One impression I took away from the Enterprise 2.0 conference (#e2conf) in Boston this week is the sense that Lotus Notes (along with companion products such as Lotus Sametime), directly or indirectly, influenced the leading products and services now being positioned as "Enterprise 2.0" and/or "social business" solutions.
I'm not entirely unbiased in this context, of course, since I led the Notes product management team at Lotus Development Corp. during the mid-1990s, but many of today's popular solutions have a lot in common with the defining features of Notes for asynchronous communication and content-based collaboration (and Sametime, for synchronous communication and collaboration).
Notes-inspired capabilities most people now take for granted in their collaboration solutions, for example, include:
- Workspaces, to facilitate purposeful, joint activity
- Pervasive discussion/conversation capabilities, including the ability to comment in context
- A hypertext content model and the ability create links to workspaces and documents, to categorize documents, and to share information via e-mail, subscription/notification, and other mechanisms
- Identity, authorization, and access control mechanisms to specify user- and group-level privileges, and to ensure that identities are authentic (Notes also includes dynamic content- and context-based access control capabilities that most modern alternatives have yet to deliver)
- A distributed and replicated document storage subsystem (which, in the case of Notes, has served as the inspiration for recently popular "NoSQL" systems such as CouchBase)
- Platform services, developer tools, and templates that can be used to create custom applications
Especially when used in conjunction with Lotus Sametime and partner tools such Cyril Brookes' pioneering GrapeVINE (for what would today be called tagging and activity streams), Notes was a compelling collaborative application and content platform, and a leading indicator of things that would become more mainstream many years after Notes market momentum peaked.
Overall, I believe the ongoing influence of Lotus Notes is a testament to the vision and software engineering skills of Ray Ozzie and his team at Iris Associates, and to the initial support of founding Lotus Development Corp. CEO Mitch Kapor. Together, they crafted a product and customer/partner ecosystem that helped to define a generation of communication and collaboration tools.