February 28, 2006

Content engineering

You know what's nice about the Internet, as an end user?

You don't have to install the Web.
You don't have to upgrade a webpage.
You don't have to download a whole website before you can begin perusing it.

Some nice examples of actual applications as content: (Flash) (Java) (DHTML)**

These are a little data-viz centric, I realize, but hilights (for me) the difference between the old world of content and the new (hint: Its participatory :P)

**OK, this one's just demo-ware, but it shows that just DHTML fun can be had.
To use it, click a category, then select a demo in the list below that, and then click ON the demo picture itself to activate it.


Anonymous said...

Sure the web's "nice" but some things are broken that we need to fix

Anonymous said...

third time lucky?

Dossy Shiobara said...

No, but you do have to install a web browser.

You do have to make sure you're accessing the webpage with the right web browser, and sometimes the right version of the web browser. And, if you have the wrong version, you have to upgrade.

Sometimes, you visit a webpage that embeds a plugin which makes you wait while it downloads a whole crap of content (think: how many "Loading ..." Flash apps have you seen in your life?) before you can interact with the site.


We haven't solved the problem. We've just moved it around a bit. It's just a shell-game, man.

Sree Kotay said...

trekker: Having link problems? :P

In terms of identity - yeah, its QUITE a bit broken. Does Liberty, et al, really solve the trust issue for online identities in a global way?

It'll probably make it nicer for all customers/namespaces of the incumbents, like us, Yahoo, MSFT, eBay, Amazon, Google, etc. - but there will always be a Skype or MySpace around the corner.

Its interesting to note that we seem to be the only CONSUMER software services provider in the mix - what does that suggest, I wonder?

Sree Kotay said...

dossy: Naaah - only a matter of time before someone unleashes a browser-based-browser. Its fully compatible with your existing browser and requires no install (I think Steve Rice built one as a goof at one point, but I can't find the link...)

I wonder, in fact, what % of Internet users have actually ACTIVELY downloaded and installed a browser that they kept using in the last 5 years?

I think the whole "web app" vs. "client app" thing is a silly argument. The only divide is in our minds: users don't know the differences in how we built it - they (we :)) only CARE if it works or not.

That said, its instructive to look at the attributes that each end of the application construction/delivery spectrum provides - and wonder why those benefits can't/aren't more broadly applied.

Anonymous said...

Sree, I don't disagree that the end user doesn't care as long as it works.
Though as you pointed out, it's harder to convince an end user to install an application, when a web page is hum... just works. (and works cross platform)
Also I see another issue, which is purely technical. It's just really hard to find good programmers these days. Every young guy out of schools doesn't learn C++ anymore. They do learn Java, JavaScript and they tend to be less 'structured'. The old timers, like you and me moved to management. Here is a good article about this actually:
The Perils of JavaSchools

And I'm sorry, but based on experience, writing a whole client application in JavaScript quite sucks. Java has its advantages server side but it's quite slow (as JavaScript is) depending what you want to do for writing client applications. I quite welcome C# because of this.
The whole end-consumer computing business is moving towards web applications and I feel that client based applications can only reach professionals these days. (like Word, 3DsMAX, Photoshop, etc). Of course there will always be a niche market.

With Avalon (or PDF/E what ever they chose to call it. Not sure how Microsoft plans to market a product with such a name...) coming up, I think it will accentuate even more this tendency since it will bring additional capabilities to the browser.

Browsers are becoming the desktop of yesterday.

Hackers create web-app these days, not client app...

Anonymous said...

WPF (Avalon) will bring even more capabilities to the browser? What browser? IE? So it's still very much that case that C# and WPF is a MS Windows solution.

The examples that were given for dynamic, engaging, interactives - were Macromedia Flash, Java, and DHTML - all platform and OS agnostic solutions. Also note, with the exception of DTHML, Flash and Java both have to be installed as client side software. They aren't inherently part of the browser.

My biggest complaint right now is that the native legacy technology and content language browsers use (xhtml/dhtml) hasn't evolved along with the rest of the next-gen interface languages. (Flex, XAML, Laszlo, etc.). Which is resulting in a tower of babel.

Anonymous said...

WPF/E will be available on a variety of platform. not only Windows. (/E stand for Everywhere).
Also, I imagine it will come pre-installed with Vista. Making it available immediately to 90% of the market in the next 2 years.
Isn't it a huge leverage?
If you remember Microsoft invented DHTML...

Anonymous said...

Understood. Yeah, certainly potential there, depending on adoption. To me based on available docs WPF/E is essentially a potential Flash Killer, sans alot of what makes WPF (Windows) uber cool (no 3D, no hardware accel. for example). Basically XAML-Light + JavaScript.

I am unclear (any enlightenment welcome) on who for example would need to build the runtime for say a WPF/E enabled FireFox. Is MS doing 100% of the work? There is apparently a WPF/E activeX control for IE, and the internal api will be made available so that others can easily write plugins for other hosts (Firefox for one). Curious if anyone has already written such a beast.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I don't know about how they plan to port it to other platforms.
Though, if Microsoft is for the first time targeting 'designers', hence 'Flash Killer', I think their biggest win will be among regular developers: people who builds real applications.

For the first time developers will have the same tool (Sparkle) to build UI for client app running on the desktop or for web app. It should help 'transition' some old timers to the web :/

Sree Kotay said...

Microsoft demo'ed WPF/E running on OS X at PDC last year (I heard). And I'm pretty sure they've got it running on Windows CE boxes.

There real competition is going to be two other players: XULRunner from the Mozilla foundation and the "unified" Flash Player (Flash+HTML+PDF).

But I think there WILL be a winner - might not be one of those (likely will be).

Anonymous said...

One question is, WPF/E is so much a subset native WPF... Is it even a compelling enough solution to warrant replacing Flash. I've used Sparkle, and Flash - for building weblets, I still prefer Flash (mostly out of habit).

XULRunner (XUL specifically) is one huge step behind the next-gen toolkits. Hopefully they can play catch up soon, the solution is certainly in the "running".

For fun (yes my idea of it), I am working on a list of features for a be-all-end-all UI toolkit - mostly a tool to be able to measure where the next-gen solutions (XAML/WPF, XUL, Boxely, Flex, etc.) sit relative to each other. Hope to post it soon.

Sree Kotay said...

I'd be careful with the "one step" thoughts - UI markup isn't the only axis on which the runtime battle will be fought. In fact, show what an even lamer runtime is possible of...

In terms of WPF/E - yeah, remains to be seen. I'd be surprised if it actually ended up as a just a subset of WPF...

Anonymous said...

Regardless of how or where it works, will it get used? We had some of our "designers" (more like Flash engineers) try out the toolkit and it is far from designer friendly. MSFT has a lot of work to do before they win over that market segment and I don't buy their premise that they are making developers into designers or bridging the gap via this technology as it is today. Having said that, I think they are headed in the right direction. We should all stay tuned...

Sree Kotay said...

Its a good point - WHO is the target for these content runtimes? I dunno - I think part of the power of the "self-construction" they enable is that you'll see levels: some will use toolkits that others will build, even more so than the web snippet copying that defined the early web.

Anonymous said...

I looked at an example of it on Microsofts Channel 9 site it SUCKS!!! Flash will be the future. Maybe if M.s. decided to release .NET Framework 3.0 for multiple platforms it would be a "flash killer" but M$ wouldn't with that there too busy making $$$ from poor Windows users.

Sree Kotay said...

Flash is good stuff, but I don't think MS is done yet ...

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