Few people realize the essence of hacking. It’s not about breaking into systems, it’s not about conning credit card details, it’s not about defaming the government (the government itself, is fairly capable at that), it’s not about inflated ego’s, its not about affronting Microsoft (although that, in my opinion, is a most welcome side effect). Hacking is about finding inventive solutions, using the properties and laws of a system in ways not intended by its designer. It’s an art, cherished and acknowledged by few, but recognized by all (1).
People like Richard Stallman, Larry Wall, Guido van Rossum, Linus Torvalds etc. understand this. They have devoted their careers to democratizing knowledge, thus making it tad easier for hackers to work their magic. An open source os and free compiler, a higher level language like python, web scripting languages like perl/php are all tools that make hacking feasible and more enjoyable. Flagships of the web, Google, Amazon, Ebay etc have joined their lot, they see an unharnessed potential and have modeled their businesses to benefit from innovation, even when it comes from without. They have opened their doors, and made the Web a playground for hackers. And hackers have heeded the call, a file system on gmail, a stitched image from google maps, ebay listings on cell phones, http://www.mappr.com, http://www.housingmaps.com examples abound, but this is just the beginning, more is to come.
I see my current project ((2) not sure if I can make the details public yet) as an extension to the same theme. It’s an attempt to bring Web hacking to the masses. Ingenuity in computing is not a prerogative of programmers, it’s simply guarded by layers of complexity, given the means amazing things can come from the most unexpected quarters. To me, we would be honored to have hackers as our users and we will be successful, if we can create hackers from our users.
(1) John Draper, also known as Captain Crunch, found that a toy whistle given away in the cereal with the same name could be used to mimic the 2600 hertz tones phone lines used to set up long distance calls. Pierre M Omidyar, wrote a person-to-person trading website in a single labor day weekend in 1995. Shawn Fanning cooked up a solution for his friend to access and share music files. Bram Cohen bettered him and wrote bit torrent to confound RIAA. Paul Rademacher married Google Maps and Craigslist to create http://www.housingmaps.com.
(2) We expect a beta-release sometime this month.