driven stuff could get messy, isn't it?

It is true, although there are also many commonly-used techniques that can be reasonably effective, such as using designated moderators, or using stricter crowd-driven control (e.g., requiring signing-in in some situations, display driven by up/down votes, etc.).

How did the idea of OCS came about?

This idea originated from my work in a crowd-driven socialization platform for live/hot events, called sMesh Central. It allows a non-technical user to create a gathering place for live/hots events, with a wide selection of real-time media or social components to choose from. Separately it also allows you to bring this online gather place onto another website in the form of a web widget using embed code.

A part of this work I looked into other ways to inject sMesh Central onto other websites without the use of an embed code, since using embed code requires the cooperation of the website owner. So the idea of OCS came about as a way to inject sMesh Central onto another website entirely under the control of end users.

This kind of code injection in itself is not all that different from what some browser extensions would do. It does become interesting you push the idea to the limit and creating a kind of secondary web that is controlled on the client side, and not from the server side.

Is OCS actually feasible?

I believe so. A working proof-of-concept prototype is already in existence.

Relation to the Darknet

The main difference is in the intended purposes. The main purpose of the Darknet is anonymity, which is not OCS is about. In contrast, the purpose of the OCS are:

  1. Content augmentation of the clearnet (i.e., the typical Internet people see), driven by the general public.
  2. Enable social activities directly over clearnet contents, again also driven by the general public.

As such, OCS is best viewed as an enhancement of the clearnet, and not as something that meant to be hidden from public views.

Relation to the P2P technology

The P2P technology provides a way for users to link up with each other over the Internet without the use of a central server. The term P2P usually brings to mind P2P file sharing, although that's definitely not OCS is about.

OCS may use some form of P2P technology to form its network, among several possibilities:

  1. Through a single OCS server
  2. Through a federation of OCS servers
  3. Through something like the WebRTC in a P2P style
Relation to TAI

The TAI system needs to have the following capabilities (among others):

  1. For a client to use any webpage as a data source for knowledge acquisition or for completing a specific task (e.g., finding the list of colleges that Barak Obama's cousins went to).
  2. For a client to communicate with many other clients
  3. For a client to be operable even without access to a central OCS server.
  4. Aggregate the knowledge acquired on many clients.

The TAI system we are trying to build is of the online and crowd-driven type (see The terraAI Manifesto for details). For the purpose of the terraAI we need a rich client-side mechanism for accessing and processing all webpages, and OCS would appear to fit the bill.

However, for TAI's knowledge acquisition aspect it is still questionable whether this part should be propagation in the P2P or not. TO BE FILLED.

Note that the OCS concept can be easily applied to other spaces outside of TAI.

Open questions

While a rough working prototype for OCS is already in place, there is nonetheless many open questions. If you have any insight in this area please do add your comments below.

  1. Q: If P2P is the principal structure of the entire system, then how would we accumulate the knowledge acquired from all over the place?
  2. Q: DarkNet
  3. Q: How can the OCS contents be indexable by the search engines?
A quick poll

Would you want to use OCS? Do you find it attractive being able to socialize with others on virtually any website?

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