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Webtops again

March 10, 2007

San Diego Business Journal Online

“(Ajax) provides very pleasant online experiences that people can have an emotional connection with,” said Fulkerson. “It’s not just the geeks, but my mom or dad who can use it.”

Keep in mind this is a mis-quote. I said with AJAX one can create highly usable web applications that provide a desktop application look and feel, which means AJAX enables online applications to be sufficiently usable that my mom or dad could use them. I surely wasn’t implying my mom or dad would be using AJAX in their web programming. My mom and dad are all about Flash applications (just kidding).

Fulkerson, however, sees problems ahead for making money on the [Ajax13/WebTop] concept.

“(Ajax13) is a ‘WebTop.’ All of your applications (are) on the Web instead of a desktop and there’s a lot of companies doing that,” said Fulkerson. “In WebTops, I’m kind of skeptical … Google’s revenue is ad-driven, but it’s difficult to be successful when your success is incumbent on someone else’s property.

“If it’s a subscription model, Google isn’t going to charge (for its service),” he added. “Charge based on storage? Storage is cheap. So that’s a tough one. How are they going to make money?”

I do see problems with Webtops. Least of which is the one cited above regarding revenue model. By the way, in this interview I also said Ajax13 is a good thing because these guys are pushing the edges on the web. This is wonderful and will absolutely lead to innovations. Howver, the bigger issue I see with Webtops like Ajax13, Zoho, and countless others is that for decades computer scientists have sought to distribute applications across computers/devices. Now we’re going back to the future. Remember how we used to have time sharing mainframes? Remember how all the processing was done on a server somewhere while we tapped it on a dummy terminal that did no processing locally. Well, this is the equivalent of webtops. We have enormous pools of processing power locally on our desktops, laptops, and handhelds. This processing power is still increasing in accordance with Moore’s law. Are we to just throw this processing away? Who cares! Put it all on the server! With webtops the only processing performed locally is done in javascript. This is not optimal. What’s interesting and where we will be within five years is distributed applications. Applications that exist in the network across multiple devices and platforms that federate to provide an optimal computing and user experience. This is more than just data mashups. This is also about having behavioral mashups in which the application exists both on the client, the server, and perhaps many other servers and devices. Some may say I’m a DREAMer, but I’m not the only one.

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