Tag Archives | Web services

Serendipity, Guaranteed

Serendipity is wonderful, but it doesn’t happen often. For every enriching coincidence – meeting someone who becomes a lifelong friend or lifelong partner, finding that fantastic hidden restaurant – we miss how many? Dozens, maybe hundreds of other lucky opportunities?

Now several tech startups are trying to increase the odds of connection.

How? By combining intimate knowledge of your comings and goings with understanding of your likes and dislikes – then connecting you with likeminded people and perfect places.

What do they ask in return? For most, an opportunity to push hyper-specific ads or discount offers.

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VMware Launches a Dashboard for Cloud Apps

This is a bit outside of Technologizer’s bread-and-butter coverage, but if I worked in a company of any size I’d be excited about it: Vmware is launching Horizon App Manager, a (mostly) cloud-based service that lets companies manage the cloud-based services. It allows them to set up a dashboard for the folks in the organization that looks a bit like the home screen on an iPhone or Android phone, with icons for Web-based apps used by the company (along with ones for more personal services such as Facebook, if the company desires). The cool part is that it uses technologies such as the OAuth and SAML standards to automate logging into the services; once you’ve signed into App Manager, you can then click through to services without having to log in again. Behind the scenes, it lets IT people do administrative such as like sign large numbers of people up for a cloud service in automated fashion and delete accounts for employees who have left the organization.

I have memories from my days as a worker bee of having no idea how to find or get into services such as ADP’s online portal (shown above). And of discovering that the person who’d set us up with a particular service had left the company before anyone remembered to ask him or her about how to administer it. As a lover of Web services, it’s heartening to see them matter enough that outfits such as VMware are turning their attention to them.

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Voyurl: A Cool, Creepy Way to Browse the Web

Want to see every website that I’ve visited over the last day or two? Sign up for Voyurl, and then knock yourself out.

Voyurl is a web service that obliterates the conventions of privacy on the Internet. Once you’ve signed up for the service and installed an extension in Firefox, Chrome or Safari, it tracks your every move and automatically posts your history on the web. You’re free to look at the browsing history of all users in one giant timeline, and you can follow specific users as well.

Yes, there are privacy safeguards. At any time, you can shut the extension off, stream your history anonymously or just share links on a site-by-site basis. But the main idea behind Voyurl is that there’s nothing wrong with sharing your activity on the Internet or snooping on the activity of others. (Voyurl’s motto: “It’s okay to look.”)

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Drund: A Neat, Flawed, Web-Based OS

Drund is the website equivalent of a two-way radio wristwatch. It’s cool in theory, but with everything else that’s available, you’ll have a hard time finding a use for it.

I’ve been playing around with Drund in a closed beta for the last couple of months. Starting today, Drund will allow up to 10,000 new users to sign up without an invitation.

Drund is a website that looks kind of like Microsoft Windows. There’s a desktop with icons for favorite apps and a start button on the bottom of the screen with even more apps and operating system functions, such as a file browser and settings. But unlike Windows, Drund stores nothing locally. Instead of a photos folder, there’s Flickr. Instead of Microsoft Office, there’s a suite of online productivity apps from Zoho. For entertainment, there’s an app that pulls in video from Hulu, Netflix and Amazon.

In a way, it all sounds kind of like Chrome OS, Google’s forthcoming attempt at a web-based operating system, but Drund is different because everything is self contained in a single browser window. The apps are specially-created representations of other web services, made to run in an operating system within an operating system. You could even run Drund within Chrome OS, as you could within a browser on any PC.

The question is, why would you?

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Hunch Tries Again

In June of 2009, Flickr cofounder Caterina Fake launched Hunch, a site designed to help people make decisions and find stuff that interested them. It did so in part by asking lots of questions on every imaginable topic–“Do you like the smell of Play-Doh?”–and I thought it was pretty neat at the time. But I haven’t been back often, and Hunch doesn’t seem to have become massively popular just yet.

Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb is reporting on the site’s revamped version. It’s shifted the emphasis from decisions to recommendations, and is now focused on using the profile it builds about you from your answers to those silly little questions to suggest books, movies, TV shows, travel destinations, and other things you might like.

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The Permanently Unfulfilled Promise of Google Gears

This is the umpteenth thing I’ve written about Google’s Gears technology, which enables offline use of Web-based services. It’s also quite possibly the last time I’ll ever mention it.

As TechCrunch’s MG Siegler noticed over the weekend, Google is officially saying that it makes more sense to focus on giving the upcoming HTML5 spec Gears-like capabilities than to continue with Gears itself. It plans no new features for the plug-in, and is ending support for the OS Snow Leopard version altogether. The moves end any remaining chances Gears had of becoming a big deal.

When Gears was announced almost three years ago, I was positively giddy over its possibilities. But the story of Gears turned out to be one of a nifty idea that never lived up to its potential.

What happened? Back in 2007, I assumed that Gears would get robust support in an array of Google services, inspiring other developers to follow Google’s lead. But the company never quite hopped all the way onto its own bandwagon: The offline version of Gmail is pretty impressive, but Google didn’t build a completely Gears-enabled version of Google Docs, useful though one would have been.

Google never worked that hard to sell Gears to users and developers, either. The Gears site does a lousy job of explaining why you’d want to install the plug-in (“Let web applications interact naturally with your desktop…”). As far I can tell, it never attempted to keep track of Gears-enabled services, short though that list would have been. The official blog had a grand total of one post in 2009. Even now, after Google has said that Gears is dead on the Mac and in near-limbo on Windows, the “What is the status of Gears?” section of the official FAQ talks about it being a beta that will lead to a final release.

At this point, Google’s shift to HTML5 makes sense. But by the time HTML5 offline features are a reality in every major browser, we may not need them much. Between EVDO, Wi-Fi, and in-flight Internet access, it’s now rare for me to sit in front of a computer that isn’t connected to the Internet. (I’m still disconnected on some domestic flights, all international flights, and chunks of visits outside the U.S. when I’m too cheap to pay for pricey wireless access–but ask me again in 2012 or so.)

Bottom line: Gears was a great idea in 2007, but it was always one with an expiration date. Its highest-potential years are already over.

The rest of this post is a sort of wake for Gears, in the form of extracts from most of the stuff I wrote about the technology–for PC World, Slate, and Technologizer. Note that my tone shifts from excitement to caution to quiet despair…

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Wave vs. the Web

Google Wave LogoAnil Dash has a good post up about Google Wave in which he expresses concerns about its wild ambition that are in some ways a developer-focused corollary to my concerns that it may be the first Google project that suffers from Microsoftian bloat.


And people aren’t looking for a replacement for email, or instant messaging, or blogs, or wikis. Those tools all work great for their intended purposes, and whatever technology augments them will likely offer a different combination of persistence and immediacy than those systems. Right now, Wave evokes all of them without being its own distinctive thing. Which means it’s most useful in providing reference implementations of particular new features.

Like Anil, I’ll be delighted if Wave proves that my skepticism was misplaced. Right now, though, it does feel like a mishmosh of multiple interesting ideas, implemented on an epic scale. And most new things that have caught on on the Web (including Web sites themselves) started out simple, even if they eventually grew powerful and complex….


Share Your Moments With thisMoment

This Moment LogoGameSpot cofounder, former Yahoo executive, and old friend and colleague Vince Broady is launching a new site called thisMoment, and it’s going into public beta tonight. It’s an interesting site that’s part social network, part media sharing site, and part Facebook application, and I haven’t seen anything quite like it.

thisMoment is about sharing moments in time–events from your life that may have just happened, or happened a long time ago, or even be in the future. It lets you do so by uploading photos and videos, grabbing photos and videos you’ve posted elsewhere (such as on Flickr or YouTube), grabbing other people’s photos and videos, and introducing everything with your comments. You can specify the time when they took place, their location, and even how they made you feel. And you can make them public, share them only with friends, or even keep them to yourself.

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Technologizer: The Guardians of Knowledge?

typealyzerthinkerDo you, our readers, think that Technologizer is resistant to innovation? Organized and efficient? Respectful of authority? Loyal team players?

These were the analyses bestowed upon this blog when I punched the URL into Typealyzer, a free Web tool that reads the text of a blog (though any page will do, really) and determines a personality to match. Apparently, we’re “The Guardians.”

“The Guardians are often happy working in highly structured work environments where everyone knows the rules of the job,” the description reads in part. It also says we “listen to hard facts” (good, as far as journalism goes) and “can have a hard time accepting new or innovative ways of doing things.” For a tech blog? Yikes.

Typealyzer was created by Mattias Östmar of the Swedish media analysis R&D group PRFekt. An article in BusinessWeek says his site uses word frequency analysis to come up with a blog’s personality type, based on the Myers-Briggs model.  Östmar’s goal, according to the site’s manifesto, is to “learn more about what motivates and gives us a sense of meaning on a psychological level.” Aside from learning about each other, Östmar hopes providers of goods and services can better reach their audiences.

I’m not thrilled with the analysis we got, so I plugged my personal blog into Typealyzer, and I’m apparently one of “The Thinkers.” Can’t argue with that. Ed Oswald, judging from his blog, is a “Mechanic.”

And Harry? For some reason, typing in HarryMcCracken.com, no joke, confuses the algorithm. “The only supported languages are English and Swedish,” it says. Sorry boss! (Okay, it’s because the URL redirects to another address. He’s actually a “Doer.”)

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"Whatever Happened to…?"

Whatever Happened To?

Old computer products, like old soldiers, never die. They stay on the market–even though they haven’t been updated in eons. Or their names get slapped on new products–available only outside the U.S. Or obsessive fans refuse to accept that they’re obsolete–long after the rest of the world has moved on.

For this story–which I hereby dedicate to Richard Lamparski, whose “Whatever Became of…?” books I loved as a kid–I checked in on the whereabouts of 25 famous technology products, dating back to the 1970s. Some are specific hardware and software classics; some are services that once had millions of subscribers; some are entire categories of stuff that were once omnipresent. I focused on items that remain extant–if “extant” means that they remain for sale, in one way or another–and didn’t address products that, while no longer blockbusters, retain a reasonably robust U.S. presence (such as AOL and WordPerfect).

If you’re like me, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that some products are still with us at all–and will be saddened by the fates of others. Hey, they may all be inanimate objects, but they meant a lot to some of us back in the day.

Click on to continue–or, if you’re in a hurry, use the links below to skip ahead to a particular section.

Hardware Holdouts
More Hardware Holdouts
Software Survivors
Sites, Services, and Stores

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