echo-logo-2011.JPG When you are as big as Facebook, competition appears at every turn -- just ask Microsoft. In this case, the playing field is user comments, and the competitor is Echo.

What is Echo?

While "Echo" is a short and catchy moniker, the actual product behind the name is Echo StreamServer. Echo StreamServer is, in essence, a hosted (e.g. cloud-based) database that gathers data from users' activity streams (e.g. social media) and aggregates it.

Whatever you are doing online -- liking, commenting, posting, rating, sharing, playing, etc. -- StreamServer captures it, processes it, remixes it, streams it and socializes it:


Let's look at each step in turn.


As mentioned above, anything you do online can be captured either through StreamServer's Submit API or through an application like the Submit form. All of your activity data makes its way to the StreamServer via the open standard ActivityStreams.

A note on open standards: The fact that Echo embraces open standards is compelling to many users and organizations considering Facebook's less-than-stellar record with privacy. You may be fine to use Facebook Comments, but know that alternatives exist.


Once the data has been captured, it can then be acted on. Examples include: Spam detection, profanity filtering or analytics computation. Every firehose needs a filter.


At this point the data has been captured and processed. It's now time to make it available via search -- but how? Introducing the Echo Query Language. EQL, as it is affectionately known, is used to query search results based on structured values.

Furthermore, StreamServer implements a Search API which leverages EQL.


You've got the data, why not make it available? I will mention two important points about the data coming out of StreamServer -- and I am purposely avoiding the claim of supporting "thousands of queries per second."

First, the data coming out of StreamServer uses the aforementioned ActivityStreams. ActivityStreams uses JSON formatting. JSON formatting means hierarchical data for presentation and mashing up.

Second, search results in StreamServer can be updated "live" using the appropriately named "Live Updates." Refresh rates can be a quick as every five seconds.


Here is where the Echo App Store comes into play. You are getting the data out of StreamServer -- why not make it look good or include in a really cool client side application?

Worried about single sign-on? Don't be. SSO between your app/site and StreamServer is supported by Backplane -- another open standard.

Where Do We Go from Here?

That depends on your situation. Either you have already implemented Facebook Comments (or something similar) and you are looking to switch, or you are considering implementing Facebook Comments (or something similar) and you are looking for alternatives.

If the paragraph above describes you, give StreamServer a look.

Are You Already Using StreamServer?

If so, let us know in the comments. I am interested to learn if Facebook has anything to be worried about.