I'm writing some text to the thinglink.org site. Here is the first formulation of 'what is a thinglink'. Please, feel free to comment!
A thinglink is a free unique identifier that anybody can use for making the finding and recommendation of particular things easier in the Internet.
A thinglink identifier is based on the idea that many of the things we use in our daily life are quite particular. Perhaps we know their origin (who has made them, when and how) and something about their history or previous use (like with furniture and cars). Some things have more meaning to us than others.
The particularity of things (objects, artifacts) becomes visible in the ways we communicate about them. Every day we tell stories about the things that we have, or the things that we desire. We evaluate and compare products on the market. We share photos of objects that we find interesting or curious. Some things we want to recommend to other people. All this we do, to a greater extent, online.
The ability to find and to refer to a specific thing is typically based on a system of identification. Whereas people are identified with a name and a personal identification number, web pages have urls, and commercial products have unique product codes. There are however lots of things that fall outside these categories. These include most of the non-mass manufactured items, such as works of art, design. Without a unique identifier, finding and recommending these things in the Internet is difficult.
Thinglinks are unique, 8-digit identifiers that anybody can use for connecting physical or virtual objects to any online information about them. A thinglink on an object is an indication that there is some information about the object online—perhaps a blog post, some flickr photos, a manufacturer’s website, a wikipedia article, or just some quick comments on a discussion site.
The purpose of the thinglink.org is to offer an easy way to learn about products and artifacts in their various contexts of production and use. Small-scale producers such as artists, designers, and crafters can use thinglinks to bring their products to the emerging recommendation-based market in the Internet.