Dan Bricklin’s SMBMeta Proposal

I’m not grokking what makes Dan Bricklin’s SMB proposal such a Good Thing. XML is nearly always a Good Thing, easy to produce, consume and transport. But how does this provide much more value than a vCard or vCard-RDF on your website? So, we each put a little smbmeta.xml file on our websites, and then register with whoever’s collecting business cards? Then, they can publish our site, if it meets their criteria. (SMB, by the way, is Small and Medium Businesses, in this case, not System Message Block). The aggregation issue is a new one, encouraging registrars to develop online directories.

The second question is why the smbmeta.xml has to be tied to a domain name? If you’re really talking about small businesses, paying for a domain name doesn’t make a lot of sense. Take “Rusty’s General Store” in downtown Contoocook as an example. It’s a one-woman shop selling pet supplies, food, grain, bird seed, and various related products. A web site? They have a phone. An answering machine was a new addition recently. But a web site is a questionable investment at best, even a business-card sized one. I like the idea of being able to submit an SMB metafile, or vCard-RDF, or equivalent, to get my favorite pet store a little extra business, but I don’t see where the tie-in between domain and directories necessarily applies.

Doh. Dan shoots down my argument in his white paper with:

Another lesson learned from the Internet in general is that while the cost to participate should be minimal, it should not be zero, because facilities that can be flooded for free will be. That’s why we insist that the file be located at the top of the domain: because domains cost money. The money to pay for a domain name is money a business would spend anyway — the marginal cost to a legitimate business is in fact zero — but nonetheless it’s a real cost that can help prevent spam.

Okay, I can see that. We do want to stop the flood that would be caused by a free service. And the cost of setting up a simple site on an existing system for a single page “Come visit our store: hours, directions and phone number” web site should be minimal, along with the costs of annual domain registration. To attract anyone other than the geeks, though, the system has to grow to a large enough size that customers are likely to find the directory entry.

And why not vCard? No phone numbers or email addresses, in order to prevent spammers from harvesting the list. Makes sense to me. I’ll be interested to see where this proposal goes.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.