‘Technology’ Articles:

2007 Flashbacks

January 8th, 2008 by jeremychone | Comments Off

I have not even started blogging 2008 and I am already late for my look back at `07. As a “somewhat” regular blogger, it’s my duty to “jump in the pool” by sharing my thoughts on the year in technology , Model 2007. With my last experience in Adobe, I am now equally interested in the consumer and enterprise technology markets. So, here is my insider’s take on the year just passed.

Facebook: A New King is Born

Facebook was undeniably one of the major internet phenomena of 2007. While its online Internet platform was not a new concept in 2007 (e.g., Oracle Mobile Studio), it is definitely fair to say that Facebook matured the concept and pushed it to the masses. I have been impressed by Facebook’s execution on the technical, business, and developer/end-user experience fronts. Facebook has successfully created a new market for itself, and is ruling it.

I personally think that Facebook has the potential to endure like Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Oracle. I also think that Microsoft prefers it that way, and it is one of the main reasons why they boosted Facebook’s valuation to $15B (TechCrunch: “Facebook Takes the Microsoft Money And Runs”).

iPhone: Great marketing starts when entertainment supercedes education

iPhoneAnother big phenomenon of 2007 was the iPhone. I am almost more fascinated by the buzz around it than by the product itself. I do not think that everything was planned, but the combination of Steve Jobs’ excellent keynotes, a great product, the desire of users for slick designs, and some entertaining PR glitches, turned this new device into a blockbuster phenomenon. iPhone even had gross weekend sales reports, as do Hollywood movies. Needless to say, with Steve Jobs, Apple has everything it needs to succeed in this new marketing age.

From a practical standpoint, Apple reinvigorated the mobile market, and this benefits everybody. So, as a non-iPhone user, I thank Apple for entering this market and pushing the standard up.

Oracle: Self-Predicted Prophecy

Oracle Larry demanded it, Oracle did it. What might have seemed unthinkable a decade ago has now happened. Oracle and SAP have entered a channel expansion spree which consisted of buying most of the major enterprise companies, such as Siebel, PeopleSoft, Business Object, and Hyperion. Larry predicted it in early 2000, and made it happen in less than a decade.

As Larry used to say, “I prefer to pay $1B and be right, than $100 Million and be wrong”. Well, Oracle did apply his philosophy pretty well.

I actually think this is a very good strategy for companies the size of Oracle or SAP. The consolidation in this market was probably inevitable, given the fact that what big enterprise customers are really looking for when signing an software license/support contract is the insurance on the product as much as the product itself.

This does not change the fact that enterprise innovation can still happen outside of these big companies, it just changes the opportunities (i.e. exit strategies) associated with these innovations.

Beyond AJAX: Return of the Client

SilverLight AIRIf AJAX and Web 2.0 were big news in 2006, technologies to go beyond Web browsers could be seen as an early theme marking 2007. As mentioned in the “Return of the Client” post, the main Internet technology providers are aggressively putting strategic technologies on the market to try to seize this new opportunity.

Although all of these technologies are somewhat based on standards such as XML, Javascript, HTML, and CSS, they are diverging quite a bit. Standardization might happen at some point (e.g., W3C Web Application Formats Working Group), but this does not seem to be a priority for anybody at this point.

The two noticeable new efforts are Adobe AIR/Flex and Microsoft SilverLight. Early applications seem promising. However, CAUTION, while we might get excited about these new possibilities, making a pixel fly does not necessarily give it a purpose.

Media industry: Mutation Started

ABC OnlineSomething a little bit more subtle is the awakening of the media industry to “legitimate” Internet business opportunities. I think that before 2007, the media industry saw the Internet mostly as a threat to their business, and like Bill Gates in the early 90’s, did not really see how to make money out of it. However, after witnessing some almost-no-budget shows such as Ask a Ninja and LonelyGirl15 reaching spectacular audiences, the media industry finally recognized the power and opportunities of the web. I think the WGA Strike is definitely a symptom of this awakening.

The industry has entered a first phase which is to monetize traditional productions (i.e., TV shows and movies) with this new media distribution channel. This is mostly a big-fish game, where the latest entry was Apple.

I think the next phase will be for the industry to create a new market for these next generation productions. It will be interesting to watch the incumbents play this new game; YouTube or Apple might be able to become the backbone of a new market.


We can now definitely close 2007. Next post will be the 2008 predictions.


Update 2008-01-10: TechCrunch reports an interesting "side" effect of the WGA Strike.

The Return Of The Client

December 10th, 2007 by jeremychone | 1 Comment »

From an internet technology point of view, 2006 and 2007 could be characterized by the rejuvenation of client technologies for web-based applications.

The main theme of this trend is to enable web applications to borrow as many characteristics from desktop application as possible without losing their inherent web attributes such as seamless deployment and cross platform/devices support.

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P2P for Web 2.0: Brainstorming

January 17th, 2006 by jeremychone | 4 Comments »
P2P For Web: Web 2.0 Limitation Thumbnail 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.

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To Flock or not to Flock

January 3rd, 2006 by jeremychone | 6 Comments »

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.

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 gabbr.com.

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 del.icio.us 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.

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.