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On the browers again

An article on ZDNet UK reports the following:

…Silverlight 4 will also host HTML content using a control that supports media plug-ins — so Flash will run inside Silverlight applications.
Business applications written in Silverlight will become more like ordinary applications, Guthrie said, and will now be able to print, access the Windows clipboard, and use more mouse actions, including context menus.
Access is also extended to low-level Windows features such as the Windows Communication Foundation, and Silverlight 4’s development tools
will work with the upcoming Visual Studio 2010.

Out-of-browser applications can now be installed as trusted apps that run outside the Silverlight sandbox on both Windows and Macintosh, Guthrie said, with trusted applications getting access to the local file system and external devices…

I wrote a post almost exactly one year ago, The Struggle for the Soul of the Web.

The browser is universal, but people do not only interact with web sites. People use applications!
The road paved by the iPhone of having dedicated applications delivered just to the point, remembers us that the new technologies for the web need to exploit the power of the devices on which they run.

Perhaps this is what Firefox is indeed planning, according to this article:

“The browsers that are on the horizon aren’t just incremental changes — they represent the pieces to build the next-generation Web — rich with standards-based graphics, new JavaScript libraries and full blown applications,” wrote Christopher Blizzard, an open source evangelist with Mozilla, on Mozilla’s Hacks blog.

Let’s hope it !

Chrome OS and the principles of Web2.0

I read the Google announcement around the new Google Chrome OS.
I immediately went back to my article Enter the “Reign of RIA 3rd”. In that article I expressed my enthusiasm for the new Google browser as I saw, in the way it was announced, the principle for something new, a platform where applications delivered over the web can be executed fast, securely and offline…Chrome becomes a container for applications delivered over the web!
I rememberI concluded that long post saying:

Chrome, which could be the last browser but, perhaps, the first element of a different kind

I think that I missed something that, now, seems so obvious. I thought to Chrome as, mainly, a new RIA platform. Something beyond the traditional browser but still in the domain of a container.
What this announcement tells us is that Google went far beyond. Chrome becomes the OS, not just a container.

And not “just a new kind of OS”, but as the official announcement says, “the web is the platform”.
Ehi, this is exactly the first principle in Tim O’Reilly famous definition of what is Web2.0 !

The border between an OS and the “web as a platform” is blurring. Not only on the Internet infrastructure. It is blurring deep right onto the desktop. The Browser becoming the Operating System and the Operating System becoming an extension of the web platform itself. So, Chrome OS may be much more revolutionary than it appears. It is not simply Google attacking Microsoft on the OS battlefield. It is extending the cloud to the border.
The new Chrome OS may become the real incarnation of that principle. The operating system for the Cloud Generation. Where Web2.0, SOA and Cloud Computing meet and could shape something, this time, very different!

Enter the "Reign of RIA 3rd"

I would like to continue to express my point of view around Google Chrome. First of all, I would like to say that it looks really nice! The performances are incredible but they are just the mean that Google used to reach their goal.

I saw all around very many articles and comments where the accent is always put on the fact that Chrome is the way in which Google is attacking the power of IE8. chrome-1
I think that this is a partial view of what Chrome could actually represent in today’s scenario. In my opinion, Google has chosen to enter the RIA war in a very wise way.

By reading the comic book that introduces Chrome, I was hit by few things:

  1. the accent is always on the the term application, as opposed to “web pages”.
    The starting point, which is consistently reinforced everywhere in the comic book, is always the fact that Google wants to address the need of supporting Applications (delivered over the web).
  2. the book stresses the use that Chrome makes of Gears.
  3. Chrome embeds a mode where one can associate a real “windows application” to a given “application executed over the web”.
    Even if this looks similar to what the Mozilla Prism technology did….
  4. Each tab is executed in its own shell
  5. Javascript is executed in its own Virtual machine

What are those things telling me? 
In my opinion they are telling that Google has decided to create a platform where applications delivered over the web can be executed fast, securely and offline. And this without changing the way in which those applications have been created so far (AJAX). (see what I just posted earlier on this subject)

Whilst Firefox and IE position themselves in the playground of general-purpose browsers, Chrome chooses to target the support of the new generation of Applications delivered over the web (ensuring, of course, a backward compatibility with the legacy of the web, i.e. the “web pages”). This is a big revolution;  Google decided to break the politeness game, where Microsoft and “the others” actually have chosen to improve the experience (of using a browser) without changing the scope (and, thus, keeping the constraints).

Of course, this was not done accidentally, or because of the simple evolution of the technology (even if, from this point of view, what I have tried since when I first downloaded Chrome is simply remarkable!).
All the toys that Google gave us in the last years actually needed something more that what a general-purpose browser was providing. More precisely: Google Gears deserved a more coherent and robust environment! Chrome becomes a container for applications delivered over the web!

In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. We avoid putting things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of applications on their operating systems … The tab is our equivalent of a desktop application’s title bar; the frame containing the tabs is a convenient mechanism for managing groups of those applications. In future, there may be other tab types that do not host the normal browser toolbar. (see the User Experience Section on Chromium)

Adobe moved to AIR from Flex. Microsoft moved to Silverlight from WPF.
Google has delivered a platform for AJAX. They went beyond the browser, in a way that grants the continuity of the legacy web.

To Google, the browser has become a weak link in the cloud system – the needle’s eye through which the outputs of the company’s massive data centers usually have to pass to reach the user – and as a result the browser has to be rethought, revamped, retooled, modernized. Google can’t wait for Microsoft or Apple or the Mozilla Foundation to make the changes (the first has mixed feelings about promoting cloud apps, the second is more interested in hardware than in clouds, and the third, despite regular infusions of Google bucks, lacks resources), so Google is jump-starting the process with Chrome. (see The cloud’s Chrome lining)

Have you tried to transform Gmail into an application using Chrome? What does it tell?
Now, let’s imagine Google Documents…. and all the other tens of goodies that we were shipped regularly, in a “Beta forever” format by Google…

  • It is an explicit attempt to accelerate the movement of computing off the desktop and into the cloud — where Google holds advantage.
  • Google hopes to kick-start a new generation of Web-based applications that will truly make Microsoft’s worst nightmare a reality: The browser will become the equivalent of an operating system.
  • The clearest expression of this comes when you drag a tab containing a Web application like Gmail to its own separate window and specify that you want an “app shortcut.” At that point, the tabs, buttons, and address bars fall away and the Web app looks pretty much like a desktop app. Welcome to the cloud era.

(see Inside Chrome: The Secret Project to Crush IE and Remake the Web)

I think that Chrome may represent the platform by which Google will establish a new way to consume the Web:

  • at home, of course.
    You will use the Google (web) Applications as applications, in the way in which you are used to use Outlook Express, Word, Excel, MSN
  • in the enterprise. Also !
    You do not have to look in your bookmarks to access the URL that points to your application… You just execute the applications which, accidentally, are delivered over the web but are more and more executed locally (via Gears)

To say this synthetically:

“Any desktop application that has not been implemented in the browser is now going to be implemented in the browser,” Andreessen said. (see What Netscape’s Founder Thinks About the New Google Browser )

When I was speaking about AJAX in the last few years, I remember I often quoted a sentence that said “AJAX means that Javascript now works…“.  What I see with Chrome is that “Chrome means that AJAX (and, thus, Javascript), becomes a full-fledged platform for building local applications“. See it? There is no issue here of sharing the same (j)VM because of resource consumption. The scope is more manageable (certainly less powerful) and, thus, it does not cost anything to start a new application with its own VM.

Google Chrome features a new JavaScript engine, V8, that has been designed for performance from the ground up. In particular, we wanted to remove some common bottlenecks that limit the amount and complexity of JavaScript code that can be used in Web applications. (see Google Chrome’s Need for Speed)

Yes, I am enthusiast. Strange for me when talking about Google! But it is true. I like it. I like what I see.
Some other consideration:

  • Hey, Chrome is a browser that does not ask you to become your “default browser” !
    Very nice, indeed.
  • Chrome may become a Bootable Browser.
    A bootable Chrome-based platform could very well put an end to PC tune-up problems for masses of people. ” (see Is Google’s Chrome browser a Windows killer?)
  • It will be interesting when the Resource Model will be published, in order to really create applications on it

I am now expecting one other step.
I am expecting that Google creates a Declarative Language for easily creating the applications that will be executed by Chrome. After all, in the comic book, they talk about the fact that the team that created the VM is actually able to create a VM for virtually any language. Right ? At runtime, one flavor or the other of the VM can be loaded if the activation cost is so cheap and if the resource consumption is so low.

I think these properties will rapidly make V8 the dominant VM for dynamic languages… the release of the V8 VM is the beginning of a whole new era for dynamic languages (Smalltalk, Ruby, Python, etc).  (see Chrome and V8)

Last, but not least:

And another thing Google did well here was in not trying to over-engineer their explanations of highly technical processes. They simplified their message down to bare essentials, and I felt enlightened after reading this document. Most technical documentation talks down to people, assuming that all the basics are already understood. Google removed some barriers to entry by explaining their new technologies in a way that almost anyone with a little technical know-how can understand. This is something almost every other open source project out there fails at. Technical documentation is far more than simply documentation…it’s an implicit invitation to take part in the experience.At the end of the day, I’m really impressed at the quality of this documentation. I actually read the entire thing, which is much more than I can say about the technical documentation for any other software I use. Who knew that I could find the difference between multiple threads and multiple processes interesting?  (see Google Chrome’s Design Comic )

One word of caution. Page 9 and Page 10 of the Google Comic Book. When they describe the way in which they test Chrome by using the massive cache they have on the internet! Unfair ! And, once again, showing the disproportionate power that Google (as a company) has on today’s Internet.

Before going on, let me explain the title of this post. Napoleon 3rd was, according to the Wikipedia article, “the first President of the French Republic and the only emperor of the Second French Empire. He holds the unusual distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France.
Much like Chrome, which could be the last browser but, perhaps, the first element of a different kind

The Struggle for the Sould of the Web

Very interesting article, “The Struggle for the Soul of the Web” !
The author enforces the concept of the importance of Ajax standards (and, thus, the Open Ajax Alliance) as a mean to avoid that the web becomes the territory where proprietary solutions (see Flex and SilverLight) will flourish.

In developping his argument, on which I agree, the author makes an interesting statement:
More importantly, Flash and Silverlight work by installing a proprietary plug-in to your browser, thus opting out of the entire browser infrastructure. If you are a plug-in vendor, your incentive is to keep the browser as dumb as possible.
The worse the underlying browser is at rendering rich widgets and media, the more developers and users will want your plug-in. If you are both the vendor of a browser (say IE) as well as the proponent of a plug-in (say Silverlight), then the incentives get truly twisted.

In some way, what he says is very similar to what I have said since a while: we need a new generation of Browsers which are not constraining people from developping applications delivered through the web (see here and here and here for a summary of my opinion on this topic). In that sense, Chrome may be the start of an answer (unfortunately, I say, as it comes from Google instead than from the Open Source community…).
If we want to avoid the risk that Flex and Silverlight will dominate the Web, we need to address this kind of question, which can be summarized by what I found in this other article

We’re in a transition point between the Age of Web Apps and the Age of RIAs (in the web space, that is). And if you doubt that we’re at this transition point, or if you think that RIAs include web apps, ask yourself, does AJAX really give you “all the rich you need”?

Can AJAX really, as Jef Raskin famously stated [60], treat all user input as sacred? Is AJAX really the end all and be all of a Compelling User Experience? Or do we remember that applications used to run outside of a browser?

Of course, it is provoking. But the risk is quite present.

User as center of the Universe

I am slowly catching up with some articles I read and over which I wanted to comment. I am dealing with this one SOA needs RIA – Burton Group, because there are few sentences I liked and because it lacks, in my opinion, a proper “end”.

The Value Hierarchy of Web 2.0So, here are the quotes I liked most:

  • “We firmly believe the user experience needs to be a first level priority at the same level as SDLC, platform languages, SOA and security.”
  • “If the business depends on people and people depend on information technology, then the interface between people and information technology — the user interface — naturally has to be very good. If you have an ineffective user interface, you’re going to have a less effective organization.”
  • “…people are the platform. IT is ephemeral. It continues to change over time, but what does not change in business is that the quality of any organization depends on the quality of its workers.”
  • If developers think the goal of SOA is to provide agility in assembling loosely coupled Web services into an application that provides real-time sales data to managers and marketers, they are missing a key component in the Burton view:  “The idea is to make user experience the end goal of any IT initiative and not an afterthought.”

http://hinchcliffe.org/img/useruniversecenter.jpg

I, personally, subscribe to all the above statements. They remember me a very nice article I read a couple of years ago, from Dion Hinchcliffe, titled The Web2.0 Trinity: People, Data and Great Software. The pictures in this post are both taken from Dion’s article, and I use them consistently in my talks around Web2.0 and the evolution of Desktop technologies.

Going forward, there is another quote that my few readers may appreciate:

“We see the next step as RIAD, the rich Internet application desktop. Here you need to look at Adobe AIR, Google Gadgets, the Microsoft Widget Library, to see resident applications that provide you with a visual experience associated with RIA.”

This is even more close to what I have often written in my blog: moving beyond the browser (as we see it today) towards a mechanism where applications, delivered via the web, will be executed locally. GREAT !

What seems missing to me is the very last part of the article

In Burton’s view, the future of the UXP is in using Web widgets, portable chunks of code and gadgets, miniature objects that can be placed on a Web page to provide dynamic content.

With widgets and gadgets, real-time sales data is on the sales manager’s desktop without requiring him to do multiple click-throughs to find a table or chart, the Burton analyst said.

What I think is missing is the name to this approach, a name which already exists. It is called Mashups, isn’t it? What is needed is the possibility to define those widgets in a standard way and be able to mix and match them in different contexts: a Portal, a Mashup environment, a Rich Client, the desktop even….

How to be an instant Web me-2.0 developer

This article [1] [1] from Verity Stob [2] [2] at The Register [3] [3] made me laughing!  How true it is in many aspects.

I really liked it all, but I think I will use these two pictures in my next Web2.0 presentation to present the difference between Web1.0 and Web2.0:

Block diagram showing Web 1.0 program architecture Architecture diagram illustrating the confusion inherent in Web 2.0 applications

Of course, I was also laughing (and strongly agreeing) with those other comments:

  • Java Applets ?
    I bet Sun hopes that everybody had forgotten
  • Google Web Kit (GWT)
    Eughh! what were they thinking ?
  • Dojo
    Perhaps come back in a year, if they make a design environment to go with.

As to the last sentence on Dojo, I think that it is really something we may need to consider. We need to hide the complexity [4] [4] of Dojo behind some easy-to-use design environment which would make it possible for more people to enter the game.

Java on the desktop is already here!

I have been surprised when I read this article: James Gosling (Sun) : « Java sur le poste client n’est pas à la hauteur aujourd’hui ». It is in French, so I translate the title here:

James Gosling (Sun) : « Java is not ready today for the desktop »

Strange, isn’t it ? The “father of Java” who, 15 years after, makes such a big statement!Well, the reality is different, as we all know.
Eclipse is there and it is there since sometime now. Eclipse is no more only an “open development platform”, but has become ‘a platform for building and deploying rich client applications”: it is called Eclipse RCP. Many people are developing rich Java applications for the desktop (and for the mobile market also) based on Eclipse RCP:

And, not least, IBM is building the new generation of its products based on Eclipse RCP!

The Universal Managed Client for SOA, called Lotus Expeditor. A platform for building enterprise applications and enterprise mashups that bring the power of SOA towards the desktop and devices

The new Lotus Notes 8 client, which brings the possibility of building Composite Applications centered around the collaboration tools

Lotus Sametime, which provides a new frontier for Unified Collaboration and Communication

Sun may not be ready. But the world is not waiting in order to make Java evolving! And Java is bigger than a trade symbol.

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