Written by Alex Iskold and edited by Richard MacManus.
In this post, we survey a range of client applications which utilize the new web platform. This is a follow-up to our Web Platform Primer post a few days ago, in which we explained the building blocks of the new Web infrastructure:
The Web Computing Platform
Essentially the building blocks are foundational services from Internet companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft - which combine to form a Web development platform. Indeed a couple of days we saw Amazon add to the platform with a limited beta 'Compute' service, called Elastic Compute Cloud. All of these services facilitate a new breed of software: smart desktop and browser applications that use the Web Platform as their backbone.
In this category there is Amazon S3 and openomy. Amazon S3 has a wide variety of clients using it. Firstly, there are personal backup applications like Jungle Disk and Elephant Drive. Another common use case for S3 is storing large media files - the Amazon S3 success stories page features MediaSilo video storage and SmugMug on-line photo sharing. A webtop application called YouOS is also using Amazon S3 to store user information. Finally, there are two other applications listed in the success stories section: MyOwnDB, which allows users to define and store their personal information in the form database tables; and the blueorganizer smart browser extension for Firefox, developed by my [Alex's] company adaptiveblue.
Messaging and Compute Services
In the previous article we gave an example of a Messaging service: Amazon Simple Queue Service. There are no success stories listed on the Amazon site for this service but - as we noted - it is likely that Amazon.com itself utilizes this service.
After our previous article was published earlier this week, Amazon released the first example of a black-box compute service - called Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. The service is currently in limited beta, but we are likely to start hearing of success stories soon.
We start this broad category with the applications that use Amazon eCommerce Service, one of the most widely used APIs on the web. Among the success stories listed on the Amazon's page, most fall into the category of shopping and store fronts. For example:
- ActionEngine and ScanBy use the Amazon API to enable wireless shopping.
- Associate-o-matic uses the Amazon API to help its customers create store fronts.
- Inside C uses the Amazon API to bring shopping into the instant messaging space.
There are other interesting uses of the API as well. For UNIX lovers there is the Amazon Command Line interface, marketed as 0-click shopping. Also there is RightCart, which enables a web-wide shopping experience on blogs and regular sites.
Note that adaptiveblue also uses the eCommerce API, to dynamically look up product information - when a user selects the title of a book, or the name of a gadget.
The most popular information API is Google Maps. A comprehensive list of usages can be found at the Google Maps Mania blog. They range from housing market sites to travel logs. These, however, are more mashups or utilities than applications - because they do not provide an end-to-end user experience, but rather provide a solution to a particular information problem. In general, we are seeing a big surge in so-called mashups fueled by Information Services and Web 2.0 APIs. A comprehensive list of these mashups, along with APIs and other great information, is maintained by John Musser at Programmable Web.
The Alexa Web Search Platform was launched in December 2005. At the time Richard wondered if it would make Amazon a major search player. As of now there are no references to a major vertical search engine built on top of Alexa. The Alexa web site features a few applications - a Camera search and Zip File search - but that just scratches the surface of what is possible with the Alexa platform.
I still think that this platform will pick up and we will see some really interesting vertical search applications built on it. In the meantime, the blogging community does not live a day without checking the Alexa Information service for traffic rankings: alexa.com and alexaholic.com.
Web 2.0 Services
Thanks to del.cio.us, APIs are back in style. So-called Web 2.0 companies rush to open up their information, in order to enable cross-pollination of data and mashups. Here is the current chart of Top APIs from Programmable Web:
Google Maps is a clear front runner. Among other popular APIs are Flickr, Amazon, YahooMaps and del.icio.us. Also according to the 'last 14 days' chart, the YouTube API is on the rise.
It is exciting to see this new wave of applications developed on top of the emerging Web Platform. As the platform matures, we are sure to witness more and more applications using it as their primary infrastructure. This allows businesses to focus on innovation and domain knowledge, rather than worrying about the scalability of their backend systems.