Programmed Personal Home Pages

Niall Kennedy surveys the evolution over the past 20 years. “The web is changing, but it all starts with your personal home page. What is the first thing you see when you start your browser? Is it useful and tailored to you, or a collection of advertisements and meaningless promotions for portal services? The recent $15 million funding of one-year-old startup Netvibes combined with the ramp-up of Microsoft’s Live.com and iGoogle are changing the worldwide web doorway into a customized experience combining many brands and services. In this post I’ll summarize the history of pre-programmed start pages and take a look at where we might be headed in the near future.”

Make Widget

Nicholas Carr has an interesting idea:

I’d like Apple and Microsoft to build into their OSes a universal “Make Widget” command. So you right click on a spreadsheet or a chart or a movie or a slide show or a presentation (or whatever), choose “Make Widget” from the contextual menu, and a widget is automatically created and uploaded to a web server (owned by Apple or Microsoft), and you’re given a simple URL to paste into your blog or site.

In one fell swoop, the OS giants would make the publishing of content and mini-applications butt-simple while also disintermediating go-betweens like YouTube and Google. I don’t know how the economics would work – you’d have to charge for storage above a certain level, I guess, or incorporate some kind of advertising – but I’m sure they could figure out something. And the competitive benefits would be substantial.

Embedding Apps

Chris Anderson writes:

These web-based apps are not meant to replace Office but to complement it by doing things online that desktop software just can’t do well. What might those things be? I think we have a hint in the spread of embedded video, courtesy of YouTube. The ability to easily embed into any blog page a full-featured videoplayer dedicated to a single video is a large part of YouTube’s success. It doesn’t require you to go elsewhere or download anything–it just works.

Now imagine the same model working for data. Rather than me posting static jpeg charts and links to Excel spreadsheet files, what if I could post data the way I post videos: as an embedded mini-app that simply displays the data in a useful way, allowing readers to manipulate or copy it at will?

Exploding Messaging

Fred Wilson writes:

Jason Calacanis wrote an interesting post yesterday about the explosion of site messaging. It’s pretty clear to me that the messaging options are increasing at a more rapid pace these days than ever before.

Clearly generational factors are at work in this explosion of messaging options. Kids have different communications needs than adults.

And mobility is certainly a big factor in the popularity of texting.

But I think behavior, context, and convenience are the most significant factors in the explosion of messaging options.

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: Characteristics

Here are some characteristics that make the Incremental (N3) Web different:

RSS, not HTML: HTML is the foundation for the Reference Web as we know it. The page as defined by a URL is the granularity of this Web. It is a Web that we need to go to. Over time, our access to this Web has evolved from typing in URLs to remembering bookmarks to using directories to using search engines. In contrast, the Incremental Web is built around RSS an XML format that is published to be read by computers. It carries the payload for what is new on a site. It allows changes to be tracked.

Subscriptions, not Search: With HTML, the best we can do in terms of remembering a site is bookmarks. Bookmarks had gone out of fashion because of search engines, but group tagging and sharing services like del.icio.us are bringing them back to life. Search engines remain the predominant way one finds information in the world of the Reference Web. With RSS, however, a new form of access is possible. This revolves around Subscriptions. Subscriptions are akin to setting up a form of relationship with content or a site, such that future published content can be delivered to subscribers.

Persistent Search: A related idea is that of persistent search. Here is how Bill Burnham explains it:

Simply put, Persistent Search allows users to enter a search query just once and then receive constant, near real-time, automatic updates whenever new content that meets their search criteria is published on the web. For example, lets say you are a stock trader and you want to know whenever one of the stocks in your portfolio is mentioned on the web. By using a persistent search query, you can be assured that you will receive a real-time notification whenever one of your stocks is mentioned. Or perhaps you are a teenager who is a rabid fan of a rock group. Wouldnt it be nice to have a constant stream of updates on band gossip, upcoming concerts, and new albums flowing to your mobile phone? Or maybe you are just looking to rent the perfect apartment or buy a specific antique. Wouldnt it be nice to get notified as soon as new items which roughly matched your criteria were listed on the web so that you were able to respond before someone else beat you to the punch? Persistent search makes all of this possible for end users with very little incremental effort.

Persistent Search presents search companies with the opportunity to build rich, persistent relationships with their users. The search engine that captures a users persistent searches will not only have regular, automatic exposure to that user, but they will be able to build a much better understanding of the unique needs and interests of that user which should theoretically enable them to sell more relevant ads and services at higher prices. They will also stand a much better chance of capturing all or most of that users ad-hoc queries because they will already be in regular contact with the user.

Tomorrow: Characteristics (continued)

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