O’Reilly Network: How Ray Ozzie Got His Groove Back Creating Peer-to-Peer Collaboration Software

“Ray Ozzie, creator of Lotus Notes, founded Groove Networks
in 1997 to take groupware in a new direction. His new product,
Groove, enables groups of collaborators to form in a decentralized,
ad-hoc, administrator-less fashion, within or across corporate or
other firewall/NAT-governed realms. Groove is a peer-empowering
form of groupware — what the company likes to call
In Groove, group members interact in highly-secure
shared spaces. These spaces collect all the documents, messages,
and applications (“tools”) related to a group activity. Everything
replicates to each member’s computer — possibly, to several
devices per member — and is available for online or offline use.
Exchange of data is very granular, so that Groove-aware
applications can support activities like shared editing in real
time. Jon Udell, author of Practical Internet Groupware, has been
using Groove for several months, and says “it’s what I’ve been
waiting for.”

Jon Udell: Like many of the products in the
peer-to-peer space, Groove is really a hybrid of centralized and
decentralized strategies. What does Groove centralize, and why?
Conversely, what does Groove decentralize, and why?

Ray Ozzie: Groove can operate in a purely
decentralized manner, but generally that mode of use will only be
typical in home network or small office network environments where
there’s a single LAN segment and peers can be discovered through an
efficient broadcast mechanism. More typically, Groove makes use of
a variety of centralized services in a pragmatic fashion in order
to make the communications experience feel more transparent to the

Jon: You’ve said that unlike NetWare or Notes
or NT, Groove does not require an enterprise to deploy new
directory or naming infrastructure, but that it can ride on
existing infrastructure. How does that work?

Ray: When a user downloads and begins to use
Groove, s/he enters one or more names by which s/he is commonly
known. In my son’s case, it might be his real name to his parents
or a player name to his Quake friends, and yet another screen name
to his EQ friends. Because most of us have multiple personas,
Groove enables you to present yourself differently to different
groups of people with whom you’re working or communicating.

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