Apps = Web 2.0 + UX – Lots

One of the definitions of Web 2.0 was “the web as platform.” I used to think that was a good thing, and am still inclined to do so, and hence to regret the rise of platform-specific apps.

John Battelle (via Toni) seems to think along the same lines, and to have been prodded to commit his thoughts to paper, or at least to presentation and to pixels. Here’s his slide comparing core values of Web 2.0 from way back in 2004/5 with today’s web and with today’s apps.

When it comes to apps’ popularity, the bottom line is rich user experience. Apps’ UX lead is “so compelling we may be willing to give up all the other principles of Web 2 just to have a great experience.” Who’s this we? Well, it may include me once I get my iPad 2… but I doubt it.

The Young Folks and Their Web Journey

An Ignoble But Much Needed End To Web 2.0, Marked By A Party In Cyprus. That Mike Arrington knows how to write a post title (in fact knows how to write, more so than most others on the web or in print).

You can see the party in question at Vimeo: I won’t embed it, I’ll just tell you that Mike does, and describe it as a bunch of young “world Internet citizens” lip-syncing to Journey’s so-awful-it’s awesome anthem “Don’t Stop Believing.” Mike mockingly describes Web 2.0 as a boom that just ended with the drying up of easy capital.

As I watched the video (so that you don’t have to) and read Mike’s post, a different song started playing in my head.

and we don’t care about the young folks
talkin’ bout the young style
and we don’t care about the old folks
talkin’ ’bout the old style too
and we don’t care about our own folks
talkin’ ’bout our own stuff
all we care about is talking
talking only me and you

I’m not sick of Web 2.0. It allows “talking only me and you” microconversations, which may stay micro, or may lead into finding “our own folks,” be they young, old, or both. I’m thinking of ventures such as Birdpost, recently featured at Mike’s TechCrunch 50 event.

With reference to the tough financial times, I quote Peter, Bjorn and John: “we can stick around and see this night through.” And I even quote Journey: “Don’t Stop Believing.” You see, it’s possible to remain enthusiastic about the web’s possibilities, if your morning coffee is strong enough (as mine obviously was).

Freedom and the Cloud

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder Richard Stallman. I advise reading the whole (shortish) interview-based article at the Guardian’s site. It’s less important to read my thoughts; be warned that they start in the next paragraph.

The trap is that, when you use cloud computing (e.g., WordPress.com, where this very blog lives, or gmail, where the andrew at changingway dot org mail actually lives), you have no control over the software you’re using. This is the loophole in GPL version 3, a project on which rms (Richard MathYou Stallman) and others expended a lot of time and other resources.

As 2008 goes on, that loophole becomes more and more significant as an attribute of GPLV3. So does the Affero variant on GPL.

The Web as Platforms?

If Web 2.0 is the web as platform, then what comes next? I fear that the answer is: the web as platforms. Posts today at TechCrunch and at GigaOm explain the problem, and suggest solutions.

At TC, Nic strikes an optimistic note. He points out that technologies such as AIR, BrowserPlus, and Gears share the worthy aim of allowing “a new generation of web applications with better performance, more functionality and tighter desktop integration.” He sees “an opportunity to not repeat the mistakes of the past and instead take a standards-based approach.”

Those mistakes were embodied in web sites that advised us that they were best viewed some specific version of Internet Explorer, and at some specific screen resolution. The 2009 version of this mistake might manifest itself in sites that declare: we need Gears to work properly, and don’t even think about trying to view us on a phone. Yes, the phones complicate things yet further, but let’s not get into that now.

Stacey at GO is less optimistic than Nic at TC. I’ll quote her extensively, because she does exasperation well, and provides another candidate term for what comes after the web as platform.

I have copies of Air, Gears and BrowserPlus on my machine, and each have their pros and their cons. Air essentially brings the browser offline, while BrowserPlus runs outside of the browser to make your desktop an extension of the web. Gears runs inside the browser, making Firefox even more unstable, but does make my web browsing faster…

It’s my job to play around with these sites, but I can’t imagine the average user wanting to download three or four different programs in order to optimize their browsing experience. I still get irritated about upgrading Flash…

Skylar Woodward, a software engineer at Yahoo… thinks eventually some of the code behind these efforts will be opened up to the community, making it easier for developers to implement multiple platforms on their sites. In the meantime, he champions the idea of “graceful degradation.” In that scenario, a user can see the site without downloading a platform, he just might miss out on a few nifty features in the process.

So for those of you too lazy to click through on those installs, welcome to the gracefully degraded Internet.

Web 2.rightnow: Vertical Platforms

The term vertical platform sounds like an oxymoron, or, at the very least, like a difficult thing to stand on unless you’re a gecko lizard. But I found myself using it when posting about Pikiware yesterday to describe something that’s going on right now.

Let’s briefly revisit the “What is Web 2.0?” discussion and recall two good answers:

  • The web as platform, i.e., if you want to build software, build it for the web and the browser, rather than for any specific hardware and operating system.
  • User-generated content, or the read/write web, or the web as Sir Tim originally intended it.

One of the features of Web 2.rightnow is the web as a platform for platforms. For example, if you want to build a social network, you should consider as your platform, not the web itself, but a platform built on the web. Here’s how the folks at Ning describe their offering.

Ning offers the latest social networking features, all infinitely customizable to meet your unique needs. The Ning Platform makes this possible… your social network on Ning runs on a programmable platform.

Then there’s Bricabox, has been described as Ning for content, the above-mentioned Pikiware, more that I haven’t mentioned, and, I’m sure, more vertical platforms to come.

Thanks to Masato Ohta for making available the vertical photo of a platform at Koga station.