Where will the browser appear as a platform first? — The Enterprise

Here’s a thought from the future:

  • The browser is the platform.
  • Microsoft has embraced this and has released Office as an ASP.NET 2.0 Ajax application for enterprises.
  • Microsoft is continuing its push into ‘Software as a Service’
  • You can now rent Office XML Application Server for Windows Server 2007
  • All of your enterprise users, using IE7.0, Firefox 2.1, Opera 16, or Safari can now access all their office applications from their desktop. (No, IE8.0 still won’t be out, but Firefox will be at 25% marketshare, and I’m not even going to guess at what Firefox will be alled then — how about ‘Burning Rabbit’ ?)
  • Here’s the catch — When users click on that ‘Microsoft Word’ button (or any of the office apps), a local application doesnt load. It loads a rich web application that closely mimics what we now think of as word.
  • All of the users have their own document storage on your Windows Server
  • All of the users have access to their documents seamlessly through existing methods (the remote storage automatically shows up in a user’s ‘my documents’ subfolder, apple’s finder/searchlight, etc)
  • Users can specify permissions on these centrally stored files, and they are easily shared — people don’t have to navigate to a random person’s desktop to get a document they shared, and a person doesn’t have to email it to them. The documents on the server are all searchable by the user’s local desktop (depending on permissions).
  • When it’s time to upgrade to a new version of Office XML Application Server, the upgrade is done on the server, once, and all clients automatically have their update.
  • I know some of this isn’t new OR likely, but it’s fun to take an old idea that was once pure ‘out there’ thinking and bring it down into the realm of “I see how this is possible even if it’s not either soon or likely”

    Also, who knows if it will even be microsoft who does this? Maybe it’s SUN, maybe this will all play out on linux desktops first, with “OpenOffice Network Server” — who knows. I think the day of the browser as a platform IS coming, and I think we’re going to see REAL productivity applications created this way, and I think it’s going to come to the enterprise first.

    They’re the ones who can see the real cost savings and increased productivity — through ease of deployment and upgrades for the former and ease of collaboration in the latter.

A new way of thinking about rich web applications — Lightweight Plugins

I’m not sure exactly where I got this idea, but I know it’s not my own, so I cede the creativity of the idea to someone else. Actually, I think it was Bill Scott with Sabre / OpenRico on his blog, but again, I’m not sure.

Anyway, to the idea. If you stop thinking of javascript as a way to enhance a webpage and start thinking of it as more of an actual language you can use to build a small application inside of a webpage, it sorta “changes everything.” With the popularity of ajax and the rise of advanced widget systems (like script.aculo.us/) and rich web application frameworks, it’s becoming more and more apparent that you *can* build very functional applications on the web. And, for that matter, you can do it all inside a single webpage.

So, you can build a mini application, so what? Well, how about building a “Lightweight Plugin.” Here’s the flow of things:

  1. Browser downloads page with little markup, but much javascript
  2. Javascript loads a data file from server
  3. Javascript parses data file and displays to user
  4. User can interact with the javascript display to edit data or view new data

See, it’s just like having an acrobat reader or flash, but you’ve got ZERO downloads, and you can have it do whatever you want, completely customized to your way of doing things.

But wait, the thing about plugins is that there are only a few of them that people have, so everyone has to stick to using the big ones — acrobat reader & flash. We don’t have to stick to that anymore, since there’s no installation of software to worry about. I keep coming back to “The browser is the platform” — Once you’ve got the idea of the lightweight plugin, it becomes apparent that anyone can just build whatever lightweight plugin they want, and the browser just becomes the platform for running and distributing the application.

The browser is the platform.
The browser is the platform.
The browser is the platform.

We’re not getting rid of regular apps anytime soon, but we’re going to start seeing the web become a very different place, full of big and small applications.

Web 3.0? — Rich Web Applications

I’ve added qooxdoo to the list of toolkits, and it got me thinking. With dojo, qooxdoo, all the ajax frameworks out there, etc., we’re really in the infancy of a new breed of web applications.

Yes, google’s got em already, but the average joe doesn’t have the manpower to put all the pieces together himself. These toolkits are still very rough around the edges, and it’s going to take some time and some painful development of applications, some aborted projects, some cross-flow of ideas between projects, but we’ll see the browser be what microsoft feared it would be from the beginning — the browser is going to become the platform.

Why is this happening? We’re at a point now where the tools for web development, your databases and your server side scripting languages / application servers are already written, and they’re pretty good. me, as a developer, I can’t go out and hack together a PHP/FI version 1.0 and have it be of any use to anyone. What I’m saying is that because the tools are there, we’re now able to build tools on top of our tools, to make what we build even better.

I’ll give the Ajax toolkits another 6-9 months before they’re really mature, and the javascript widget-based toolkits, well, my guess is they’ll need at least another 12-18 months before there’s anything that’s highly polished and usable to a wide array of people.

Now, i haven’t actually played with the likes of Backbase, and they might be closer than anyone, I just don’t know. I think a project for tomorrow is to go download the backbase community edition and see what i can do.

Dive into Greasemonkey

I’ve been interested in Greasemonkey, a plugin for firefox that lets you customize webpages as you view them. That’s right, it lets you change a webpage or pages on the client, without the server having the slightest clue.

Anyway, I’ve been wanting to learn more about how it works, so when I ran across Dive Into Greasemonkey, I thought, “hey, cool”

So i’m off reading this crap about greasemonkey, now. What will i figure out first, Greasemonkey or Dojo/Ajax?

Ugh. I am too compelled to figure this shit out.