Yesterday I wrote about Sparrow Web, a 90’s web application developed by Xerox Parc. I discovered that Sparrow Web was like a Microcontent authoring tool. It divvies up information on a webpage into discrete chunks. So when you edit content in Sparrow Web, you’re editing a part of a webpage not the whole webpage (as in a Wiki).

Today I read an interesting couple of posts by Ted Lueng, regarding OpenDoc – an Apple program from the mid-90’s in which you could create a single document from multiple software components. Ted wrote:

“The compound document metaphor is a perfect fit for microcontent (and other) applications. This is an old idea whose time has come (again). Unfortunately, there are so few people who remember what this was or how it worked, that it will be probably reinvented (and badly).”

I wrote about OpenDoc a couple of months ago, in the context of the Universal Canvas. In that same article I also mentioned Cyberdog (very 90’s name that!), which reminded me of Microsoft’s current attempts to tie all their apps into the OS – otherwise known as “integration”. Weird how 1990’s web applications remind us of current web trends – Microcontent, Universal Canvas, etc. The circle of life…or is it: what goes around comes around :-0

But Ted goes on to say in his latest post:

“Also, I think that we are ready for a compound document like system — microcontent is going to drive it. Whether it’s the whole system or whether there’s a compound document container application, doesn’t really matter to me.”

I think Microsoft is trying to build “the whole system” and it’s called Longhorn. But as Ted says, maybe Open Source collectively will come up with a “compound document container application”. This reminds me of a concept that Marc Canter came up with called “People’s Mesh”:

“It’s possible that an inter-connecting world of micro-content servers and RSS aware tools can create a distributed, open source, web services based Peopleís Mesh.

Longhorn and Apple’s iLife will be the litmus we will compare our People’s Mesh to. The goal would be to equal their functionality, but have it free and open for us all to use.”

Compound is defined as: “To combine so as to form a whole; mix.”

Integrate means: “To make into a whole by bringing all parts together; unify.”

Similar dictionary meanings, but in Web terms one means freedom and the other lock-in. Perhaps it comes down to this: can an Open Source compound application defeat Microsoft’s integrated OS?