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Loosely Coupled weblog

Friday, May 31, 2002

Web services startups catalogued
By far the best survey I've seen so far of up-and-coming startups in the web services sector is now available for download from the website of Allidex, a company that I should have included in my recent posting of notable web services networking companies. I'll be writing more about Allidex in the near future.

The document is a "Blue Paper" (PDF, 235k) by Deloitte & Touche Corporate Finance. As well as giving a very competent and well-informed overview of the sector, it includes a table listing 42 private companies that have either recently secured venture finance or are currently raising rounds. That there are already so many within such a tightly-defined segment is quite a testament to the vibrancy of this young industry.

posted by Phil Wainewright 8:08 AM (GMT) | comments | link
For blogosphere, read globosphere
The global grid of weblogs is an early demonstration of "the awesome potential that results from combining computing and telecommunications within a shared, global Web infrastructure."

John Hiler has published a thoughtful and extended analysis of the relationship between bloggers and journalists this week. This sentence caught my eye: "The Blogosphere is a biosphere of its own, a Media Ecosystem that lives and breathes just like any other biological system."

It caught my eye because it's not just the blogs that form a biosphere; it's all of humanity interacting via the Web — not just communicating, but also sharing, collaborating and trading. John got closer to this underlying truth right at the end of his article: "In many ways, the Blogosphere has become the default forum for intellectual discourse, a sort of intercontinental coffeehouse buzzing with discussion and debate."

Now take the feedback loops that John describes and apply them not to bloggers and journalists, but to other potential ecosystems, such as software developers and application builders, or entrepreneurs and corporations. Then hook them all up through the shared technology infrastructure of the Web.

The Blogosphere is just the beginning. Look at it another way, and you can see that what we're building is a Globosphere that pools the resources of the entire world — a Demosphere, perhaps.
posted by Phil Wainewright 7:38 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Thursday, May 30, 2002

The clock of history ticks for software
The era when developers made huge fortunes out of writing software code is coming to an end. In the past, programming knowledge and skill was rare and difficult to acquire. Today it is encapsulated for all, in freely available open-source platforms and tools. I've written on this at length in my column this week on ASPnews:
"Lower development costs, cheaper distribution, higher volumes and more efficient competition inevitably mean that prices will plummet. Individual developers will still receive fair and generous compensation for their efforts, but the potential to accumulate billions of dollars of personal wealth through developing software will become a curiosity of a bygone age."

The article outlines the two principal factors, both a consequence of low-cost Internet connectivity: a) the rise of open source tools and platforms and b) the removal of the cost of duplication and distribution. "The clock of history is ticking for the software industry today, and one way or another, the Internet will in time demolish today's still absurdly inflated software prices."

I was prompted to write the article partly because of the experience of developing the back-end of the Loosely Coupled site. It's not that difficult these days to find out how to build sophisticated functionality into a website using open source platforms like PHP and Javascript. All this knowledge is freely available on the web, so the only way to add value today is to make it more accessible or convenient. That tells me that the durable revenue streams in the website development business are going to come from service delivery, not from software coding.

The other prompt was an article written by Peter Drucker, which Forbes published in 1998 (no longer online there, but a Google search turns up alternative sources). At the time, it made a lasting impression on me, and this past week I haven't been able to keep it out of my head. In characteristically thought-provoking fashion, it concluded by drawing a parallel between today's information technologists and the early printers of the 15th and 16th centuries:
"The IT people of the printing revolution were the early printers. Nonexistent — and indeed not even imaginable — in 1455, they flourished throughout Europe 25 years later and had become great stars ... Printers were courted by kings, princes, the pope, and rich merchant cities and were showered with money and honors ... But ... by 1580 or so, the printers, with their focus on technology, had become ordinary craftsmen ... Their place was soon taken by what we now call publishers (though the term wasn't coined until much later), people and firms whose focus was no longer on the 'T' in IT but on the 'I'."

posted by Phil Wainewright 1:58 AM (GMT) | comments | link

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Multiple-location network users
Instead of assuming users sit at a single machine for all of their Internet access, designers should cater for the majority who regularly flit from one device to another, writes usability guru Jakob Nielsen. The latest government statistics show that almost half of all US users access the Internet from both work and home, he says, which "has several key implications for system design:
  • Recognize individuals, not computers. Cookies are not a long-term solution for personalization and simplified log-in.

  • Preserve settings and preferences across computers and devices.

  • Synchronize data automatically. Or, at a minimum, offer users synchronization features.

  • Create a seamless task flow hand-off as the user moves from one access point to another. Users should be able to stop in the middle of a transaction and resume it from a different computer without having to redo the initial steps.

  • Provide a scalable UI. Some interface elements should appear only on full-featured devices, like desktop PCs. Nonetheless, the user experience must be recognizably the same, even on mobile systems and other less-capable devices that support only a UI subset.

  • Abandon the firewall fantasy. Users need to access sensitive files from their laptops and home computers, so they transfer these files to their local hard disks. High-level CIA officials have done this; you can bet that average business professionals in your company violate security as well — or they wouldn't get any work done. We must move to a security model in which all information is encrypted at all times, except when displayed on the monitor and viewed by an authorized user (possibly authenticated through eye-scanning)."

posted by Phil Wainewright 12:11 AM (GMT) | comments | link

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