April 06, 2005, 4:36 PM — In the 1990s, Internet entrepreneurs liked to talk about how "context" rather than "content" was the fundamental difference between online communities and traditional print magazines. While the Web delivered on its promise to deliver ubiquitous content, optimize transactions and transform commerce, it never really lent any sense of context to users' online experience.
This is because the Web was never designed as a real-time medium.
Today, most Web-based applications and enterprise middleware systems are invocation-based and thus follow a synchronous request-response paradigm. Typically, a browser requests a particular service from a server by either sending a request message or performing a remote method invocation and then receives a reply in return.
The growth of presence
Instant messaging (IM) provides the missing real-time component. Because it is based on the notion of "presence," it provides a natural framework for decoupled and asynchronous many-to-many flows between content subscribers and publishers. The first application of this publish-subscribe architecture is the well-known "buddy list," which allows users to subscribe to another person's state in order to be notified whenever such state is published.
Presence improves users' ability to communicate and interact, tying together applications that previously lived in isolation. Presence is the dynamic extension of identity; it describes one or many states of an identity, exposing users' ability, means and overall willingness to engage in a transaction. Typically, a presence engine will store and manage the connection status of users, their device and their capabilities.
It's easy to envision how businesses might benefit from presence.
Presence in process
There are two sure ways to increase productivity: do more things in the same amount of time, or do the same number of things in less time. The secret to improving either is to find and eliminate the embedded (mostly avoidable) delays in business processes. This is where presence can make an enormous difference.
Far too often, the delays in business processes result not so much from missing information, but from an inability to locate and briefly interact with an individual who has the necessary information (or authority) to put that process in motion again. Presence, the ability to see someone's availability, and the ability to spontaneously communicate with a person is a powerful tool for addressing this common business challenge.
Weaving presence into the fabric of business processes has a tremendous potential to reduce wasted time. The bottom line impact: productivity improves, costs go down, customer responsiveness increases, and competitive advantage results.
Presence on the horizon