Archive for November, 2005

Web 0.x to Web 2.0 Simplified

November 29th, 2005 by jeremychone | 7 Comments »
Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 Small From its creation through its development to its reinvigoration phases, the Internet has never ceased to be a rapid and fascinating center of innovation. Today’s “Web 2.0“, which I refer to as the “reinvigoration” phase, is probably as inspiring and promising as the launch of the Internet itself.

This new excitement is probably generated by the presumption of achieving the ultimate Internet goal of enabling true “Everybody to Everybody” participation. However, while this “new wave” brings tremendous user and social values, it still does not seem to address some of the critical Internet roadblocks to pervasive Internet collaboration.

To better understand these limitations, we need to take a quick look at the evolution of the Internet. I see three main phases in the Internet evolution. (Note: The “Web x.x” numbering scheme is completely artificial, and is just used to support a “relative numbering” scheme leading to today’s “Web 2.0″ term).

  • The Creation (“Web 0.x”): In the late mid `90s, the Mosaic project, created by Marc Andreessen, had the ambitious goal of making network collaboration accessible to the broadest audience possible. With the creation of Netscape Corporation, the idea attained tremendous visibility and support from the market, leading to the proliferation of a new client application allowing unfettered access to network information: The Internet browser.
  • The Development (“Web 1.x”): The exponential growth in popularity of this new medium led established and new software companies to realize the great potential of this new market. On May 26, 1995, Microsoft, in a famous Bill Gates memo (“The Internet Tidal Wave“), reoriented itself towards this new model. Although the over-excitement created an inflated market that eventually burst, many content and service companies such as Yahoo!, Amazon, and eBay have remained strong and growing. The popularity of this new paradigm, coupled with the commoditization of the Browser on many devices, have put Internet in almost everybody‘s hands. This phase could be seen as the popularization of Internet access.
  • The Reinvigoration (“Web 2.0″): Lately, infrastructure commoditization and the flamboyant success of new Internet companies, such as Google, have reinvigorated the drive for Internet innovation. I see two new fundamentals from the previous eras:
    • First, the industry is now focusing on popularizing content publishing. New services like Blog (e.g. Six Apart), Wiki (e.g. Wikipedia), Photo Album (e.g. Flickr), Social Network (e.g. Linked In), and many others are based on the principle of enabling every users to become content producers as well as content consumers.
      This “2 Way” web is already having important social ramifications, where knowledge and information are becoming more and more open and accessible.
    • Second, most of the Internet organizations are placing more emphasis on usage (direct or indirect via APIs) than subscribers (eyeballs). This is a great step towards building a stronger Internet in which closed Internet services, such as today’s Instant Messaging networks, will hopefully be pushed out of this ecosystem. It is always a great milestone when an industry understands that backing a larger cake might be more beneficial than trying to take a bigger piece of a smaller cake (see the Inherent Truths and Value of Community).

The following simple graph represents this evolution, where the “Web 1.x” phase is characterized by “content consumer” growth and the “Web 2.0″ phase by “content producer” growth.

Internet Web 0.x to Web 2.0
Web 0.x to Web 2.0 Simplified

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Microsoft makes synchronization simple

November 22nd, 2005 by jeremychone | 3 Comments »
rss + opml + sync = SSE

Ray Ozzie has just introduced a protocol-extension for synchronization called ”SSE” for “Simple Sharing Extension”. He describes SSE as "the RSS of synchronization". This is a great step forward for the Internet for the following reasons:

  • SSE adds an overdue functionality to the Internet: Synchronization.
  • SSE is just an extension to open protocols (RSS & OPML) and not another XML protocol.
  • SSE is designed to be as SIMPLE as its "host" protocols (RSS & OPML).
  • Microsoft seems to be fully committed to promoting and supporting this new protocol (probably thanks to Ray Ozzie). Proof of concept seems to be up and running at Microsoft.
  • The technology is available under an open licensing agreement (Attribution-ShareAlike from Creative Commons and is "patent friendly".
    From Microsoft SSE Specification: "As to software implementations, Microsoft is not aware of any patent claims it owns or controls that would be necessarily infringed by a software implementation that conforms to the specification’s extensions. If Microsoft later becomes aware of any such necessary patent claims, Microsoft also agrees to offer a royalty-free patent license …"

This protocol-extension is a great addition to RSS and OPML. The distributed nature of the Internet architecture requires such a multi-directional synchronization mechanism. Unfortunately, it has been a great challenge to find the right balance between simplicity and completeness for such protocols. Ray Ozzie’s expertise (with Notes & Groove) and dedication create a high level of user confidence in this new proposal.

As Ozzie mentioned, while there are plenty of synchronization protocols available (inside and outside of Microsoft), they have not been utilized as much as they should have been. Their complexity might have been a primary reason. For example, SyncML, while a very successful protocol, has seen some challenges to its objective of growing beyond the PIM space.

So far, the buzz from this proposal has been pretty positive. Dave Winer gave some good background information on his blog on November 21st. Mike Arrington from TechCrunch sees some new business opportunities for product development. Another good explanation of the technology can be found at

Again, this shows Microsoft’s determination to catch this new Internet wave. It is also enlightening to see how the Internet evolution seems to cause "corporate technologists" to realize that simplicity often overcomes completeness. Microformats vs OWL/RDF, PHP vs .Net/J2EE are other examples of this inevitable Internet simplification phenomenon. It will also be interesting to see how “SSE” will play with other standards such as SyncML, CalDav, and other XML protocols.

Anyway, for now, here are couple of things I would love to see come out of this technology:

  • Synchronize my bookmarks with Mozilla Firefox (2 Way synchronization)
  • Synchronize  Flickr sets with phpGallery albums.
  • Provide access to "distributed NotePad" ("NetPad") which will keep my personal notes in sync across devices, desktops and online services.
  • And obviously, allow me to share my "family calendar" with my wife. However, I will need to buy her one of these new digital paper notebooks.

Internet 2.0 out of VC control

November 18th, 2005 by jeremychone | 3 Comments »

Web 2.0 Out of VC ControlIn the early days of the Internet, innovators and venture firms were equally important forces behind the internet evolution. At the time, most Internet ideas needed some external funding to get started. Consequently, ideas often started with the now infamous PowerPoint presentation to the VC. If ideas were accepted, most first round funds were devoted to building the proof of concept and generating enough buzz to acquire a user base. As a result, venture firms played key role in choosing which idea or group of people would start or not.

Although this model has created some great Internet companies (Amazon, Ebay), it also created the dot-com saga that we know all too much about. Even for companies with good ideas, putting the “Buzz before the Bits” could be very costly.

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AJAX: Why Now?

November 15th, 2005 by jeremychone | Comments Off

AJAX Why Now? Recently, users have been bombarded with new types of Web applications often referred to as "AJAX Applications." From an end-user point of view, these Web applications add a new level of interactivity, which was previously the domain of desktop applications.

Some good examples of AJAX applications are GMap, Google Suggest, Interactive Domain Search, and Windows Live.

On the technical side, AJAX is a term describing an approach at developing more interactive Web applications. Although AJAX might look like new technology, AJAX technologies have been around for a while. So, what made AJAX such a sudden phenomenon? And, why now?

The natural first explanations are technical.

  • One could say that browsers were not powerful and flexible enough to support these types of applications. However, most of the AJAX applications run on Microsoft IE (MS-IE) 5, which was released in 1999. Mozilla 1.2, the first robust modern browser, was released in 2002.
  • Another argument is that the PC has become more powerful and therefore, has enabled users to take advantage of these new processor-demanding applications. However, AJAX applications do not consume that much processing, and the end-consumer PC market has not evolved as fast as the popularity of these new applications.

While these technical reasons are valid to some extent, the main factors for this recent trend might be more of a social nature and the result of a good timing of confluent events. I see the following three main “events” as catalysts for this new trend:

  • A name (AJAX): Jesse James Garrett did a great job at naming and describing an approach to building new Web applications. This has allowed the industry to have a common understanding and terminology about these technologies.
  • The perception of feasibility (Firefox): MS-IE 5.0 was too Windows-centric to be the only bet for mainstream Web spplications and Mozilla 1.2, while sufficient, was not recognized as a valid alternative. Consequently, the majority of the Web stayed with the lowest common denominator. Fortunately, the fulgurant Mozilla Firefox popularity growth reestablished developer confidence in MS-IE alternatives and "re-balanced the Web" toward standards and true cross platforms.
  • Proof of concept (GMap): One of the most future-looking internet companies, Google, released a dazzling mapping "AJAX" application to the public (GMap). This was the best validation of the AJAX approach… probably to date.

It was fascinating to witness these three events happening almost in perfect harmony. I guess it was such a needed evolution that everybody naturally did their part of the puzzle.

In any case, this new approach is a much needed update for many current Web applications. It will interesting to see if the innovation will come from the incumbent or newcomers. So far, with the exception of Google, most of the real innovation in this space has come from startups. However, with Yahoo and Microsoft in the race, this might change.

Honestly, AJAX does not solve all Web application limitations. For example, Offline, Desktop Integration will still require some sort of plug-ins…which are very browser dependent…there is no free lunch…except at Google, I guess.

Microsoft WAKE UP CALL @20:05

November 11th, 2005 by jeremychone | 1 Comment »

Microsoft Wake Up CallIn the last couple of weeks Microsoft has been pretty loud around the "new Internet wave." First, with the announcement of Windows live and Office live, and then, with the very insightful Ozzie and Gates "leaked" memos.

It is very interesting to watch Microsoft waking up, loud and determined as in 1995. The fact they chose Windows and Office brand for their "Live" offerings is significant.

A few interesting points from the Ozzie memo:

  • Microsoft did openly recognize having missed some opportunities (e.g., Google, Skype, AJAX).
  • They are puzzled about Google’s strategy:
    "[Google's] myriad initiatives … drive scale for their advertising business … or … grow to substantively challenge our offerings"
    (BTW, good job from Google. In less than a decade, they puzzled Microsoft)
  • Ozzie did a good assessment regarding today’s Web hurdles:
    "User identity and cross-service interoperability mechanisms are still needlessly fragmented".
    (I hope this means Microsoft will work on standards and interoperability, instead of creating another proprietary Identity Management "a la MS-Passport"!)
  • Regarding my previous point about this new advertisement revenue potential, Ozzie did confirm that "… no one yet knows how much of the world’s online advertising revenues should or will flow."
  • Ozzie does point out the value of the Internet adoption model and seamless application integration.

Microsoft is certainly doing the right thing by embracing these changes. During the last couple of years, a lot of "underground" work has been done to come to this point. It will be interesting to see Microsoft catching up. Undoubtedly, they can catch-up on the technology side. Their real challenge will be adapting to these new business models.

Some missing points from Ozzie’s memo (just for speculation sake):

  • No mention of Open Source. Ozzie could have said that Open Source is part of this new ecosystem. He probably wants to tackle this topic offline.
  • Ozzie did explicitly mention the term AJAX couple of times, but not Web 2.0. Arguably, Web 2.0 encompasses AJAX. Free speculation: Microsoft might be starting branding MS Live "against" Web 2.0.

Related links:

Bits before the Buzz

November 8th, 2005 by jeremychone | 1 Comment »

Bits before the BuzzOne of the most hazardous behaviors in software development is the tendency to deliver the Buzz before the Bits. The software and technology industry probably lends itself pretty well to this practice given its fast-paced and quick return on investment. However, while this custom occasionally may have some positive side effects, the costs usually exceed the benefits.

"Too early Buzz" could:

  • Disappoint early adapters: Having some Buzz before the Bits raises user expectations unpredictably, and therefore significantly increases the potential for disappointment. Disappointing early-adapters could be very harmful and costly, since they are the foundation of future growth.
  • Distract execution: Trying to evangelize to a broad audience a product that has not been validated by end-users might be very disorienting for the product team. After a while, the team might be too off base to be able to get back on the user’s need. Eventually, time, money and interest will run out … and a potential great idea might be lost for a while.
  • Weaken competitive position: Coming out too early and too loud gives a potentially vantage point to competitors.

Adding to the intertwined relationship between idea, buzz and execution, it is important to note that the better the idea, the easier the Buzz, and the harder the execution.

This does not mean that Buzz is bad. Obviously, the right amount of Buzz at the right time is critical. The technology industry is full of successful companies and organizations that have been very diligent and effective in managing this balance, resulting in their success. Unfortunately and probably naturally, there are also plenty of great projects that started with a relatively "high Buzz" but never saw the light of the day.

So, in short….. Bits should be before the Buzz … then the real question becomes when to start Buzzing?

Google and Firefox part II

November 5th, 2005 by jeremychone | 2 Comments »

Google Firefox Very interesting. Google just added a referrals program for Firefox and their AdSense service. This is actually a good indicator of Google’s and Mozilla’s tight relationship. It is also great news for the "Open Web," making sure that the Mozilla Firefox "franchise" continue to grow. At a certain point, any Open Source product needs some industry support to continue growing (e.g., Linux with IBM, Intel, and DELL), and Google is definitely a big industry player.

The reference is also well done:

  • If you are using Firefox, you are asked to download the Google Toolbar.
  • And if you happen to use IE, your are pointed to a "Firefox with Google Toolbar" bundle package.

Today, Opera and Safari users will be pointed to the "Firefox with Google Toolbar." It will be interesting to see if Google will open up its referral program to other browsers.

I am sure we will see more from the Google-Mozilla alliance, and I am definitely looking forward to Google-Firefox, part III.

Windows Live … me too … me too

November 3rd, 2005 by jeremychone | Comments Off

Microsoft live me too me too

  1. Me (I) too … can blog about Windows Live.
  2. Me (Microsoft) too … can do AJAX Online Service.

TechCrunch has good profiles on Windows Live and Office Live.

Overall, "Microsoft Live" is cool for the Web. Microsoft even claims they will support Mozilla Firefox.

If you are a Mozilla Firefox user trying to access, you will read:
Firefox Users. Firefox support is coming soon. Please be patient.
Microsoft Live will support Firefox

This is a good acknowledgment of the Mozilla Firefox browser ;)

Here is my quick take on Windows and Office Live:

Technical Side:

  • At first glance, although Windows Live is a cool AJAX application, it has nothing really revolutionary (at the exception of VoIP). Windows Live looks like a cool AJAX web portal. I am sure is working on something similar. And, this is definitely the direction the Web is headed.
  • The User Experience is pretty good for Web 2.0 geeks, but really scarce for the end-user (sisters, mothers, etc). Definitely a beta.
  • It will be interesting to see how Microsoft’s "Gadgets" evolves. Today, it seems very basic to say the least. I have tried the Flickr Viewer gadgets, and it is a good start.

Business Side:

  • I think their “Advertising-based business story” seems to be a lure, allowing them to fully get into the Web 2.0 game without getting busted by Wall Street. Google did a good job at reinventing the online advertising business, but I am not sure there is as much money as Microsoft claims.
  • However, I do think their subscription model, principally on Office Live, will be interesting to see.
  • It is also interesting to see the early stage of this service. Many things are very basic and still under construction (i.e. Gadgets). This Web 2.0 is pressuring all companies (even big ones) to quickly come out with cool Web2.0 stuff, even if they are fra from complete. The thought is that you just need to add the magic Beta stamp, and it is good to go.