Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The browser as a two-way window

Opera has released an alpha build of their new web browser Unite. I don't know if they've fullfilled their promise to, 'reinvent the web' or not, but the software is pretty cool.

Depending on your level of engagement with the internet, your web browser is like your window to the world and much more. While many users passively go with system defaults such as Microsoft Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari, 3rd party browsers such Firefox and Opera are perferred by many power users.

So what's all the hype about? It's simple yet powerful: Unite is a robust, multi-tab browser with a literal web server package built right into it. What that means is, this software has the capability to turn *your* computer into a web server, as long as you're online and it's running.

If it's not immediately evident why you would -or- should want to do this, let me explain:

We're already uploading our photos, music, and personal content to different 3rd party websites and social services. We don't need to store our info locally. We can host it somewhere else -for free - and it's publicy available to anyone, anywhere.

Here's the only dilemma with that: While all your content is in the cloud, it's still in various different sites (silos) like Your blog account, Facebook, Flickr, Delicious, YouTube, etc. Projects like Friendfeed go a long way to aggregate & stream all that activity - but it's still push delivery and users interaction with your content or resources isn't granular or ala carte. You're also at the mercy of any one of these sites, should they go down, lose your data, or worse.

The other problem is sharing your music library over the web. You can upload to rapid share and be a dj on blip.fm, but your core library is still likely 'personal' unless you're runing some kind of media server. Apple iTunes can be shared over the web with apps like Simplfymedia, but you need an account and have to run their software.

You can't simply call up your MP3 library or host / transfer large files from your PC to any web-connected browser/device easily - unless you know how to configure & your own ftp server with dyndns, etc...until now.

Opera has pre-configured everything with a nice graphical interface that maps file destinations or directories on your system (music, picture, file folders, etc) to a series of dynamic URLs that you can share with others, selectively, or keep private. You can always change the URLs or even move/delete files if you're concered about too much traffic or exposure/privacy issues - or you can just close it and not run Opera Unite :)

If this catches on it, it could be really, really cool. Opera is encouraging developers to come up with more applications.

More to come...

I've set up a "Chat Lounge" on my notebook using Opera Unite.
Feel free to drop in, if any friends or myself are online, choose a screenname and say "hi"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Waiting for Google Wave

I know it's still in developer preview, but I cannot wait to test out Google's Wave platform. The idea is simple, yet transformational: Conversations as live, hosted, documents that your friends are interacting with.

It's the combination of email, chat, twitter, facebook, etc - essentially all the communication services they aim provide but everything, live, at once. Google's social graph, if you will. Google has intentionally set out to make Wave an open source protocol and a federated platform, which means that individuals or even enterprises could run their own private Wave instances.

I tell you what: While Google puts the finishing touches on Wave, Ray Ozzie and Microsoft would do well to pick-up Twitter, or even partner with them. It competes with their investment in facebook, but it doesn't matter. It's worth the hedge.

Twitter, though only 140 characters, is both a destination, ecosystem, and a protocol. Microsoft could keep things exactly as they are right now, so as not hurt the ecosystem or destination aspect, and even open up and extend the twitter api/protocol. (embrace and extend?)

Microsoft typically behaves kind of "evilly" in these instances, but I think under Ray Ozzie it's possible that they could play much nicer and not hurt the buzz and vibe that twitter has going for it. They could eventually normalize it for the enterprise which is where Wave would be going with Google's Apps.

Just some thoughts as I eagerly await a Wave invite...

Edit: I know Twitter is built on Ruby & LAMP or something like that. This obviously is much different from Microsoft and their whole ethos of proprietary .NET stuff. It's completely off the wall, but that's the kind of world we live in these days - off the wall. It's just a damn shame to see Ray Ozzie bad mouth Wave instead of answering to it.

Edit II: Here's some of the video of Ozzie's spin at The Churchhill Club: