“Web” Category

HP to Open Source webOS

Today, HP announced they are releasing webOS as open source. Meg Whitman’s memo to employees suggests HP will continue to openly develop it, too:

Since we announced the discontinuation of our webOS devices last August, the executive team has been working to determine the best path forward for this highly respected software. We looked at all the options in the market today and we see a clear need for a platform that is both open and has a single integrated stack.

I suppose it’s better than killing it outright, but there’s no chance of competing with Android by releasing it for anyone to use at this point. That ship has sailed.

December 9th, 2011

John Gruber On the New Twitter App for iPhone

John Gruber:

What also worries me is that these changes suggest not only a difference in opinion regarding how a Twitter client should work, but also regarding just what the point is of Twitter as a service. The Twitter service I signed up for is one where people tweet 140-character posts, you follow those people whose tweets you tend to enjoy, and that’s it. The Twitter service this new UI presents is about a whole lot more — mass-market spoonfed “trending topics” and sponsored content. It’s trying to make Twitter work for people who don’t see the appeal of what Twitter was supposed to be. It all makes sense if you think of the label under the “#” tab as reading “Dickbar” instead of “Discover”.

In addition, the value I saw in Twitter was as more of a utility—something other people built on top of in unique ways, one of which happened to be really good native clients, like Tweetie. Clearly, Twitter doesn’t view themselves that way, and that’s okay. I only hope that the Twitter I started using in 2008, which introduced me to a bunch of absolutely wonderful people through a brilliantly simple idea and interface, will still exist in the next few years.

December 9th, 2011

Color’s Big New Idea

Color released their new app, after their failed launch earlier this year. Their new idea is this: you can “broadcast” what you’re doing with live video on Facebook.

It’s a fine idea, but this isn’t something that stands as its own product. It’s a Facebook feature, at best.

Which is, I think, exactly the point. Color’s strategy is to get acquired. Their goal is the pay-off. And that is the reason I will never support anything they do.

We don’t need more companies whose entire reason for existing is a quick pay-off. We have enough of those.

December 5th, 2011

Path

Path re-imagined their network and app, and it’s incredibly nice.

They just released the new version, and it’s very well done. I hope more people start using it, because I’d much rather use this than Facebook.

November 30th, 2011

Why a Facebook Smartphone?

Jean-Louis Gassée wonders if there’s a bigger reason for a Facebook phone than defending against Google:

I can’t help but think that there’s more to this hypothetical Facebook phone than a play against today’s Google+ in defense of today’s Facebook money pump. There must be something else in Facebook’s future, a new revenue stream that it will eventually need to promote/protect. But what?

The obvious reason is to make Facebook independent of Apple or Google; currently, Facebook relies on iOS and Android devices for people to use their platform, and Apple and Google could theoretically block them in the future or make moves which inhibit their business.

That’s defensive. A bigger reason is that currently, Facebook is largely an app on these devices, and not a platform in and of itself. iOS and Android are the platforms, and Facebook stands on them. But Facebook doesn’t want to be an app—they want to be the platform for people to use and other applications and businesses build on top of.

Last year, I wrote about Facebook’s strategy and what it means for society. I wrote:

That is a lot of information. As Facebook integrates with more devices and applications, and as we begin sharing more information, they are building a map of society. They are building a map of how people live, what they do, what they like, who they interact with and how, and how society is evolving. Our information is their business, not just our attention.

What better way to get more people using their platform and using it even more than they do now than by (1) making the other platforms—iOS and Android—commodities, and (2) making a device that makes Facebook the operating system?

They’re trying to do the first object by making Facebook applications that are HTML5-based and thus that can be run on any OS with modern web standards support. This would, if successful, make Facebook where people go to get some of their applications, and thus would make the underlying operating system much less relevant. If all of your applications are web-based and come from Facebook, what device you use doesn’t matter nearly as much as it does now.

But a Facebook phone could be even more convincing. Imagine a device where everything is pulled from Facebook. Your contacts come from your friends’ profiles. Your photos are stored on Facebook’s servers. All messages are sent through Facebook, so you don’t need to worry about text messages. Your calendar is hooked up to Facebook and can see what events your friends are attending.

For people that like Facebook, that’d be pretty great, and they would certainly use Facebook a lot more. If Facebook releases a phone, that’s what it’s about: making Facebook into a platform on the same level as iOS and Android, and one that can grow into the platform for everything on the web.

November 28th, 2011

Shawn’s Stamped Review

Shawn Blanc:

I believe it is their simplicity that makes social networks like Twitter and Instagram sticky. If a service is easy to use, people are more likely to use it. The more complex it is, the less likely people are to use it.

Absolutely—but there’s something else that’s usually required, too, and that’s an immediate benefit. Instagram is fun to take photos with, and so it’s fun to use even before you connect to other people using it and get hooked. Because it’s immediately useful, it keeps people around long enough to get hooked by following and interacting with their friends.

Twitter, interestingly, is deficient in this regard. Twitter is difficult to grok for new users, and there’s no real initial benefit in sending 140 character messages to the ether. Twitter depends on having people that are interesting and relevant to follow to be useful, and so in many cases it never sticks with new users, because they can’t understand what’s convincing about Twitter if they don’t know anyone who’s worth following.

Yet Twitter still succeeded. I think Twitter overcame this because it had a core base of initial geeky users who really enjoyed using it and understood its value immediately. That base, who didn’t suffer the same problem as regular users, drove it while new users took a while to finally get it and build up their users.

What this suggests is that you can overcome limitations by being immediately useful or by building a strong core of loyal users that can get your network over the regular user hump.

November 28th, 2011

Stamped

Stamped is a new network of sorts for iOS, and the idea is that you “stamp” things you really love and highly recommend to your friends. You can stamp pretty much everything—restaurants, books, music, movies, et cetera. You can see what your friends have stamped and stamp it yourself, or add it to a to-do list of things you need to try.

What Stamped gets really right is that it’s fun to use, because it’s so simple and such a beautiful app. It’s fun to go through and make a list of sorts of your favorite things in the world, and to see what everyone else likes, too.

With enough people using it, this could be very, very useful; imagine you’re traveling and using Stamped to see what restaurants around you are most liked, or have been stamped by your friends—that’d be a great way to find somewhere to eat without sorting through reviews on Yelp. It could work as a sort of travel guide.

November 22nd, 2011

Brett Terpstra Loves His Nest Thermostat

Brett Terpstra:

I’ve only been using the device for a day. I already have strong feelings for this piece of electronics, probably only matched by the love I have for my Macbook Air right now.

How great is it that there’s a company building thermostats as exciting as Apple’s products?

November 21st, 2011

Shawn Blanc’s Kindle Touch Review

Shawn Blanc:

For the past year and a half I’ve been reading books on my iPad and never felt a need for a Kindle. However, after now using the Kindle Touch for several hours a day over the past few days, I feel as if all the accolades I ever heard about the Kindle were vast understatements.

November 17th, 2011

“Make Something”

Marcelo Somers:

Occupy Wall Street (and all the associated movements) completely defies what is amazing about today. I hate it because it’s sending young people every wrong message. Instead of inspiring the youth of today to create amazing things that add value to the world, it’s inspiring them to complain.

That captures my problem with these protests: there’s nothing productive about them. They’re filled with complaints, but no substantive ideas for how to improve things. It’s long on “There’s no future, there’s no future for you,” and short on making things better.

There’s certainly reason to be frustrated. We’re in the middle of a transition between two very different economic ages, and what worked in the last one—getting a college degree, almost any degree at all—is no longer sufficient for success. And, on top of that, we have an ineffective political system that can’t solve big problems, like our long-term fiscal crisis, let alone more every-day issues; we had a terrible financial crisis that resulted in a steep recession, while companies that should have lost it all were given tens of billions of dollars to weather the crisis; still, three years after that crisis, unemployment is dangerously high and shows little hope of improving; and this recession has laid bare economic inequality that makes the recession’s pain feel even greater, because comparatively, the well-off are doing alright.1

Yes, there’s good reason to be frustrated. But what Marcelo’s arguing is that, while we are in an absolutely terrible recession that’s been made worse by a confluence of factors, we are also in a time of incredible opportunity. This transition will be difficult, like all transitions, but it will also open up great opportunities—for the people who are willing to see them and to take advantage of them.

The Occupy movement isn’t interested in that, unfortunately—at least in the broad strokes of the movement. What it’s been interested in thus far is vilifying the well-off as the cause of our economic troubles, insinuating that they profited from the financial crisis and the ruin of everyone else, and it’s all of us against them. That’s an easy story to paint, but it’s not accurate, nor is it productive. How can we make good policy aimed at restoring our finances and getting our economy back on track when the movement’s thrust is anger at the well-off? Good policy does not result from misguided anger. It results from a lucid understanding of the situation, what caused it, and what can be done. Making the well-off pay penance for their perceived crimes is not good policy. It’s the satisfaction of anger and frustration, fleeting satisfaction that does nothing to solve the actual problem.

The movement, if it is going to have any positive impact, has to recognize that. It needs to begin contributing well-conceived ideas for how to make things better, rather than anger and divisiveness. They need to move beyond it, and contribute. Because as it is, it’s going no where.

  1. The much-derided “one percent” were particularly hard hit by the 2008 crisis and recession, actually, but it is a historically bad recession, and the poor and middle class have been hit the worst—simply because they have less to lose. []
November 16th, 2011

Dan Moren’s iTunes Match Primer

Dan Moren at Macworld has a great primer on iTunes Match.

It’s certainly a convincing service: never sync your iOS device with iTunes again for music, free up space, and still be able to listen to any song in your library. That’s pretty neat.

I’m starting to think, though, there’s a sweet spot between iTunes’s own-all-your-music and Rdio’s listen-to-anything-you-please. Maybe a subscription service that allows you to purchase albums for a reduced price?

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s value in both models. I love being able to discover new music on Rdio and throw it on while doing work, but paying a subscription for music I don’t own seriously bothers me. I don’t want my music to go ever disappear—it’s too important.

November 15th, 2011

Shawn Blanc’s Jawbone UP Review

Shawn Blanc reviewed the Jawbone UP, and he’s generally positive about it.

If you’re not familiar, the Jawbone UP is a little device that slips on your wrist like a wristband. It keeps track of your movement throughout the day, reminds you to get up and move around if you’ve been inactive for too long, tracks how well you slept, and will wake you up in the morning when you’re in a lighter sleep.

It’s a neat idea—especially tracking your daily activity and waking you up in the morning—but it doesn’t sound like it’s quite there yet. I think what it points to, though, is a future where we have a number of devices that look more like clothing items, do relatively mundane tasks for us, and communicate with other devices.

November 15th, 2011

Secret Labs

Ben Brooks:

That’s my largest fear with the Google X lab. Google has proven many times over that they can indeed make some really cool stuff. The problem is that they largely fail at creating practical, consumer, applications for their products that they dream up (Google Wave, for example. Google TV as another example.)

And that starts with having no coherent idea of where they’re going. They don’t know what their long-term plan is, and so they have no strategic focus.

All of these projects that sometimes turn into something and sometimes don’t would be fine if Google had a very well defined idea of what the company is and what it does so they could integrate the good ones. But they don’t, so we end up with Google doing a bunch of things that don’t really fit together into a greater whole.

Jobs reportedly told Larry Page that Google needs to focus on a few things and do them well. That’s precisely what he meant: figure out who you are, get rid of the things that don’t fit that, and build from there.

November 14th, 2011

John Gruber At Çingleton

John Gruber at Çingleton:

If things go right, if they go the way I think they’re going to, these next five years, we’re never going to work harder, we’re never going to be under more pressure, and we’re never going to have to solve tougher problems… But the only thing any of us is going to regret, is if we don’t aim big enough.

Hell of a talk.

November 11th, 2011

Zynga Demands Employees Return Stock Ahead of IPO

Zynga is trying something a little… Unorthodox: they’re demanding certain employees return stock ahead of their IPO. Here’s management’s reasoning:

Although Zynga’s decision might be met with some criticism, the firm’s executives reportedly justified their strategy by saying it was best for the company. With the unvested shares, the executives believed they could attract more top talent with the promise of stock.

Perhaps they should consider what taking back stock already awarded to employees under the threat of termination will do to current employee morale and to anyone even considering working for Zynga.

Maybe they awarded too much stock to employees early on. Fine—either find a way to get some of it back that’s mutually beneficial and doesn’t make employees feel like they’re getting screwed, or suck it up, move on, and find another way to reward new hires.

Great example of not considering consequences of your actions, though.

November 10th, 2011