2003 wont likely go down as a banner year for either messaging or collaboration. Much has been made of the unilateral nature of President Bushs Iraq conflict, and blended threat viruses repeatedly brought e-mail to its knees. But behind the scenes, collaboration technologies such as Groove accelerated our military effectiveness, and 2003 saw the emergence of syndication technologies as a disruptive force across the technology world.
Here, then, are ten of the best, and the worst, of 2003:
RSS—Whether it stands for RDF Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication, or even if its called Atom, RSS has a chance to remake the desktop as its collaboration and messaging center. Its the first killer app of the XML revolution, the DVR of the Web—and once you switch, youll never go back to the plain old browser.
iSight/iChatAV—Apple finally does IP videoconferencing right. Cleverly embedded inside the Macs new Panther OS X operating system and its iChat instant messaging client, iChatAV leverages your AOL Buddy list for point-to-point videoconferences around the world. The secret sauce: sophisticated noise-canceling algorithms that erase distracting echoes and eliminate the need for headphones.
Hydra—An OS X open-source project that allows networked sharing of document creation and editing. Another Mac technology that leverages the powerful Rendezvous system service, Hydra was used to great effect at the OReilly Emerging Technology conference to generate real-time transcripts of conference sessions.
Technorati—The Google of the Blogosphere. The service crunches link data from more than a million blogs and news feeds. Today, it turns the one-way Web into a conversation; tomorrow, it will filter your personalized set of trusted RSS feeds at the core of the RSS information router.
RSS goes to Harvard—When RSS founding father Dave Winer transferred control of RSS 2.0 to Harvards Berkman Law School, he converted syndication politics into a collaborative debate about the technologies rather than the personalities. Well, mostly. This profoundly generous gift is one of many Winer and other XML warriors have contributed to the Web services revolution.
Longhorn—Its the modern-day triple play: Avalon to Indigo to WinFS. It may take forever to get here (can you say Cairo, or Forms +), but Bill Gates is nearing the homestretch with his Universal Canvas vision of our digital future. The unified storage system meets the universal canvas, but whether its on a Tablet or an Xbox remains to be seen.
Office System Professional/OneNote/Infopath—The keyword here is Professional, which bundles not only InfoPaths powerful XML forms authoring tool but user-definable XML schema support (see below for the versions that dont.) It should bundle OneNote as well, rev it to turn on XML support, and replace Outlook as the RSS information router at the core of Office. Ask Jim Allchin why not.
Sun licensing model—You may argue whether Sun has a chance against Office with its Java Desktop System (JDS), but theres no doubt McNealy and software chief Jonathan Schwartz have altered the enterprise licensing landscape with their $100-a-seat licensing model. The real game-changer: thats per employee, not user, internal and external. A hundred or a million—same price. Its a marriage made in heaven for Web services, an eBay, an Amazon, a salesforce.com or even a virtual McDonalds. “Over a billion served” takes on a new meaning for the bean counters.
NetNewsWire—My RSS weapon of choice on my platform of choice, the Mac. Once you try it, youll fall in love with it. And Ill stay married to it as long as author Brent Simmons continues to add information router features—persistent storage, embedded browser rendering, enclosures, a plug-in API for services from Technorati, search engines and rich media renderers.
Camera phones—I could have gone with the iPod here, but my Nokia 3650 is being used via Bluetooth to send this column in from my cabin on our cruise of the Caribbean. The pictures are blog-ready, and the speaker phone lets me record interviews with my iPod recorder module. Wait a minute, theres the iPod again. Convergence matters.
And the worst
…”> And on the other hand…the worst:
SCO—Whether youre a fan, a contributor or even a competitor of open source, its hard to find anything good to say about these guys. At least the Seinfeld show made something funny out of nothing. The only good news: SCOs lead attorney David Boiess last client: President Al Gore.
MPAA/RIAA—Hey, Ive got a good idea. Lets kill off all these new-fangled technologies that are driving productivity through the roof and saving us from the Bush recession. Whether its peer-to-peer, DVRs or mom-and-pop Internet radio, lets shred our freedoms of speech and fair use to shield the content industries from joining the 21st century.
No InfoPath free runtime—This wont happen anytime soon. Microsoft software czar Jim Allchin wont allow a decent XML forms editor to make XML objects (blogs, calendars, schedules, e-tickets, etc.) easily distributable around the Net. That would destroy Offices lock-in and market dominance in Word and Outlook, leaving the door open for an open-standards desktop, where price and innovation could flourish.
No user-defined XML schema support across all Office SKUs—Why not make this available to all users, thus injecting well-formed XML across both enterprise and personal data? Because Microsoft wants the world running on schemas they own, not those protected by royalty-free standards bodies. That way Allchin and Co. can keep renting our data back to us each year. Who said Passport is dead?
Slow aggregation of Wi-Fi (roaming agreements)—Like the record and movie companies, the carriers are resisting Wi-Fis disruptive momentum. They would be better off writing down their spectrum auction losses and getting on the bus before it leaves town. If not, the voice-over-IP crowd will eat their lunch (if Congress doesnt steal it first).
Lack of IM interoperability–AOL and Time Warner get an Oscar for agreeing to stay out of IM video in return for keeping their buddy lists locked up. Post-bubble, Time Warner drops the AOL name, gets $780 million from Microsoft, can do video-conferencing anyway—and still no interoperability. And the winner is: not us.
Microsoft firing of contract blogger—This poor soul made the mistake of posting a picture that suggested something other than an official Microsoft policy position. Someone should have fired his boss for putting the lie to the warm and cuddly notion that the “new” Microsoft is listening—watching—Big Brother style—is more like it.
E-mail—E-mail has made every one of us a digital homeless person, going through the garbage cans each day looking for some scraps of information. The good news—the more useless it becomes, the sooner RSS will absorb collaborative communications and leave instant messaging and video conferencing to handle the real-time traffic.
Is Blogging Journalism?—This debate will go the way of “peer-to-peer is dead” and other wishful thinking of last-generation stakeholders and failed business model speculators. Blogs represent the triumph of the pervasive network and the low barrier to entry of personal publishing. Well-written, credibly researched, and balanced journalism can, and now does, come from anyone with access to todays printing press, the Net. As always, the cream rises to the top.
Sharepoint—I just had to throw this one in at the end, not because Sharepoint isnt reasonably solid, useful technology; rather, its because you cant really turn on the full range of Sharepoints feature set without buying each and every Microsoft product offering across Windows, Office System and enterprise servers. Collect them all to see if youve won the big prize, a Software Assurance license. Offer expires just before 2006, or when Longhorn ships, whichever comes first.
Contributing Editor Steve Gillmor is editor of eWEEK.coms Messaging and Collaboration Center. His e-mail address is [email protected]