This week: Microsoft's Web 2.0 platform, Rich Clients, Acquisitions, Web 2.0 in The Real World, Techie Post of the week - Web Development Trends for 2006.
Microsoft's Web 2.0 platform
News this week that Microsoft is releasing a set of developer APIs for four MSN properties: MSN Virtual Earth, MSN Messenger, Start.com and MSN Search. The details of this "Web platform" strategy will be revealed at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles next week.
Surprisingly the news didn't get a lot of coverage, but the sites that did write about it focused on: the competition with Google ("Microsoft Web plan takes aim at Google" was CNET's heading); how Microsoft might be cannabilizing its flagship Office and Windows products; and "Microsoft's Web 2.0 Vision" (as TechNewsWorld phrased it).
As I wrote in ZDNet, this is Microsoft's acknowledgement that the Web is now the place to be for developers and consumers. However I don't think the Web platform strategy is a primary one for Microsoft, I think they're more interested in dominating how their customers access the Web. If they can't own the platform, they want to own as many of the paths onto the platform as possible - which may then give them control over the platform. Broadly speaking, this is what Google wants to do too.
The topic of 'rich clients' often comes up when talking about Web apps. Rich clients (aka smart clients) are usually Internet-connected desktop applications which offer a rich user experience - interactivity, drag'n'drop, high-end graphics, and so on. Their proponents say rich clients are better than browser-based apps because they have more (i.e. richer) functionality and can be used offline. In the age of broadband, offline usage is becoming increasingly irrelevant. But the richer functionality point is still a compelling one, despite what AJAX can do in a browser these days.
Mike Chambers, from Macromedia Flash Platform Developer Relations, wrote a post recently that makes the case for rich clients in a Web 2.0 world:
"Web 2.0 gets really interesting when one can build clients that composite not just multiple data sources, but multiple rich data types, and start to build applications that really leverage the web as a platform in a much richer way with things like streaming media, VOIP, messaging and real-time data."
Mack D. Male has similar thoughts. My take is that it's still better not to be reliant on desktop (or proprietary) software, but I'm certainly open to richer functionality so long as its connected to the Web.
This week threw up some interesting acquisition rumours. Ebay is apparently in talks to buy Web telephony darlings Skype, which would be a deal worth anything between $2 billion and $5 billion. Some people thought it made sense as an extra communications channel for Ebay's buyers and sellers - IM and Internet phone. Others thought it made little strategic sense. David Beisel raises the intriguing question: if the deal occurs, will it mean connectivity is "worth more than content?"
Update: all but confirmed, eBay will buy Skype for "over $2.6bn" and possibly as much as $4.1 billion if Skype makes performance targets.
"Combined with his purchases of MySpace, Scout Media and (still potentially) Blinkx, it's becoming increasingly clear that News Corp is building up a stable of high traffic sites that cater to highly desirable demographics for advertisers."
Scott Rafer has more on that theme: "Murdoch wants the average age of the NewsCorp Internet customer to be Gen-Y or younger, which makes perfect sense for a new entrant into e-commerce."
Web 2.0 in The Real World
This is a new regular feature of my Weekly Wrap-Up, sort of a counterpoint to the Techie Post of the Week. I think it's important to highlight how Web 2.0 is being implemented in The Real World, by real people - i.e. not geeks like me or Ivory Tower folks.
The first Real World example is a Web Ministry, defined here:
"Web Ministry is using internet resources (namely the web) to utilize the gifts, talents, resources, and desires of a believer (church, organization, individual) to make an eternal impact in the lives of individuals."
Good start - now I want to hear how they're going to do it. That's what this segment of the Weekly Wrap-Up will be about - what's being built on the Web outside of the geek domain and how it's being done.
btw I found that post via their previous post on Web 2.0, which linked to my ZDNet blog:
"I feel dense. I've read a lot of definitions of what Web 2.0 is. The most recent "simple" explanation I read came from ZDNet.com. But I still don't get it. Can someone explain it in simple, dumb language? Better yet, give me an example of how it's different. I just don't get it. What I'm seeing is that it could be big and important. But I just don't get it right now."
[emphasis mine] I hear ya! And I'm working on it ;-)
Techie Post of the week - Web Dev Trends for 2006
Anil Dash's Web Development Trends for 2006 is an excellent overview of trends to look out for in 2006. He calls it "vocational education for people building Web 2.0". I particularly liked this comment about the continued appeal of XHTML and CSS:
"In a Greasemonkey-enabled web, it's going to be more important than ever to have a reliable structure that you can hang new behaviors on."
That's a wrap for another week!