Archive for Web Services

Segmenting web platforms

Web as a platform is an interesting topic for most people in the software industry. Marc Andreessen (Ning) recently made an attempt to classify this platform in his post The three kinds of platforms you meet on the Internet. In the follow up analysis posted by Josh on ReadWriteWeb Platforms on the Web are Platforms on a Platform, this classification and value of different platform levels is questioned. Before I state my views on this, let me capture Mark’s classification in a summary below:

L1 platform. Loosely coupled REST/SOAP based API integration. Example: Flickr API.

L2 platform. More deeper integration of developer’s application injecting into the platform UI. Example: Facebook API.

L3 platform. A runtime that hosts developer code. Example: Ning.

Marc’s argument that L3 platform are the best, is certainly questionable and Josh makes points in this line. While a scalable web platform with Social Networking API is a powerful one, expecting others to bring their users and user data to your hosted platform is not in the best interest of the company/group that wants to add those features to an existing site/application.

A better solution could be a add-on social networking platform with API which the company/group can co-host and integrate. They get to keep their users and user data and can achieve better integration.

This is like a “Web 2.0 Application Server” as shown in the picture below. Deployed alongside the current Web 1.0 website and can provide social networking features overlayed on top of it.

web122.jpeg

Would this be more acceptable to those currently on using web as a Web1.0 platform and would like to add social networking among their users (use web as a Web2.0 platform)?
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Bringing the best of Desktop and Web together

The main idea of Dekoh is to bring the best of features on Desktop and Web to end users and developers. Jay in his presentation had a nice slide that captures this.

Best of Desktop and Web

Here is a brief description:

Universal Data: Applications can blend data on their file system with data on the web (website APIs) in their applications.

Control over sharing: While desktop is a fully private environment, the concept of social web is community based sharing. Dekoh desktop applications can be shared thru Dekoh Network. It is your private network.

Benefits of a hosted application: Desktop applications are self contained and rich in user interface (also easy to install and manage). Deploying and managing web applications is a little geeky job (folks in enterprise software world know this, the reason why SaaS model is becoming popular). Dekoh camouflages all the complexity. Installing and running Dekoh desktop and applications is just a one-click operation. It is totally end consumer usable.

Bringing web 2.0 to desktop: Use your personal media (photos, music, video, blogs, books….) and collaborate with your personal network. Run your web applications on the desktop

Developer friendly: Dekoh is based on open standards and is an open source platform. Developers with wide ranging skills like HTML, CSS, Javascript, Flash, Java, JSP/Servlet, PHP, .Net can write applications on their desktop and share it over the web securely (Read FAQ). More exited? participate in Dekoh development by joining the Dekoh community

End user applications: End consumers can install Dekoh Applications and organize their personal media and share it with their personal network.

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What is missing with the Web Applications

This entry is based on the presentation we made at the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit 2006 titled “Beyond SAAS”.

First, let us look at the 3 big reasons why users like web applications:

  1. Anytime – Anywhere access
  2. Zero system administration
  3. Sharing with others

Makes a lot of sense. Hence the big rush to the web, to the extent that all other platforms of development (including apps for the desktop) were completely forgotten.

But, after nearly a decade of this incessant movement, are there certain learnings? As users do we find some things missing?

1. Forced to leave our data (at many different websites)

I realize that my emails/contacts are with Yahoo & Google, photos are with Flickr & Webshots, blogs are with WordPress & Blogger, bookmarks somewhere else, calendar some site, and so on. Thanks to the recent trend of Web Services APIs and open policies of few sites, you can now take back some of your own data, maybe with some technical help. But, one still cannot be assured of getting everything you uploaded or provided online (photos resized, removed for exceeding quota, etc.).

Are users being held ‘data hostage’? Does the web application model inherently bring this lock-in for users? Should sites/apps provide an option of where you store your data (like a online data storage service)?

Some of us have come to expect that websites may use our private data or friends list for other purposes not entirely known to us. There is very little control we have on this.

2. Cannot continue using the same applications, when offline

I call this ‘desktop disconnect’. Why should my email client on the web and desktop look and work so different? Homogeneity of user experience and usability is missing when we use a desktop app and its web counterpart.

Would it be nice to have it all work the same online or offline? Will the web and desktop working closer?

Read some very interesting observations by Tara Hunt:

  • All of our information is stored in the ether. If we want to store it on our own machines, we have to take an extra step. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
  • And speaking of information in the ether. Wouldn’t it be good to work offline whenever we wanted to and have it update when we are re-connected?

3. Sharing difficulties, privacy and control

How can Friends, Family and Public be enough classification of people I want to share? Finer grain control on whom I can share and what, becomes important when sharing is frequent and many types of information (or digital asset) are involved.

Then comes the tedious and time-consuming task of uploading. Waiting to finish (when it is not asynchronous) is a waste of time, however nice and engaging the progress bar is.

I find it difficult to effectively manage my uploads, purge what is no longer required (for sharing) and be within limits of my account type or end up paying extra. Every user ends up having more stuff uploaded than he needs at any point in time, which does not serve well the user or the host. The problem of ‘The Unpurged Trash”.

I realize there are countless online accounts to be open, profiles to be edited, contacts to be added and endless repeats of information that is again private and better managed with me. When I use a web app, I cannot use the information I already have online, because it is on someone else’s website.

Time has come for change in how applications should be designed. Here are some thoughts, as to what could do good to end users.

I wish …

I can have data reside on my desktop (secure, private and in my control) and still have the ability to selectively share it with my buddies or the whole world without making multiple copies of it.

I can keep my contacts and my buddies list and can use it for sharing a variety of things.

I can have an option to use online storage, either with the app provider or Amazon S3 or some other paid online storage that I already have.

I can have seamless user experience across desktop and web, including transitions between online and offline.


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