Building The Microsoft Mesh

Microsoft has dominated the desktop market with Windows since the very first PC’s – a solid run of almost three decades. Despite a late start and some tactics that lead to a lengthy DOJ trial, Microsoft also has the majority of market share in the browser market with Internet Explorer. With the advent of smartphones, Microsoft released Windows Mobile and through device manufacturers such as HTC has managed to gain a foothold in the mobile handset market.

These three markets, along with servers, have formed the pillars of Microsoft upon which one of the worlds most profitable companies has been built. In technology applications come and go but the platforms tend to stick – so there is a very methodical process currently taking place within companies such as Adobe, Google, Apple etc. to build the next new web platform. That next new platform will supplant operating systems, browsers and all else and present a uniform interface across devices and systems to both developers and users.

That new platform at Microsoft is called The Mesh, a standards-based P2P network for communication between devices, applications and identities. The network is built around making each node both a client and a server, and running web services between them. The web services are simple, RSS and the Atom Publishing Protocol, with the foundations based on Feedsync, a protocol Ray Ozzie initially developed that added list extensions to RSS. Feeds of feeds are represented in RSS and a protocol similar to OPML, and there is auto-discovery built in, RESTful URL schemas for addressing users, objects and properties and a services discovery protocol.

The client in Mesh is a local proxy, which synchs and establishes all communication back to the server or to other peers. All local applications are built to point to localhost, the application itself doesn’t need to know where or how it is running, The Mesh takes care of that. Applications can be moved from web to desktop while a user’s settings and profile remain the same. You can click ‘open’ in a web application and see your files from all your different PC’s and devices. You can login at a machine anywhere and have all your data and your profile available to you – and you can push that profile into any application or network that supports the same standard protocols.

What we are talking about with The Mesh is the platform, not the application that many are logging into today to try out. There is a clear distinction here – what you see with file synching and adding machines are implementations of applications on the The Mesh network. The Mesh is a lot bigger than file synching – it’s about detaching users, files and applications from both hardware and operating systems. It is about having all users, files and applications being able to inter-communicate and inter-operate.

The open standards and source communities have been developing and discussing similar schemes in the past few years, involving data portability, feed standards and identity standards. The difference with Mesh is that Microsoft has raced ahead and actually built it all. This is an original vision that began in Microsoft with the arrival of Ray Ozzie, and while there are naysayers within Microsoft itself, the open standards and web communities should at least recognize what is being built here and more importantly – how it is being built.

Update Must-see video demo of development on Mesh
Ori Amiga: Programming the Mesh