Louis Gray wrote a nice post today about his new home, Google Chrome. He describes how he lives in one (actually two) browser(s) all day long without the need for a traditional software application.
There is no doubt that Cloud-based applications is where the growth is, or that Google is currently the most advanced provider of horizontal productivity Cloud-based applications, and that for some users this is plenty enough.
The bigger question is this: Are browser-only applications the future of applications? In other words, 20 years from now, will all applications live within a browser? Will Native applications be relegated to legacy applications?
Tagging has been a relatively popular, human-driven method for organically categorizing information on the Web. Users are now accustomed to tagging the content that they are publishing or bookmarking.
However, by design, tagging requires users to have some sort of writing privilege, which greatly limits its reach potential. Practically speaking, it means that if a user wants to tag an item on a system (e.g, Youtube, Flickr, or delicious) he or she must have an account on that system and be logged in at the time of the operation.
While this is probably not an issue for major Internet services, it can be a chicken-and-egg issue for new, upcoming services that do not yet have a large enough community to build a meaningful tag cloud. How can a new service maximize its community tag cloud if it doesn’t yet have a community?
The two premises of this article are as follows:
- Social Networking is the method of connecting and communicating with the purpose of increasing knowledge (of people and of domain).
- Collaboration is the method of organizing knowledge and expertise to efficiently accomplish a particular task.
So, Social Networking is about sharing and discovering, and collaboration is about organizing and creating. Although informal, the point of these definitions is to demonstrate the similar but inherently distinctive meanings of collaboration and social networking.
The latest challenge for an enterprise is that social networking has undergone significant innovation cycles, mostly on the consumer side, and collaboration has not kept pace. As a consequence, an enterprise is often tempted to substitute collaboration by social networking, which could lead to an oversized enterprise social network with very little productivity gain, or even a loss, due to the over-communication side effect.
In the last few years, the technology industry has been particularly focused on Web developers, and the last couple of weeks have been a relatively good example of such attention. First, Adobe released its Adobe AIR and their Flex 3 products; Microsoft did a massive SilverLight push at its now famous MIX event (see Read/Write post); Google announced Google Gears for mobile devices and, finally, Steve Jobs splashed the market with his “Flash not good enough for iPhone” comment (which, in my opinion, is more of a strategic move than a technical reality). Meanwhile, “non-corporate-backed” Web frameworks, such as Spring, Ruby/Rail, and many AJAX frameworks, also continue to attract more and more Web developers. Consequently, Web developers have now, more than ever, a wide variety of technologies at their disposal.
Over the last few years, we have witnessed the emergence of a new type of software platform – the Service Oriented Platform (SOP). The SOP concept is to offer an application platform as a network service (inside or outside an enterprise firewall), providing a centralized runtime to execute and manage distributed or centralized applications.
SOP services can range from application aggregation, presentation, linking (e.g, Mashup), provisioning, componentization, and context augmentation (e.g., Social Graph and common application data). As SOPs mature, it would not be surprising to see these platforms offer most, if not all, of the traditional application platform services in a service-oriented manner, such as application testing, versioning, data migration, and much more.
In the consumer space, the best SOP examples would be Facebook, OpenSocial, and Ning. In the enterprise, a good example would be SalesForce.com (including their latest Force.com addition) and some of the newer smaller players such as Coghead, DabbleDB, and BungeeConnect. Note that SOP solutions can be offered as a hosted service (Platform as a Service, aka PaaS), or can be packaged as a product (not as common yet). In many ways, enterprise portal architecture can be considered the SOP ancestor.
We can identify four distinct but complementary main SOP access modes. Most SOP providers (such as Facebook and SalesForce.com) offer more than one access mode. Others, like OpenSocial, have thus far focused only on one.
Below is a simplified visualization of these modes and their corresponding descriptions.
|As mentioned in the "Web 0.x to Web 2.0" post, outside of IM (instant messaging), voice chat and voice-video chat, and some illegal P2P (peer to peer) file sharing software, most Internet applications are still based on a traditional "Client/Server" model that is analogous to the "Browser/WebServer" model. While today’s Web applications have dramatically improved their user experience and community aspect, this "Client/Server" paradigm brings some unfortunate limitations to technology providers and users.|
A few days ago a UK magazine posted a good article about Flock. As mentioned in the article, Flock is still in developer preview and therefore should be judged less by its bits quality and more by the idea it tries to convey. Flock’s vision of a more collaborative and event-driven Internet is probably undisputable. However, some of Flock’s premises have been subject to a flood of criticisms (e.g., Paul Kedrosky’s post, flocksucks.wordpress.com).
Most of these criticisms seem to be based on the fact that Flock tries to provide an alternative "Web browser" application rather than providing extensions to existing browsers (e.g., a Firefox extension). Lately, the launch of a great Firefox extension Performancing (see Steve Rubel and O.M. Malik quick profile), which offers one of the core Flock’s functionalities by allowing users to blog "in the context" of their browsing experience, has revived the discussion. In a response to these last complaints, Chris from Flock, supported by Bart (Flock’s CEO), issued a good post giving a little more context behind Flock’s vision and direction.
As mentioned by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, Flock’s Buzz might have come a little bit too early for the Bits, which is always a very dangerous position to be in. Also, Flock’s first audience, the Mozilla tech savvy crowd, was probably not especially receptive to the idea of another browser. I personally am a big fan of Mozilla Firefox, and while I have tested Flock developer preview release, I went back to Firefox since I have all my extensions set up.
However, I deeply believe in Flock’s idea. As Chris mentioned, Flock might or might not be the answer, but the point is that users need much more than a traditional Web browser to make the "Everybody-to-Everybody" Internet vision a reality. This new "Internet Companion" could come from the evolution of an existing Web browser, from a set of extensions, or from another application altogether: the way it gets here is less important than the things it will allow people to do. Obviously, this assumes the goal is to allow the "rest of us" to participate on the Internet.
So, the question is not "to Flock or not to Flock", but rather to believe that the way we will interact with the Internet in couple years will be substantially different from what we do today.
Also, I have had the privilege of meeting the Flock team on many occasions, and it is always refreshing to see a passionate and dedicated team so focused on accomplishing its vision. I would not be surprised if future versions of Flock will surprise us. And I definitely need this new "Internet Companion" for my grandmother and sisters.