Interfaces: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Magically, it appears that nearly every company has become an infrastructure company

Magically, it appears that nearly every company has become an infrastructure company. This is odd because it seems that it was only yesterday that having infrastructure in your business plan got you booted out of the venture capitalists offices. "Scat!" theyd say. "Youre too technical for our money." There are still noninfrastructure companies around, and the fact that theyre still around makes a few of them quite interesting.

Not all of them, though. 2CE thinks it can change the way we view the Web. It thinks the Web should look like a cube, probably because its interface designers favorite childhood toy was the block. Hey, Im sure mine was, too, but I cant imagine anyone wanting to look at a five-paned browser when four of the sides are skewed beyond readability.

Yet 2CEs CubicEye is coming soon. The company has a beta of the three-dimensional browser available, but it appears to be a very early beta and is most likely unusable on many computers.

Endeca, on the other hand, looks solid. The company, founded by execs who bailed out of Inktomi and Akamai, has created a high-speed Web- indexing technology allowing companies to generate dynamic pages that are updated based on users clicking patterns. This may sound routine, but it is not—this company will go far if it can extend its technology to other areas of the Web besides dynamic content and personalization.

Xigo is an ASP that provides dynamic content, personalization and relevancy ranking to the financial services sector. Xigo is focused, and the technology is already in use. Well probably hear more from this company.

One company that faces a tougher time is QMGN, which, as far as I can figure out, makes a little application called Q that manages users Web favorites lists. Sure, the application looks cool, and it downloads links in the background, but its eye candy. It works, but its not compelling.

A company that really rocks, however, is Balthaser Online, which makes a hot Flash generator. Its all online, and it allows even the most marginally skilled designer to turn out sophisticated Web sites.

The wide angle on these products is clear. User interface designers are among the most arrogant people on earth. They think theyre influencing human behavior by changing the way we access data. But user interface design works best when it is subtle and the interface can be managed by the user and the corporation he or she works for. In other words, 3-D browsers dont stand a chance. Show me high-speed, scalable, dynamically generated Web page applications, and Ill show you where the money is.