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About VRM

VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management. VRM tools provide customers with both independence from vendors and better ways of engaging with vendors. The same tools can also support individuals' relations with schools, churches, government entities and other kinds of organizations.

To vendors, VRM is the customer-side counterpart of CRM (or Customer Relationship Management). VRM tools provide customers with the means to bear their side of the relationship burden. They relieve CRM of the perceived need to "capture," "acquire," "lock in," "manage," and otherwise employ the language and thinking of slave-owners when dealing with customers. With VRM operating on the customer's side, CRM systems will no longer be alone in trying to improve the ways companies relate to customers. Customers will be also be involved, as fully empowered participants, rather than as captive followers.

VRM is part of a larger picture as well. Perhaps the best name and description for that larger picture is Life Management Platforms, coined by Martin Kuppinger of Kuppinger Cole. He describes them this way: "Life Management Platforms will change the way individuals deal with sensitive information like their health data, insurance data, and many other types of information – information that today frequently is paper-based or, when it comes to personal opinions, only in the mind of the individuals. They will enable new approaches for privacy- and security-aware sharing of that information, without the risk of losing control of that information... At KuppingerCole we expect and predict that Life Management Platforms, with related standards, protocols, business models, applications, etc., will be the one technology driven component that will have the strongest influence on our everyday life (and, on the other side, on enterprise infrastructures and the Internet architecture) for the next 10 years."

VRM Principles

VRM development work is based on the belief that free customers are more valuable than captive ones — to themselves, to vendors, and to the larger economy. To be free —

  1. Customers must enter relationships with vendors as independent actors.
  2. Customers must be the points of integration for their own data.
  3. Customers must have control of data they generate and gather. This means they must be able to share data selectively and voluntarily.
  4. Customers must be able to assert their own terms of engagement.
  5. Customers must be free to express their demands and intentions outside of any one company's control.

VRM Goals

In the "Markets Are Relationships" chapter of the 10th Anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Doc Searls writes this about the goals of VRM efforts:

  1. Provide tools for individuals to manage relationships with organizations. These tools are personal. That is, they belong to the individual in the sense that they are under the individual's control. They can also be social, in the sense that they can connect with others and support group formation and action. But they need to be personal first.
  2. Make individuals the collection centers for their own data, so that transaction histories, health records, membership details, service contracts, and other forms of personal data are no longer scattered throughout a forest of silos.
  3. Give individuals the ability to share data selectively, without disclosing more personal information than the individual allows.
  4. Give individuals the ability to control how their data is used by others, and for how long. At the individual's discretion, this may include agreements requiring others to delete the individual's data when the relationship ends.
  5. Give individuals the ability to assert their own terms of service, reducing or eliminating the need for organization-written terms of service that nobody reads and everybody has to "accept" anyway.
  6. Give individuals means for expressing demand in the open market, outside any organizational silo, without disclosing any unnecessary personal information.
  7. Make individuals platforms for business by opening the market to many kinds of third party services that serve buyers as well as sellers
  8. Base relationship-managing tools on open standards and open APIs (application program interfaces). This will support a rising tide of activity that will lift an infinite variety of business boats plus other social goods.

VRM Tools

These are ideal characteristics of VRM tools:

  1. VRM tools are personal. As with hammers, wallets, cars and mobile phones, people use them as individuals,. They are social only in secondary ways.
  2. VRM tools help customers express intent. These include preferences, policies, terms and means of engagement, authorizations, requests and anything else that’s possible in a free market, outside any one vendor’s silo or ranch.
  3. VRM tools help customers engage. This can be with each other, or with any organization, including (and especially) its CRM system.
  4. VRM tools help customers manage. This includes both their own data and systems and their relationships with other entities, and their systems.
  5. VRM tools are substitutable. This means no source of VRM tools can lock users in.

VRM Development Work

Here is a partial list of VRM development efforts, most or all of which move in the direction of Life Management Platforms (see About, above). Some are organizations, some are commercial entities, some are standing open source code development efforts:

Project Description Dev project FOSS PDS Standard(s) Fourth Party Communications Service Open API † - personal data, personal agent B
Connect.Me † - peer-to-peer reputation, personal agent
Ctrl-SHIFT † - analysts † browser extentions to stop unwanted tracking, control data sharing † intelligent media solutions for retail and hospitality customers
EmanciPay - dev project for customer-driven payment choices
Evented APIs - new standard for live web interactivity ✓ AB - VRM fostering organization
Freedom Box personal server on free software and hardware
Getabl †- chat utility for customers to engage with merchants the instant customers are looking for something
GRM: Government Relationship Management - subcategory of VRM
Higgins - open source, personal data B
id3 - trust frameworks B
InfoGrid - graph database for personal networking applications B
Insidr † - customer service Q&A site connecting to people who have worked in big companies and are willing to help when the company can’t or won't
Information Sharing Workgroup at Kantara - legal agreements, trust frameworks
KRL (Kinetic Rules Language) - personal event networks, personal rulesets, programming Live Web interactions
Kynetx † - personal event networks, personal rulesets
ListenLog - personal data logging
The Locker Project - open source, personal data Customer-driven domain management† - open source, peer review
MyDex †- personal data stores and other services (Transitioning from - GRM
Paoga † - personal data, personal agent
Pegasus eID smart cards † - personal data storage, personal agent
Personal Data Ecosystem Consortium (PDEC) - industry collaborative
Personal RFP - crowdsourcing, standards
Precipitat, WebBox - new architecture for decentralizing the Web, little server
Privowny † - privacy company for protecting personal identities and for tracking use and abuse of those identities, building relationships
Prizzm †- social CRM platform rewarding customers for telling businesses what they want, what they like, and what they have problems with
ProjectDanube - open source software for identity and personal data services
QIY † - independent infrastructure for managing personal data and relationships
R-button - UI elements for relationship members
RedBeacon † - personal rfp service
Singly † - personal data storage and platform for development, with an API
Spotflux † malware, tracking, unwanted ad filtration through an encrypted tunnel
SwitchBook † - personal search
Tangled Web † - mobile, P2P & PDS — Trusted Architecture for Securely Shared Services - R&D toward a trusted architecture and set of adaptive security services for individuals
Telehash - standards, personal data protocols
The Banyan Project- community news co-ops owned by reader/members
The Mine! Project - personal data, personal agent
Thumbtack † - service for finding trustworthy local service providers
TiddlyWiki - a reusable non-linear personal Web notebook
Ting † - customer-driven mobile virtual network operator (MVNO - a cell phone company)
TrustFabric † - service for managing relationships with sellers
Übokia personal RFP†
UMA - standards
Synergetics † - VRM for job markets
VirtualZero - Open food platform, supply chain transparency
VRM Hub Group meeting in London
VRM Labs Research
webfinger - personal Web discovery, finger over HTTP
Zaarly † personal RFP

NOTES: † Indicates companies. Others are organizations, development projects or both. Some development projects are affiliated with companies. (e.g. Telehash and The Locker Project with Singly, and KRL with Kynetx.) A - creating standard B - Using other standards 1 - EventedAPI

ProjectVRM Resources

Conference Call archive and audio links can be found at the Community Portal page.

VRM Events

Also see Events page. ProjectVRM events take place once or twice per year:

Upcoming Events


  • European Identity and Cloud Conference, Munich, April 17-20. Craig Burton, Phil Windley Drummond Reed, Kim Cameron, Doc Searls and other VRM'ers will be there
  • Intention Economy Mashup Event London, Innovation Warehouse, 1 East Poultry Avenue, London. EC1A 9PT 4:30-9:30pm, Monday, 23 April Put on by Tony Fish, Sam Sethi and Iain Henderson. Named after Doc's new book, which will be almost out then. Doc will speak there.
  • VRM and CRM Inter-op London 2012 London , EC1A 9PT Tuesday, April 24, 2012 from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM (GMT) Hosted by Iain Henderson, with a special invite to CRM professionals.
  • IIW14 Internet Identity Workshop #14, Mountain View, CA, May 1-3. The venerable unconference where there are many VRM breakout sessions.

Past Events




  • VRM+CRM 2010 August 26-27 Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.



VRM Hub is a series of monthly meetings in London.

Other meetings and workshops take place before and during Internet Identity Workshops in Mountain View, California, each Fall and Spring. VRM is also a topic at Kynetx Impact conferences.

ProjectVRM Participation

We have two mailing lists:

You can edit this wiki by:

  • registering up at the top of this page
  • sending e-mail to the Project VRM mailing list asking to be enabled as an editor (to combat the spam problem). Be sure you provide your actual handle (username)

And we encourage you to use the hashtag #VRM when blogging about the topic.

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