The terminology of personal clouds is maturing rapidly. On this page we track key terms used within the industry and in the architecture of the Respect Network. Acronyms and technical standards are listed at the end.

Personal Cloud (aka Personal Data Management Service)

A personal cloud is the equivalent of personal computer except operating “in the cloud”, i.e., not on a physical device you carry. What makes a personal cloud personal is that all of the data it stores and applications it runs are under the control of the individual operating it, just as with a personal computer. A personal cloud may be either self-hosted, i.e., hosted on an individual’s own hardware (either in his/her home, office, or hosting provider), or it may be hosted by a CSP (Cloud Service Provider—see below). For more information on personal clouds, see Personal and Business Clouds.

Individuals who own personal clouds are one of two types of members of the Respect Network (business cloud owners are the other—see below).

Personal Data Store (aka PDS, Locker, Vault, Safe, Bank, Domain)

In the context of personal clouds, a PDS is a term for the storage system of the personal cloud—the analog of the file system for a personal computer. What most distinguishes a PDS from the file system on personal computer is that a PDS is assumed to be on a network, i.e., it is a place from which data can be pushed, pulled, and synchronized on behalf of an individual.

Important: despite the name, some of the data “stored” by a PDS may not physically reside in one location. A PDS may also serve as a “control panel” or “dashboard” for controlling the sharing of data that stored elsewhere on the network, including on physical devices controlled by the individual (e.g., laptop, desktop, tablet, smartphone) or at vendors or service providers used by the individual (e.g., doctor, hospital, bank, insurance company, attorney, etc.) For this reason the acronym “PDS” most accurately maps to “Personal Data Service”.

Personal Channel

A personal channel is a general-purpose communications link between a personal cloud and any other cloud (personal cloud, vendor cloud, government cloud, etc.). It is similar to a link on a social network except: 1) it is directly controlled by an individual (i.e., there is no social network in the middle), and 2) it is a fully programmable communications connection rather than just a “social feed”. Because personal channels can automate and control many communications and data sharing tasks that currently require manual processing, they have the capability to be the “killer app” for personal clouds the same way email was the original killer app for the Internet.

For more about personal channels, see our paper The Personal Channel: The Extraordinary Benefits of Communicating Via Personal Clouds.

Business Cloud

From the standpoint of the Respect Network, a business cloud has the same capabilities of a personal cloud except it represents a business, organization, government, or other non-personal legal entity. In addition, it will typically be much more fully integrated with the business’s back-end systems (CRM, ERP, HR, billing, etc). Along with personal cloud owners, business cloud owners are the other type of member in the Respect Network.

Cloud Name

A cloud name is a unique communications address for each person and business on the Respect Network. It is similar to a domain name on the internet, such as However, a personal cloud name starts with an = symbol and a business cloud name starts with a + symbol. For more information on cloud names, see Cloud Names and Cloud Numbers.

Cloud Service Provider (CSP)

A service provider offering the service of hosting personal clouds and/or business clouds. A CSP offering hosting of Respect Network personal or business clouds must itself be a business member of the Respect Network.

Life Management Platform

A personal cloud operating a personal cloud network, communicating over personal channels, and running various personal cloud applications on behalf of its owner, is a Life Management Platform. The term, coined by Martin Kuppinger of Kuppinger Cole, is particularly appropriate because the benefits of a Life Management Platform are most apparent when a “life event” occurs, i.e., a personal graduates from school, moves house, gets married, has  a child, changes jobs, etc. These events all involve coordination between multiple parties (people and vendors) that can be dramatically simplified using an interoperable Life Management Platform.

Trust Framework

A trust framework is legal framework under which the members of a community agree to operate by a set of policies (“rules”) and technical standards (“tools”) in order to achieve trust. The term has especially been applied to the agreements necessary to form digital trust networks. Open Identity Exchange (OIX) is an international non-profit organized to foster the development and listing of digital trust frameworks. The Respect Trust Framework, listed with OIX, is the digital trust framework under which the Respect Network operates.

Link Contract

On a data sharing network such as the Respect Network, a link contract is a machine-readable (and human-readable) agreement about the rights one member grants another to access and use personal data. The term originated with the XDI semantic data interchange protocol (see below), where a link contract is implemented as a graph that binds a set of data with a set of permissions and the set of identities to whom those permissions are granted.

VRM (Vendor Relationship Management)

VRM is the “inverse of CRM” (Customer Relationship Management), i.e., the idea that a customer can have his/her own tools for managing vendor relationships the same way vendors have their CRM tools. Work on VRM has been led Respect Network Architect Doc Searls, founder of ProjectVRM at the Harvard Berkman Institute. Effectively implementing VRM at scale requires that customers and vendors be peers on a trust network; this is the goal of the Respect Network. For more details about VRM, see Doc Searls book, The Intention Economy.

XDI (Extensible Data Interchange)

XDI is a semantic data interchange format and protocol under development by the XDI Technical Committee at OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards). XDI is based on the same subject/predicate/object graph model as RDF (Resource Description Framework). It adds the ability to model context, which enables addressing, linking, and nesting of RDF graphs. XDI is focused on problems in global data sharing, and includes support for persistent and reassignable identifiers, uniform data versioning, negotiated data synchronization, dictionaries-as-a-service, and portable authorization (see Link Contracts, above). For more information on XDI, see XDI Semantic Data Interchange.


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