The Next Web: Start ups

One of the great things during the Next Web was the Rising Sun Startup challenge. Every start up has five minutes to pitch itself and there are quite some start ups that might even be around for the next two or three years:

Silentale

Conversations are fragmented, not only on the web, but also in your inbox and on your phone. Silentale created a solution that collects all these conversations and shows them all together. You’ll have on entry point to (re)read the conversation again (even better: it is searchable!). A business model is also already in place: four dollar a month for an add free version.

Citisins

Citisins does travel guides, which is not very special on first sight, however on second sight they add value. They offer fully customizable user guides containg the data that is important for you and they add the experiences of the users in your social networks. The travel guide is available via paper (on which their business model is based) or for free on your phone.

E

E is removing the gap between online and offline. They launched a digital business card (a replacement of the paper one) which you can use both online (via the site) and offline (via the connector). An answer on what the difference is between the Poken and my name is E, is that E is for a more grown up audience. Their business model is based on on branded connectors however they got many other opportunities to make money.

Yunoo

Yunoo is about your money and the way you spend it. They offer the possibility to upload your financial data and to analyze it. They even help you to change your telecom subscription for a cheaper one. It was very interesting to hear that banks in the Netherlands did not want to adopt their solution since it is not the core business of the banks (which is quite stupid, because Yunoo is a great service for its users and would have been a great ancillary service for banks).

Prezi

Prezi finally finishes the Powerpoint and Keynote era. Not only because it is completely webbased (there are more presentation tools that are web based) but the  unique concept of presenting information.. Prezi is by far more visual than other presenting tool (even better: you can use your Wiimote to navigate). The best way to get to know Prezi, is to play with it, or to watch the samples. The business model is very simple: they offer a paid desktop version for offline presentations.

Mendeley

Mendeley says it is the last.fm for research. The connect research libraries in a social way, so it is easier to discover relevant research papers on any topic. They have a specific target audience (academics) which will enabled by Mendeley to share their research papers and connecting with like minded people.

Rick Mans is Information Architect and a social media evangelist within Capgemini. You can follow and connect with him via Twitter or Delicious

The Next Web: Googley

Last week I visited The Next Web Conference which was a great experience. Great speakers, great atmosphere, great people and Wi-Fi that worked! Jeff Jarvis (what would Google do) was one of the speakers and his main message was: create a platform which enables others (your customers) to get success. Jeff Jarvis is
also known about Dell Hell and he also mentioned it shortly. Dell is one of the companies which successfully adapt to a new way of doing business (the Googley way?): “Your worst customer is your best friend. Your best customer is your partner. A company the size of Dell cannot survive on the ideas of two or three people”.

You can’t create a community

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook’s CEO) is quoted by Jeff in relation to a request a big newspaper had for Mark Zuckerberg: “How do you create a community”, Mark’s answer was: “You don’t create a community. It’s already there. You help them do what they want to do”. He also points out what a real issue for most news media, they do not think distributed. He shows this by presenting the following quote: “If the news is that important, it will find me”, most papers do not go to
theur customers, but want to guide them to their own site. You should think distributed: “I’m not a mass, you’re not a mass – we are all individual”. He also add that you should manage abundance and not scarcity.

Record your life digitally

The other speaker which centered his talk around Google was Bradley Horowitz (VP for Google Apps which is formerly knows as Google NSA (not search and ads)). He talks about a big problem: currently it is possible to record your life digitally. However you do not have a second life to view the data you collected in your first life. How this information overload can be solved is by adding meta data. This can be done automatically, however as Bradley stated: software is not always
as good as humans are in a certain tasks, therefore a combination of man and machine is better than man versus machine. He also provides three elements to create meta data:

  • Don’t ignore the easy stuff: capture in anticipation of usage. (for example someone calendar, the time a picture was taken etc)
  • Use wetware and software. Wetware (the human body) provides a lot of signals if things are important and interesting.
  • Collective intelligence. Use aggregation of data, a huge spike of people at the same locations means that something is happening there.

Another big problem that everybody dies (eventually) and therefore time is an issue. Google tries to give back time to people, by using less of their time. Bradley says that this is the direction the next web should be solving. He advices everyone who is working in the Internet business to pay attention to this issue, it is a problem of today and it is problem of tomorrow.

Does it rain or does it pour?

Cloud computing is one of the disruptive technologies (read some facts here) that is the new standard in the invisible infostructure. As Mark stated earlier on this blog, Cloud Computing is about trust and ‘trust is a value I am choosing to rely on for anything I do on the web. Without trust, the web wouldn’t have evolved into what it is today’. Trust is a good thing, however trust does not solve everything. By trusting a party you can help a party to exist (merely your trust consists of paying for their service), however you cannot prevent them to disappear from the stage while taking your Cloudy services with them in their exit.

What is your exit strategy?

Have you ever thought about that? The Cloud may be part of the ecosystem of Internet, however it is not unlikely, that, like a real cloud, it will start raining. After the rain stopped the Cloud will be smaller. What if your data / application, service in the Cloud will disappear due to the disappearance of a service provider. You cannot expect that all providers of Cloud services will keep on existing the next ten years (do you remember the free hosting providers Geocities, XOOM and Fortunecity in the late nineties? Geocities was bought by Yahoo, Fortunecity still exists, and XOOM disappeared as free hosting provider, and so did its data).

Currently it is rather cloudy and the Cloud keeps expanding, however it is a fact that the expanding stops and that some pieces of the Cloud will rain down. What kind of measures did you take to prevent that your data is lost or that you cannot use a service in the Cloud? What is your fallback for your Cloud usage or will it pour at your place when it rains?

Hypertext Markup Love 5

I think it was at least 10 years ago that I bought a book concerning HTML. The thing I remember most of this little book was that is contained a warning concerning the use frames in websites. Not a warning that you are probably completely clueless and you should not have a keyboard when you are planning implement frames in a site, but a warning for the fact that not all the browsers were supporting frames at that very moment of writing.

It was indeed a rather old book, however I fell in love with markup. Markup is the solid base of websites, all the other things (CSS, Flash, Silverlight, other plug ins etc) are just some fancy paint on the solid building. Off course the paint is important, however without a building there is not much to paint. Building buildings is more interesting to me than doing some paint jobs with fancy shiny paint.

Currently my markup loves is reviving since HTML5 is being specified. HTML5 does contain so much good elements, functionalities and other technologies that were missing since the introduction of HTML4 (almost 10 years ago in December 1999).  I will give you five good reasons why you too should be in love with HTML5 and why you should use it:

  1. Clearer structure

    HTML5 will offer you a clearer structure to create a page with. Instead of ending op in a severe case diveritus (use the div element for nearly everything with caring about semantics) you could use elements like Section, Article, Aside, Nav, Figure, Header and Footer. Your page will become far more semantic using the elements.

  2. Video, Audio

    Video is on great demand (every hour 13 hours of video is uploaded on Youtube).  HTML didn’t had native support for playing video and audio in sites. There was the object tag, however it still required a plug in to get things to work. Another great thing is that you can easily offer alternative formats for e.g. video’s and that can you style the video tag as you can with any other element.

  3. Offline web applications

    With a native implementation you are no longer dependent on one vendor based plug ins (Google Gears), which is great, since more vendors result quite often in more innovation. And innovation is good for HTML as long as it is using open standards and is not proprietary. It really opens a new way of working (Gears is currently paving the path), you can now work when you want, where you want independent of connection.

  4. User interaction

    Isn’t it a great idea that you can edit browser pages without the need of rich text editors like tinyMCE of FCK editor? Isn’t it even greater that you have some elements that will enable a track changes functionality in webpages? Off course it is nice that you can drag and drop items in web pages, however the nicest option is the native Undo functionality (for someone with my typing skills it is really great). Again a standarized functionality that currently implemented via many plug ins (that have a hard time to manage cross browser functioning).

  5. Communication

    One of the limitation of e.g. AJAX is that it is by default single domain (with some tweaks in a browser you could make it multiple domain). However HTML5 offers by default cross-document messaging, which is great and offers again a great set of opportunities. Besides that also server-sent events, Web sockets, and channel messaging are great new features.

I bet you are also in love now with HTML5, it is only a pity we have to wait another 14 years before it is a real recommendation. However in the meanwhile we can flirt with it in several browsers.

Goodbye Flash, Silverlight, AIR and other plug-ins

Techniques that require a plug-in in the browser are dying. However Silverlight is not the one dying, since it was already dead just before it started (why even try to penetrate a market with a product that is not finished and with a competitor that is 4 blocks ahead). Therefore we can conclude that Flash will disappear, AIR will disappear and finally those ugly Java applets (who ever thought those would be useful on the web, waiting 5 minutes to have an applet loaded) are gone too.

Native wins

For me it is clear that all plug-in based techniques will be replaced by more native techniques like JavaScript. JavaScript was forgotten due to some browser wars which ended up in the result with two rather incompatible implementations of JavaScript. However with the several incompatible implementations becoming less dominant (there now is only one implementation that is questionable at some points) and the rise of the libraries like JQuery, Prototype, SproutCore, YUI, MooTools, ExtJS it is clear that JavaScript is back on its feet again and it is running to overtake all these plug-in based techniques. JavaScript is platform independent, as most plug-in based techniques are not.

The limitation in JavaScript used to be the ‘flashy’ things: drop and drag, animations, interoperability and other nice and fancy stuff that was either limited by the technique or by the processing power of the client. Nowadays this isn’t a limitation anymore, do you want nice animations, you could use script.aculo.us, JQuery UI, or Processing.js. Interoperability is arranged in almost all libraries. Do you want applications that feel like desktop application, think of your design and build it, just like 280 Slides, Google Docs, Zoho and SproutCore gallery. You are no longer limited, you can make these things happen with techniques that are native for all browsers: HTML, CSS and JavaScript!

No vendor lock-in

It will be hot JavaScript winter, especially since everything is possible again. Flash, AIR and Silverlight aren’t the only techniques that can make flasy desktop like nice solutions. JavaScript can do that too and JavaScript does not create a vendor lock-in requiring a specific closed source plug-in.

Acid3 and 4, why even bother?

If you are in some way involved in web development you might know the Acid tests. These tests check if and how well a web browser completes a certain set of test cases. Based on this it can be concluded if a browser is compliance to certain web standards.

Well that sounds great, but what is in it for the users of the browsers and what is in it for the developers testing their web pages for standard compliance? In my opinion: nothing. Do you as a user really care that you use a browser that passed the Acid3 test? Probably not, otherwise the browser statistics would be quite different. Currently only the webkit (Safari) and the presto (Opera) engine pass the Acid3 test with a 100/100 score. These two browsers have only a market share of almost 5%. The trident engine (Internet Explorer) scores only a questionable 18 points and the new Gecko engine (Firefox) scores 80 out of 100. However these two browsers are used by approximately 90% of the internet population.

Users do not care

Users do not care about something nerdy like an Acid3 or 4 test. Simply because it has not any added value for them to have an Acid3 compatible browser. Most of the sites will be perfectly rendered in their browser; only a few specific advanced things that are tested in Acid3 will not be shown correctly. These specific techniques aren’t used that common that it should have impact on ones browsing experience.

When buying a car, the results of the NCAP test can influence the decision to buy a car, simply because these results do add value (when you crash, will you and you passengers still live, or not). On internet there is another mindset. Bert Bos once said the following:

“I’d like browsers to fix bugs as soon as possible, but it is true that they (and not me) will get the complaints from users when pages that used to work suddenly look differently in a new browser version. Too many people see the Web a bit like television: who ever heard of incompatible content? If there is an error, it’s because the TV set is broken, or maybe the antenna. On the Web, it is much more likely that the content is invalid, but try to explain that to users who just want to buy their holiday or see their bank account…”

This still is the mindset of most browser users. If you cannot visit your favorite website with your browser and you can with another browser, than the browser is broken and not the website. This mindset is also adopted by lot developers. Which is quite reasonable because would you make a website that can only be viewed successfully by 5% of your visitors?

It is for geeks

Users and developers should become more standards aware, without proper use of standards the web is doomed to become something useless. The user’s mindset should be changed that the Acid test is his NCAP test for the browser, however currently this is not the mindset. Therefore Acid3 is and Acid4 probably will be great for browser vendors and geeks like me to compare how well their render engines function, however the normal user and less geeky developer will not care. I hope they will care in a few years…