It's about giving primacy to metadata. It's about describing metadata in a way that is consistent, flexible and extensible. It's about storing metadata on a secure, persistent and decentralised basis, and treating it like the data that it is: valuable, owned and accessible with the right permissions. It's about creating a universal standard for metadata management.
In an increasingly connected world, metadata provides the vocabulary needed to discover data, clarify policy, implement governance, facilitate arrangements between parties, map complex relationships and track activity comprehensively. It can be used to describe any object (data, actors, actions, resources, workflow) in a given data space, so that they can all be easily referenced.
By managing metadata explicitly, those responsible for data spaces can give data owners greater agency and control over their data; mutualise the costs of collecting and maintaining data for service providers that 'consume' data; open up new markets for the storage and publication of data, and the confirmation of data quality; and propagate powerful new ways to combat ‘bad actors’.
Data silos are in the process of being broken down. New data protection legislation is strengthening personal privacy rights that include the right to data access and data portability. Competition authorities are intervening to establish 'open' markets, and commercial interests are jostling to take advantage of the API- and blockchain-based technologies that provide easily scalable connectivity. And increasingly customers are seeking out the tools that give them control over their splintered digital profiles.
The result is a steady proliferation of data spaces (i.e. data sharing schemes, shared data layers, etc.) that allow institutions to reference the customer data being held by other institutions. These data spaces are usually created for a specific use case or purpose (such as identity or KYC, price comparison, payments, etc.), and are often implemented exclusively within a single organisation or closed group.
As the scope of these data spaces increases, so does the importance of metadata management. And when a common vocabulary is used to describe the objects and rules that govern different data spaces, those data spaces can interoperate, increasing network effects and bringing further benefits to all participants. Without a common standard for metadata management, fragmentation will persist.
MDMP has been written as a base protocol with which to express metadata. It not only proposes a single broad definition of metadata, and but it also gives metadata primacy, rather than treating it as secondary descriptive information. As such, MDMP acknowledges that metadata is itself valuable data that is distinct from the data it describes: it can be stored separately, have different authors and owners and be governed independently.
MDMP also envisages an ecosystem of one or more Metadata Service Providers (MSPs) who hold and manage the metadata, and provide services to the owners, custodians and consumers of the underlying data. MSPs store metadata securely on their 'shard' of the Fact Table, each of which can be referenced by other MSPs. The Fact Table therefore acts as a form of a distributed ledger.
At Factern, we've made a start. We've had a crack at implementing MDMP, and have set ourselves up as an MSP: the Factern API supports shared data layers that enable intra- and inter-network collaboration, without the need for anyone to migrate their data.
But we know that not everyone will want to use Factern as a hosted service provider; that different technology solutions bring different qualities to the implementation; and that we haven't even begun to think through all the functionality that could be delivered in compliance with MDMP. And we know that the real benefits will only come from creating a network of interoperable data spaces.
We'd love you to take part in the Project. Interested parties are invited to participate as both critics and advocates of MDMP, as MSPs, and as potential members of the MDMP Foundation.
Alternatively, developers are invited to join the growing numbers of users of Factern's own hosted service, integrating and building applications with the potential to discover, reference and request access to data stored anywhere in the world.