What is this? These pages started as a detailed straw-man proposal to flesh-out what it would take to realize our vision of a free and open cloud. They now serve as examples of the technology needed to implement the different facets of open cloud services. Here's how we are going to get there.


At the heart of OneCommons is a decentralized datastore that enables data and user identities to be shared throughout the platform while guaranteeing users visibility and control over their data.

DataCommons is the persistency layer for OneCommons – all applications and services running on the platform are required to store persistent data and state in this layer. Shared and isolated persistency services will enable applications and services to:

Most importantly, any content and data associated with a user becomes available outside the app according to each user’s preference. Everyone benefits from this model, not just a handful of corporations seeking to lock us into their platforms. Over time we will create a pool of knowledge surpassing what any one closed platform can create. This is key to both OneCommons’ “unfair” competitive advantage over proprietary alternatives, and its long-term goal of a free knowledge commons that unlocks and harnesses human creativity and agency.

Privacy and user control

The DataCommons gives users control and visibility over content they author, and the data generated as a result of their activity. All such content, data ownership and provenance is tracked and annotated with sharing rights that fall into one of these three categories:

Private — sensitive data that should only be made available to apps and services on a need-to-know basis. For example, passwords or personally identifiable information (PII) like social security numbers.

Public — data the user has agreed to license with an open source, open data, or creative commons license and is available to all. For example, if a user writes a public product review app, that will be accessible both inside and outside of the OneCommons platform – as opposed to proprietary websites that essentially control those contributions.

Personal — data that the user wishes to maintains control over who and where it can be accessed. For example, a post you only want to share with your friends or appear in the context of a particular app.

Personal data also includes creative works the author doesn’t wish to release under a public license – to support apps likes blogs, or a music-sharing platform like SoundCloud where it is important for users to retain their rights to their content.

The DataCommons enables the creation of management tools that give users the ability to manage exactly how their data and content is being used across all apps running on the platform.

OneCommons’ superpower: forking and remixing of live apps

Have you ever visited a website and wish you could make a tweak to it? What if you could make a live running clone of a site with one click? And the data shared by these sites remain in sync even as they change on both sites?

All this is made possible by the unique architecture of OneCommons:

Furthermore, its economic incentives are aligned to encourage applications to play nice with remixing and sharing data: developers continue to receive compensation for their code’s usage regardless of who is running it. And even competitive site operators gain when the data they manage is made more valuable as it is used in new and different ways.

This power is not without its costs: full support for two-way data syncing can require significant changes to many applications. Thorny issues around trademarks, trade dress, and consumer confusion need to be resolved. But it opens tremendous opportunities, as the following story illustrates.

A OneCommons fairy-tale

One day soon this might not sound far-fetched!

Social bookmarking websites have come and gone over the years as no one has figured how to build one that please the VCs – they become trendy, users put in a lot of effort, and then they disappear.

But with OneCommons a couple of developers dust off an old open-source de.licio.us clone, freshen it up, and run it on the platform for free.

As it grows in popularity, a young math whiz in a far-off country, intrigued with her access to the dataset and compute power, releases a fork with an awesome “You might also like” machine learning engine that she developed. Another popular fork is created by a designer who re-skinned the site.

Now there are several forks of the original site but they all are sharing the same data set so they all benefit from its growth – and the “share” button that sites are starting to adopt work with them all. The original version wanes in popularity but its developers are happy because their code is still being used and so they are still receiving CommonCents.

Meanwhile, as the dataset grows it becomes more useful. One developer uses it to power an URL thumbnail API service, which is rapidly adopted by other apps on the platform. Another developer uses the data to build a service for improving the relevance of search results.

A few users have an outsize impact as they obsessively organize and expand their bookmarks, enjoying seeing how their contributions are adopted throughout the platform. They are excited to watch their CommonCents accumulate – it may not be worth much but it’s fun and motivating to watch. But with the OneCommons platform growing so fast, who knows?

Learn more about DataCommons’ architecture.