Amazon.com could power the new web

Post ImageI have become really interested in Amazon.com over the last little while. The stuff they are doing with their web services platform is just amazing, and it is already having a huge impact on how web businesses are created and operate. We are using Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) in Podcast Spot, and I absolutely love it. Taking the guts of Amazon and making them available as services to other companies was a very smart decision in my opinion, despite what the investors on Wall Street might think.

Here are some excellent resources if you’d like to learn more:

I’m definitely watching to see what else Amazon launches because chances are, it’ll be useful. So far companies like Yahoo and Google have received far more Web 2.0 attention, but I think that will begin to change, and people will realize that Amazon.com is actually one of the most interesting tech companies around.

Windows Vista RC1 Released

Post ImageWell so much for beta 3 – Microsoft announced today the release of Windows Vista Release Candidate 1, a “near-final” test version of the oft-delayed operating system. I am not planning to download or install it, so I’ll be watching the usual suspects to see what they think of the release. Apparently it contains lots of improvements:

Youll notice a lot of improvements since Beta 2. Weve made some UI adjustments, added more device drivers, and enhanced performance. Were not done yet, however quality will continue to improve. Well keep plugging away on application compatibility, as well as fit and finish, until RTM. If you are an ISV, RC1 is the build you should use for certifying your application.

I hope they have fixed all or at least most of the big problems that testers were citing during the beta 2 phase. I have always said to delay if required, but still, I really want Vista!

Read: Windows Vista

WinFX renamed .NET Framework 3.0

Post ImageIn a fairly quiet announcement, made on a blog (noteworthy all by itself!), Microsoft has decided to rename their next development platform from WinFX to the .NET Framework 3.0. While it won’t affect the average user, it has created quite a discussion for developers:

The .NET Framework has always been at the core of WinFX, but the WinFX brand didn’t convey this. The brand also created an unnatural discontinuity between previous versions of our framework and the current version.

With this in mind we have decided to rename WinFX to the .NET Framework 3.0. .NET Framework 3.0 aptly identifies the technology for exactly what it is – the next version of our developer framework.

We are confident that this change will go a long way towards reducing confusion people may have about our developer platform and the technologies in which they should invest.

.NET Framework 3.0 will include the existing .NET 2.0 components, WPF, WCF, WF, and WCS. Most people seem to think this is a bad idea (judging by the comments on these posts), and here’s why:

  1. The runtime is still at version 2.0, even in .NET 3.0 – sounds more confusing than helpful!
  2. Everything will be put into the %windir%Microsoft.NETFrameworkV3.0 directory. Again, confusing!
  3. As the release is built on .NET 2.0, it will include C# 2.0, and not C# 3.0, creating more confusion for down the road.
  4. The new stuff (W**) was never intended to be backported to Windows 2000, only Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 but .NET 2.0 fully supports all three. Presumably, this means support for Windows 2000 has been dropped.

Initially I agreed that the decision wasn’t a good one, but after thinking about it more, I think it was actually a good call on Microsoft’s part. This is about the development platform. When developing for WinFX, it’s better to think of it as a new platform, not just a superset of the old platform. Despite .NET 2.0 being at it’s core, developers are indeed using .NET 2.0 plus a bunch of other stuff when developing for WinFX. Naming the platform .NET 3.0 conveys this much more clearly.

Some of this is still confusing (such as, will .NET 2.0 be installed into both a V2 and a V3 directory, or just one of the two?) but I think in the long run this is good. It’s also the first time a lot of people will think of the .NET Framework as a product in and of itself, and when you do that, you realize it doesn’t matter what version the innards have. The other nice thing is that we’ll get a single installer now, instead of three or four.

I guess my main concern is that the size of the framework is going to start to balloon. Well, that and we have no idea what version of the framework the next release of Visual Studio, codenamed “Orcas”, will ship with. Presumably the change doesn’t affect the release date for Vista.

Nick Bradbury is dead on!

Post ImageYou know how you try to say something, only to find that someone else has expressed your thoughts in simple, to-the-point language? It’s so great when you come across it, as I did with Nick Bradbury’s post on Web 2.01. Back in early September I wrote about what I called Web 2.5, essentially the current “bubble” taking advantage of rich clients. Here’s what Nick had to say:

It’s a mistake to rule out the desktop.

I rely on a number of excellent web apps and I expect to see the web continue to become the dominant application platform, but I believe reports of the death of desktop apps are greatly exaggerated. The future of the web isn’t entirely web-based.

Over the next few years we’ll see a number of new desktop apps which take advantage of the web as a platform, providing many of the benefits of a web app with the speed, usability and (in some cases) privacy of a desktop app. The next version of FeedDemon, for example, ties into an online API, and it enables customers to choose which data lives “out there” on the web and which stays private to their computer. We’re going to see much more of this.

Right on Nick! I completely agree – we’re going to see some killer rich client apps come out in the next couple years, especially once Windows Vista hits. Of course, the rich clients that take advantage of the web as a platform will not be limited to Windows, but I think that’s where we’ll see the apps that make the biggest impact.

Read: Nick Bradbury

Upgrade to Web 2.5

Post ImageI really like the idea of “the Web as a platform”, an idea that has been termed “Web 2.0” and has become pretty widespread. While definitions vary, I rather like this one (from Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter’s “Web 2.0 for Designers“):

This may sound like we’re in the Matrix, but in the words of Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, “Web 2.0… is about making the Internet useful for computers.”

I think in the longrun that by making the Internet useful for computers, we can make it even more useful for humans. At least that should be the goal. Richard MacManus has an excellent collection of descriptions if you want more detail.

There are a ton of so-called “Web 2.0 companies” getting lots of love from the geeks in the crowd for being forward thinking and embracing this new idea of how to create web applications. Not sure which companies I’m talking about? Think Flickr, del.icio.us, 43Things, Google Maps, and A9 just to name a few. All of them offer an API, and so they make themselves a platform. These platforms have spawned some pretty cool services, like HousingMaps, Mappr, Colr Pickr, Cheap Gas, and many others. Very cool stuff.

Web 2.5

The problem with most of the Web 2.0 stuff floating around right now is that it relies on the browser. If Web 2.0 is about relinquishing control, why are all the current examples and mashups trapped inside the web browser? Seems pretty backward for such a forward thinking idea to me. And yes there’s the argument that creating a web page makes the application independent of the platform – it’s not tied to Windows or Mac or Linux. Yet with all this Web 2.0 goodness, I can’t help but wonder where the rich clients are? (There are lots of reasons to want a rich client, which I have written about in the past.) Do we have to settle for a thin client just to take advantage of this new “web as a platform” methodology? If that’s the case, it’s not as great as I thought!

If Web 2.0 is about creating a platform, then Web 2.5 is about creating a platform that can extend beyond the browser. Flickr’s API includes support for SOAP and XML-RPC, so there’s no reason that it couldn’t be used by rich client applications on Windows (for example) without having to use the browser. And what about those services that only offer a REST api or otherwise make it difficult to use outside the browser? Well then they aren’t Web 2.5 ready, are they? 🙂

Web 2.0 has the potential to take the Internet to the next level, and it many ways it already has. And while it’s still very early in the grand scheme of things, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to get trapped by the thin client. So please, platform developers and mashup makers, upgrade to Web 2.5!