Just a collection of rough notes, thinking and musing on the next generation of "presence" that I've been wanting to assemble for a while:
- Presence has been historically been associated with a variety of communication technologies – IM, phone, mobile, etc. It is often associated with the consumer space where ICQ and AIM emerged as very popular tools that brought presence into the mainstream. You can go back further to find technical roots. Enterprise presence began in 1998 with IBM Sametime. Jabber emerged and made XMPP popular which has its own presence capability (2000-ish).
- People participate in presence systems because they wanted to broadcast their availability – to make other people, namely their friends, aware that they were online in case they wanted to contact them in some manner. You want to let people know that you were available – and contactable – through some type of communication tool.
- Presence started as a fairly simplistic concept. In the beginning, you usually had to manually set your presence – “away”, “busy”, “invisible”. Some tools would let you customize your status message. Tools became more intelligent and sometimes would derive your presence (lack of computer activity would change presence to “away”).
- "Aggregated presence” also emerged – other devices could be probed to influence your presence status. For instance, if you were on the phone, and the phone was connected to the presence system, you would be marked as “unavailable” or “on phone” until you hung up (which would cause your presence revert back).
- "Rich presence” was another advancement where presence was augmented with additional information about you. For instance, someone could click on your presence information and view a user profile (business card) that often displayed additional information (title, department, etc).
- Some presence systems were also smart enough to know what tools you were using or what part of a system you were in (“Mike is in the document library editing ABC file”).
- Presence continues to mature and now bumps into the Attention Management space as well. We want presence to help with attention management tools that deflect undesirable noise but let through relevant signals.
- People often talk about the killer app for presence which brings up presence-enabled applications and presence-enabled workflow (presence of a role entity vs. presence of a person). Presence indicators often appear inside an application context not just in the communication tool ("buddy list"). You are in an e-mail client and see that the sender is online – why reply when you can chat via IM or on the phone.
- Now we see more capabilities to categorize presence for instance, and reveal it to different groups (my team, my department, my company). And we can federate presence to outside entities (Yahoo!, AOL, Google, etc).
- IBM and Microsoft remain the key vendors for presence overall given their market strength but Jabber remains credible. Virtually all communication vendors remain anchored to SIP/SIMPLE. Few support XMPP. Jabber remains the champion for XMPP as the foundation for presence systems.
- Presence begins to become tied to location services now as well. Mashups are possible where you can show presence on a map. Mobile presence gets a boost from vendors like Iotum that show how an application can leverage presence.
- So we’ve been on this linear track of presence in terms of evolution and maturation – always anchored around communication – getting more intelligent – better aggregation of presence through multiple connections to other communication tools – richer and so on.
- Presence is a key underpinning for unified communications.
And now its time to get off this train track - time to push the reset button.
- Not completely, but the new perspective on presence is that it’s more social and should not be so strongly tied to communication tools for contact purposes. If you look at what’s going on in the consumer space and in social networking – the notion of a lifestream (like the Facebook news feed) and Twitter is a much more relevant model for think about a next generation “presence” framework in a broader sense. Presence is a stream not a static thing that flips once in a while when the system detects an event. We need to step away from presence as being fundamentally owned by UC and think of how it is used in a much more social context.
- "Social Presence" is the uber concept that will build around a feed syndication platform that needs to have backward support for existing presence solutions but opens up the door to many more non-communication activities to become part of what makes you “present”. Presence is really about what you are doing – part of that is for other people to know so they can connect with you but also just to know socially (e.g., ambient intimacy).
- That’s the point I’d like people to take away on presence – it’s beyond UC. It’s about the social aspects of how people observe and create a sense of being connected by having a means for people to let others know what they are doing, where they are, etc.
- Technically, it’s architecturally about a feed syndication platform of which communication tools can participate in but so can a large variety of other systems now locked out of presence systems. Traditional rich presence will continue because there are unique aspects of presence when it does come to UC. But the center of gravity will shift away from UC (and UC vendors).
1. Presence is a key component of unified communications. Presence must seamlessly transition across mobile, IM, etc. Presence must be aggregated from the multiple devices and applications that we interact with. Presence must support richer information about us. Presence must be supported by more intelligent services that enable other solutions like attention management.
2. Presence is broken. It is owned by UC vendors that are not moving the technology forward. Presence makes too many assumptions (SIP/SIMPLE) and has a terrible data model. Vendors are not working with the standards and are not really interested in moving presence into something more open where many other systems and vendors can participate - given the importance of presence, vendors want to "own" the solution and leverage it for their own agenda.
3. People are moving onto the next generation of presence (Social Presence) and looking at social networking as the new model (Facebook). Presence needs to be more of a stream – no longer just about being online and available – more about what you are doing. This means pushing the reset button on presence from a UC and SIP/SIMPLE perspective. We need to think of presence more along the lines of a lifestream or activity stream where a variety of information is published into the stream and people can subscribe to the entire stream or to different types of information placed into the stream.
4. This next generation of presence will require a feed syndication platform that is likely built on top of Atom/AtomPub, microformats etc. Twitter and Facebook are the new models for this broader perspective on presence.