Tuesday, May 30, 2006

[AoyW] Nokia Releases Mobile Web Server

Nokia's open source Mobile Web Server software turns your Symbian phone into an Apache server. (They should have called it the Pocket Web Server.) Browsers reach your phone via the internet through a gateway component, which routes traffic to the wireless service. It makes the phone in your pocket internet-addressable, provided you have a data plan on your phone.

How would you use this? Personal publishing and file-sharing come to mind, e.g. offering photos and recordings of the event you're attending to an audience of friends. Everything you capture is immediately accessible to them, without a separate step to post it.

This is pretty cool, but it's not what I mean by the always-on-you web. The reason to carry a web server, or more importantly a web application server, is to enable productivity and team apps with a web UI. That is, a UI where interlinked pages, with hypermedia content, are the focus, instead of files/folders, applications, and a stack of windows. A web UI also allows you multiple local screens, each of which may view different pages in your webs/wikis. Users would naturally want to share some pages; those would be sync'd peer-to-peer, whenever net connectivity is available.

The portable web app server gives you a framework for online web apps like Writely and Basecamp, without driving your data onto the grounds of a third party, nor forcing you online whenever you need to edit. (That's key; most knowledge workers can't simply sign up at an online app service and start posting company data to it; you have to get approval from IT mgmt. That's not just a pain, it isn't very gosh-darn likely!) This personal web service could run on a wi-fi smartphone, an Origami slate, or from a flash drive on any available PC.

Update: Turns out that this post is a decent response to Gabor Cselle's recent musing, What's Missing in Web 2.0?.

Thanks to Oliver at MobileCrunch for alerting me to the news.

Friday, May 26, 2006

O'Reilly, Get Real

There was an O'Reilly-style way to handle the trademark issue: 1) Announce that CMP was about to receive the servicemark. 2) Note that, since the filing, many web 2.0 events have occurred. 3) Indicate their desire to strengthen the Web 2.0 Conference brand. 4) Ask the web community for feedback on how to proceed.

Monday Update:
During this debacle, many bloggers have noted that they never liked the term, and please can we try a different one now. As you've gathered from the title of this blog, I think it's a fine moniker. The web has evolved; blogs and wikis are novel and genuinely useful, and advertisers are crawling all over it. Social networking is probably a fad, as are other aspects, like Writely and Basecamp, but it's all worth trying. And the web will evolve further, inventing tools that give ordinary users a web context for everyday work without forcing them into the clutches of third parties—that's Web 2.5, the always-on-you web.

The web community attracted unrelenting cynicism and bitterness after the dot-com bubble burst, and Web 2.0 is a way of telling the world that we're back, we're here to stay, we're here to change everything.

Saturday Update:
As I noted in a comment to John Battelle's defense of his partners' actions, the servicemark 'Web 2.0 <event>' (where event is a generic term like conference or workshop) was the wrong thing to trademark. Having done so, not foreseeing how widespread the use of 'Web 2.0' would become, it was the wrong thing to defend. Changing the name of your shindig to 'Web 2.0 Confab' or somesuch would have caused your partnership little trouble, and would have been defensible, both legally and morally.

Yesterday, assuming that O'Reilly couldn't be this clueless (or this), I came out in defense of them. Today, I'm joining the mass demonstration.

Seriously, would anyone be willing to help organize and/or speak at a Web 2.X Conference in the Bay Area for this fall?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Get O'Real... O'Reilly Not to Blame for CMP Misstep

Update: As it turns out, I'm dead wrong. O'Reilly IS to blame for this blunder. (Rick Segal offers a pithy analysis.) I couldn't imagine they could be this foolish. May I suggest you not attend the O'Reilly Web 2.0 conference this year. I won't.

An Irish non-profit has received a cease-and-desist from CMP Media, claiming to own a service mark on the term 'Web 2.0'.

Uh-oh, I hope there isn't a mass migration to 'Web 2.5' if CMP sticks to its (rather low-caliber) guns. That term has been coined, folks!

Tim O'Reilly, a fellow with probably the best public image in all of tech, is taking heat (lots) for a legal move by another company. The blogosphere has taken the original post on the story at face value, and not bothered to read the text of the C&D letter, an image of which is included in the post. Yet another example of how bloggers are not journalists.

Update: Intriguingly, there has been a fight going on at the Wikipedia Web 2.0 page about whether to mention the fact that CMP has claimed a trademark on the term. So far, the editorial consensus is to exclude this detail.

Apologies for the off-topic post, readers. We will return to the decidedly less hype-driven Web 2.5 story shortly.

Monday, May 15, 2006

53651 Users Can't Be Wrong...

But they often are. As pointed out by Josh Kopelman, this is the readership of TechCrunch (current count at right), without counting readers who go direct to the website (a lot). This crowd has a very different relationship to the net than the mass market. Many of them believe that the internet will someday become a global brain, which all logic & data will move into. Near-term, they believe the internet is the PC.

That is not a vision that the mass market will ever embrace. Ordinary users have a healthy fear of centralized control, and a rational aversion to organizations that would rent property that individuals would benefit from owning, like their data. If you sign up the entire TechCrunch readership to your shiny new Web 2.0 app service, you might not sign up anyone else.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Croquet Proposes Web X.0: P2P, R/W, 3D

Nothing like a little alphabet soup to start the day... Croquet, a research platform that has escaped from the lab, sprung free by a startup called Qwaq, proposes to be "an operating system for the post-browser Internet". Nothing ambitious, mind you.

The focus of their post-browser net vision is not publishing, but collaboration, purportedly on a large scale. Intriguingly, its architecture is peer-to-peer, so end-users can build the Croquet web one node at a time. That is a Good Idea. Today's server-centric net tends to serve organizations well, and individuals rarely. MySpace and Blogspot are about the extent of the user-defined net, and they don't support much more than blather.

The Croquet user experience is a 3D universe of interlinked worlds; or perhaps interlinked apartments, as each world is more likely to be a set of rooms than landscapes. Clearly the stack of overlapping "windows" pioneered by PARC and first commercialized by Apple is a terrible way to organize or present information. The browser, with its hyperlinks and history deck, is far more sensible, and akin to the ubiquitous spiral-bound notebook. Croquet takes this idea into the third dimension.

But 3D conveys the feel of wandering around with a patch over one eye and a cheap scuba mask on your face; you can't experience realistic 3D without stereoscopic display and peripheral vision. I've not seen any research showing that 3D UI dramatically improves on 2D UI for ordinary tasks. 3D is hugely popular for gaming, so the technology works, but it hasn't migrated to more productive uses. What does 3D add to mostly-textual content? Think about a bookshelf: it's a 2D array of titles; grab one, open it, and you see a pair of 2D pages, in a stack.

Another potential stumbling block for Croquet is its apparent complexity. Perhaps this is simply due to the way the web site describes it, but it sounds like a bear to master as a programmer. You have to learn smalltalk, for starters, and then a mountain of APIs and paradigms. The wonderful thing about the web is how little you need to know to do useful things. Given time, the Croquet team may hide some of its complexity. But given its academic origins, that time could be a long one.

Robert Scoble got a demo recently. The Wikipedia article describes the grand vision and project history.

Personally, I'd like to see a 2D, P2P, Read/Write web for personal and small-team applications; based on SVG, and incorporating PC documents/apps. Hmm, that sounds familiar... Oh right, I'm writing it! It's called airWRX.