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Why CEPS Matters

CEPS provides a way for applications to work with multiple data stores. For developers, this means that you can create a new app knowing that it can run on various compliant datastore systems. For Personal Data Store (PDS) system providers, it means that you can have that many more apps to offer to users of your data store. If CEPS is adopted widely, the personal data store ecosystem can only be enriched.

Today, a number of different personal data store systems are pursuing similar ends – to grant users full control over their personal data, effectively freeing them from the current web services model where third party web sites and applications are retaining all our personal data. Yet, today, each of these PDSs has its own proprietary technology and methods to allow third parties to build apps running on those data-stores. 

This is a paradox that can only slow down the adoption of PDSs:

  • As a user, why should I jump off the rock of current proprietary web services model to land in another hard place where apps are still proprietary (even if I get more control over my data on those PDSs.)  If I am assured that I have full portability to new data stores I will have more confidence to join the ecosystem,
  • As a developer, why should I build a new app that runs solely on one type of data store? If my app could easily work with any one of multiple data stores, I would be much more prone to building apps. 

In this light, CEPS is the start of an effort to create some economies of scale in this nascent industry. 

In its current inception, CEPS has a minimum viable set of functions to run basic apps on PDSs. It allows the app to authenticate itself on the PDS, and then write records, read and query them, and update or delete the app’s own records.

Here is how it works in practice. In the video, you see a desktop app – in this case a note taking app called Notery, but it could have also been a mobile phone app. The app connects to my PDS which is in the cloud,  uses it as its store of data. Any mobile app or desktop application that you can think of could use the same model. They don’t need to send your data to some server you have no control over – using CEPS, they can store your data on your own data store.

This second clip is similar. It is an app called Tallyzoo, with which you can record and count various things. It also connects to my server and keeps data there. This is significant for two main reasons.

First, Tallyzoo wasn’t written by me. It is easy to connect some app to some server if the same person is writing both. But in this case, the app was written by Christoph from OwnYourData without any knowledge of my server. The only thing that Christoph knew was that my server would accept CEPS commands. And that’s all he needed to allow me to use Tallyzoo and store my Tallyzoo data on MY personal data store.

Second, the Tally Zoo app is a server based app – it is a web service. It is like all the great web sites we visit every day. It runs on a third party server and I am like any other user visiting a web site. The only difference is that Tallyzoo doesn’t keep my data on its own servers – it keeps the data on MY server. This is really significant in that it points to a model for all web sites to store our data on our data stores rather than on their servers.

This is a simple difference, and CEPS is a tiny little and simple specification. Yet the example above points to a world wide web which could be radically different from the one we interact with today. It shows that indeed, there is no reason for any web site – any third party company – to keep any of our data on their servers. 

This may be a world worth striving for.