Home Survey Of Client Apps Using The Web Platform

Survey Of Client Apps Using The Web Platform

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
a few days ago, in which we explained the building blocks of the new Web

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
that use the Web Platform as their backbone. 

Storage Services

In this category there is
Amazon S3
and openomy. Amazon S3
has a wide variety of clients using it. Firstly, there are personal backup
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.

The only example app using the openomy site is a
very basic RSS application, built using Ruby on

Messaging and Compute Services

In the previous
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
. The service is currently in limited beta, but we are likely to start hearing
of success stories soon.

Information Services

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

  • ActionEngine and ScanBy use the Amazon API to enable wireless
  • 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

Search Services

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

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