Thingd (Thing Daemon) is building a structured database of every object in the world and then mapping those objects (and associated metadata) to people and to other objects. The concept is still in its early stages of being realized, but it is a big ambitious idea and one worth thinking more about.
The easy (and slightly inaccurate) way to put Thingd in context is: Facebook organizes people, Google organizes information, and Thingd organizes things. The lines get blurry though and I’ve written before about how Facebook and Hunch are creating massive collaborative filters that can improve recommendations for ecommerce and deliver more targeted content and ads across the web.
Thingd approaches the problem differently by focusing on the database itself. It’s basically a utility in the way that twitter has been described as a utility. It is a product whose core function is so basic that it can power a multitude of applications. That is the promise and the reason for the excitement.
For example, Plastastic is a game for toy collectors that is built on the Thingd database (by Thingd). Because it pulls structured data from Thingd, the site enables extremely granular browsing. For example, you can browse for toys that are only 5.5″ tall. More importantly, you signal your purchase interest by clicking “Have it” or “Want it” (similar to Like). By “Wanting” lots of Handpainted Resin toys, Plastastic could show you other toys that people with similar tastes Like. So, what’s exciting is not necessarily the collaborative filtering, but Thingd’s structured data (as long as it is of high quality). Assuming an API is released, anyone could leverage Thingd’s structured data to build completely new kinds of web services.
Since Thingd’s database will theoretically include every object, it could empower anyone to very easily become a buyer and (passive) seller via its marketplace. One could also imagine extending Thingd to other services: consider how Thingd could be integrated with Facebook profiles. It would be far more useful than Facebook Marketplace. Using image recognition, the database could also be used to power affiliate services on sites like Pinterest and Aprizi (similar to how Pixazza works). While an affiliate business model is a first thought, other more interesting models could emerge.
Thingd also launched a platform for mobile developers called productids.org which provides access to >100 million UPC barcodes tied to Thingd’s database. So, if you’re shopping for a bike at a store, imagine an app that could scan a bike’s barcode with your smartphone and then browse for similar bikes based on the specific attributes you care about (style, number of speeds, material, color, etc.). You could check prices and availability online and at physical stores (via Milo). An integration with Google Goggles would be even cooler: take a picture instead of scanning the barcode.
In addition to ecommerce business models, advertisers and publishers might also be interested in connecting to people based on users’ prospective (Want It) and historical (Have It) purchase habits. As long as the structured data is consistent and clean (very difficult to achieve if attributes are crowdsourced), there is a lot a developer could do with a Thingd API.
The immediate challenge for Thingd is to continue improving the user experience while building and refining its database. While the experience on Thingd.com isn’t seamless yet, the company recently launched Fancy, which is a lot more user-friendly than Thingd.com in allowing you to tag images and discover new stuff. Fancy will make it easier for Thingd to collect data on more objects and there’s no doubt the company will be adding features as it rolls out (would be nice to have a bookmarklet for easier off-site tagging; small design tweaks like tiled images and infinite scrolling).
It’s clear that there is no shortage of options for Thingd, so the question will be product focus and execution. I’m really excited to see how Thingd develops. It’s working on a truly massive idea.