« Design Engaged 2005 | Main | Example 1: Using thinglinks to follow the life of an object »

November 20, 2005



I like this idea of the Thinglink and what possibilities it offers for tying into this meme of The Internet of Things, although I don't imagine the ITU is thinking as edgy as you or I might.

Here's the thing about the thing — it might be useful to think of such a thinglink as something beyond an 8-digit "index" to some more semantic meat that is located elsewhere. I think something innovative happens when the object itself contains such semantic data about itself, its history, what it has done, gathered, accreted over its lifecycle. So, the objects are less inert than the objects we're used to now. You don't have to find the 8-digit id for your lost shoes and then Google them; you Google your environment with your spime wand. And we'll need more than 8-digits — we'll need a rich mechanism for folksonomic tagging of objects, so that when we walk by something we want, or need, or like, we'll find out about it without too much hassle.

Poke around here and here for the discussion thread.


Thats the first time I hear of thinglinks. Sounds like a great idea! Some questions:

You mention thinglinks as some way to foster long tail economy, allowing unique identification for things produced in low quantities. Also I understand, that certain things are unique and may be asigned a thinlink individually (such as artwork). But what happens with all the things in between -- such as, say pottery or agricultural products? They are distinguishable individually but usually grouped somehow (shape, genetics, processing, etc.). Language has historically adapted to changing uses for different things. Also, each culture as developped individual usages of the same or some similar things -- and thus labeled them individually. Where do thinglinks stand in this? Wouldn't we end up with as many thinglinks as there are words?

Also (maybee quite naively) I wonder, wether you will not run out of thinglinks some day, maybe as result of the attack by some malicious computer program?


How exactly is a thinglink different from a normal URL? Does each one link to an individual webpage? Does everything have it's own thinglink? Is 8 characters really enough? Will these characters just be a meaningless sounding code? Isn't one of the problem with things in general, is that people call them by different names?


Like Julian, I'm also (and mostly) interested in the question of where and how information about things can be saved or registered, and what sort of applications one could build on databases of things. Also, I like the idea of the "spime wand" (a great concept!) and agree that the use of thinglinks should be as easy as possible. To be honest, I haven't seriously thought about thinglink applications for mobile devices yet, but I hope to have time to do that next year.

I don't think all objects should be identified and for that reason it has been a bit difficult for me to get enthusiastic about the idea of the internet of things. I think people should have the right to decide what is meaningful and worth of identifying as a thing. The idea of thinglinks arose from my own interest to craft, design and art, and that's why it's hard to say where thinglinks stand in relation to agricultural products. I guess producers themselves has do decide that. But yes, I have been wondering about this question, especially after I met with Anne Galloway at the Design Engaged. She made me realize that also the information and stories behind agricultural products or food are (definitely!) something people want to share.

In principle, same things (for example copies of an Alvar Aalto vase) can be linked individually, if there is a reason for doing that. For example, people might have different interpretation of their artistic background or some special user stories they want to share with others. On the other hand, in a situation where very different kind of things are called with the same name (like in Adam Wern's example of Paris), thinglinks may help to make internet searches more specific.

A thinglink is not equivalent with an individual url, but in a database it can represent a collection of urls. For example, go to flickr and search a thing:445B88C5.


York from Japan asked if one can thinglink music and how does that happen.

In principle, a thinglink works as metadata that one can use to find information about all kinds things online. So yes, you can also thinglink your music - especially if you want to share your work online and make it easier for your friends to find it. (Or alternatively, to make it easier for you to find what other people have said about your music).

Basically, you can create a thinglink with the (still very rudimentary) link generator, and add that link on the page where you display, describe or refer to your music. The usefulness of thinglinks of course depends on the performance of search engines. Within certain databases (like flickr) they work, but for example a google search on specific thinglinks is not reliable unless the thinglink is title-level information.

However, as your question concerns music, I should also mention a great site called Music Brainz, which is an open metadata service of music. In the future, I hope to develop thinglink into that direction.

Bob Doyle

Hi Ulla-Maaria,

Please take a look at the proposal for globally unique meme IDs and associated memelinks, which share a lot with your ThingLinks.

See http://www.memography.org and http://www.memeticweb.org

I posted about your ThingLinks on the Memetic Web blog.

Bob Doyle


Here are the manual trackbacks.
1. thinglink
2. cookpad


York, I think your DNOCTURNE tune is great!!


Ulla, thanks for the compliment! Here are the 3 links of articles in my blog for your great comments.
1. Thinglink for Music [thing:E3E11A80]
2. A thousand thanks, Ulla!! [thing:E3E11A80]
3. NextMusic [thing:E3E11A80] [thing:4E1AE810] [thing:47B18058]


Hello Bob and thanks for the link to meme IDs. I just read through your pages and yes, it seems that we are on the same track. What meme IDs are for web pages and corporations, thinglinks are for physical products and (especially) small producers. Let's keep in touch!

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