Gang warfare, Web 2.0 style

Golden Tamarin, Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, WA -- (cc) by Michael Hanscom

Summary: Adobe + Mozilla + Google are ganging up to take down Microsoft to become the definitive future web platform.

I’ve been reading with great interest and intrigue about Adobe’s substantial contribution to Firefox’s codebase in the form of open sourcing Flash Player 9’s virtual machine.

On the one hand, I’m tempted to go and congratulate Adobe for their good will and desire to support “sustaining innovations“.

On the other, more cynical, hand, I know enough to read between the lines and see this for what it really is: business as usual, with the good grace of open source being used as a context for making this appear “nicer” than it really is.

But don’t get me wrong — this is a good thing for the web, for web denizens, for web developers, open source and for innovation. So that’s not what I’d like to point out here.

Instead, I’d like to offer a theory that this is a calculated move by at least Adobe (if not Mozilla and Google collectively) to go at Microsoft’s jugular just when it’s starting to regain its some of momentum as the dominant web platform after releasing IE7. (Note that my intimations are purely conjectural and not based on known fact. Whether intentional or not, this announcement spells out an alternative future, and it’s worth teasing out what it might look like, even as the story is developing.)

So let’s state some baseline assumptions and assertions:

  1. Adobe PDF is Adobe’s crown jewel. Their virtual monopoly on this rich format provides them a huge amount of business through their Acrobat product (now in version 8) — and they’ve moved to protect it before.
  2. Adobe Flash Players are installed in well over 90% of client browsers, making it the most widely deployed browser plugin anywhere (note the tie-in to Flash video — and who’s the biggest consumer here? YouTube much?)
  3. JavaScript and ActionScript (Flash’s programming language) are very close cousins — pushing EMCAScript and ActionScript closer through a faster virtual machine inches Flash ever-closer to subsuming the browser.
  4. Apollo offers to wed the best of Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax and PDF — hell, you can even build a browser with this stuff

Contrary to Liz Gannes’ take, I think Adobe might, somehow, be positioning itself very wisely to help shape the future of online publishing, data interchange and rich web experiences. In fact, by nuzzling up to Mozilla and offering more and more open betas (though still with obnoxiously unruly EULAs), Adobe is starting to have the sheen of an open source player.

So let’s think about this: Microsoft is set to release Vista soon — and just as the delineation between web and desktop is finally evaporating — Adobe and Mozilla strike out with a bold partnership that firmly implants Adobe’s engineering technologies into the core equation between browser and desktop. And, given the large number of XHTML and Flash gurus in the wild, this seems like the death nell for before the shrink wrap has even been removed. This isn’t about Flash becoming the web OS; this is about Adobe protecting and promoting it own delivery platforms and formats as it tag teams with Google to suck the “Live” out of Microsoft before it even has a chance to counter.

Adobe wants to be front and center in every browser; it’s smart enough to recognize however, that, like Google, the core threat to their position in the market is Microsoft’s Live platform technologies. An Adobe browser couldn’t dent Microsoft’s platform share, but two open source browsers can by creating the de facto web publishing environment and tools for the future of the web-centric desktop.

An interesting development indeed.

Apple embraces microformats in new .Mac webmail

Apple .Mac webmail supports hcard

If you’ve been playing with the new .Mac webmail application, something under the surface very significant is present, but you’d probably never realize it. In fact, if it weren’t good works like Jon Hicks’ expose-mf.css browser stylesheet (view the above image without the stylesheet), you’d probably have no idea that beneath the surface, Apple was quietly giving a nod to an upstart open source community.

Given the source code that I’ve been provided, I can confirm that Apple has indeed added support for in .Mac webmail, though not without a few errors (notably the ‘n’ optmization).

The significance of this can certainly be understated at this point, as few applications are built to take advantage of microformats browser-side (adding address cards that are already in your address book to your address book doesn’t make much sense) however, with Greasemonkey and other ideas like making the rounds (okay, so I came up with GreaseKits), we can count this as yet another feather in our cap as more and more large vendors make their web properties more semantically rich, opening up possibilities previously inaccessible given the sheer cost of maintaining one-off scrAPI techniques.

Now when you write a script to parse, augment, enhance or “user-interface-ize” microformatted content, it will work everywhere that microformats show up — not just one site at a time. With Firefox 3 looking to add support for microformats, it’s positive support by folks like Apple that will provide fertile ground for what the next generation of mashable web services looks like.

Songbird: One small step for bird, one giant leap for birdkind

Songbird 0.2

SpacebirdRaising the banner of the Mozilla Lizard is Songbird, coming out with their 0.2 developer release, available now for download (and don’t forget to prep first).

I’ve been watching their work with some interest, and I do, on the one hand, like Ross Karchner‘s quote that It’s like taking iTunes, ripping out the music store, and replacing it with the rest of the internet.

Any competition for iTunes and the DRMafia is a good thing™.

But at the same time, it’s kind of like… why? I mean, okay, love the idea of alternative vendors hawking their wares in my media experience. After all, competition is a good thing, economically speaking, for me.

But I really don’t necessary always care who I’m doing business with, as long as I’m getting good service and a good product. So, couldn’t Songbird help out in that regard?

And it would also be nice if Songbird helped to change the way I experience music, like VolumeLogic, SoundFlavor or Tangerine attempts to do. Otherwise — well, you’re kind of like iTunes but open source and not quite as… refined. Yet. (But oh how I love your cartoons!)

So anyway, congrats on the 0.2 release. I think your release schedule is a lot more in line with reality than certain other Mozilla-based projects (natch!), so kudos to you for taking your time. But I guess — okay, looking to the future and the nebulous 1.0 — where do you sit next to Democracy (a feed media/BitTorrent viewer) and how do you stack up against iTunes? I mean, even I can admit that open source isn’t everything… so, what’s the deal? What’s the long term future of Songbird?

The beast has awoken; or, The beginning of Web 2.0

we heard you

Executive summary: In considering the launch of Internet Explorer 7 in the context of the Spread Firefox campaign, I ask whether, now that the slumbering juggernaut of Microsoft has awoken and is learning to be more open-source-like, Firefox and open source advocates generally should continue to promote Firefox as a product or instead focus on promoting the movement and ideology of co-production and gift economics that produced Firefox.

Continue reading “The beast has awoken; or, The beginning of Web 2.0”

Eudora to be reincarnated with a Thunderbird soul

Eudora + Thunderbird

In case you missed it, aging mail app Eudora will be put to pasture after its final commercial release (v7.1 on Windows, v6.2 on Mac) and reincarnated as a modified version of Mozilla’s open source mail app, Thunderbird:

“I’m excited for Eudora to be returning to the open source community,” said Steve Dorner, vice president of technology for QUALCOMM’s Eudora Group. “Using the Mozilla Thunderbird technology platform as a basis for future versions of Eudora will provide some key infrastructure that the existing versions lacked, such as a cross-platform code base and a world-class display engine. Making it open source will bring more developers to bear on Eudora than ever before.”

Michael Calore, of MonkeyBites, adds:

The company hopes that the Mozilla open source community will extend the feature set of Eudora (which is currently commercial software) much in the same way that they have done for Thunderbird. It’s a great development for the open source productivity space. Will it kill Microsoft Outlook? No, but it’s going to make millions of users who prefer alternative email clients very happy.

…snip…

Eudora is a well-loved if somewhat outdated email client that many people (Qualcomm claims millions of users, which sounds accurate) continue to use just for its unique feature set. Eudora can tell you if emails in your inbox contain inflammatory language before you open them, and it has some robust spam features. There’s a sponsored version of the client, as well, and my guess is that the ad-supported version will go the way of the ghost when Eudora becomes open source.

What with so many AJAX clients out there, including Apple’s upcoming DotMacMail, this development is not entirely surprising. For stalwart Eudora users who have much resisted the allure and blinding shininess of Web 2.0, this could spell the real beginning of the end of Web 1.0.

Outfoxed tries going Lijit

Browser-based trust aggregator Outfoxed has been rebranded as Lijit and launched a new beta site (built on Drupal — which seems to be having some issues… ah well).

Lijit essentially allows you to connect with friends and based on how much you trust them, use them or their connections to filter search results or “advise you” on the legitimacy of any arbitrary website. You can sign up for the beta on the homepage.