The Changing Web

The Web is constantly changing. Although HTML5 will have likely have huge impact on the web the change is more in how we use the Internet. The traditional approach of building web sites was to have a server-side code (web components) that that generates HTML for display in a browser. Because it is not good to mix content with code, the HTML will include lots of stuff from content management systems (CMS) or some other source. The output is an HTML for the browser. The simplicity and ubiquity of the browser made it this ideal choice. Now we are seeing the shift to apps and APIs.

The rise of the apps is driven by mobile smartphones and the popularity of JavaScript as well as the emergence of HTML5. User experience code is executed client side while the logic is behind APIs. The rise of APIs is driven by the need to open web sites for programatic access. Full circle once again to client-server.

The App goes Native

With the success of Apple‘s iPhone, the app has gained much popularity, especially on devices like phones and now tablets. The benefits of apps are well-known as these are nothing new. However, what Apple did was to create a distribution model, an on-line App Store that made this possible. The App Store is to apps and devices running them, what iTunes is to the iPod and music. The real success behind apps is the App Store and Apple’s business model that drives developers (Apple takes 30%, developer 70%). All billing is taken care of by Apple.

Apps work well for specialized functionality and in particular, games. As the quality standards are high, the design of the apps needs to be good. For functionality where the services of the device are necessary (geo-location, accelerator etc), apps are choice. For apps that just use the web, good apps implemented in JavaScript and HTML5 can be as good as native apps and have the benefit of running in all browsers. We must realize that JavaScript is an app.

The Rise of the API

One reason people talk about the decline of the web is that the web turned into APIs. Companies offering services on web sites realized that by opening up their APIs, others would innovate, create new services and make the site more popular. Facebook and Twitter are perfect examples.

The key to these APIs is to have them simple and lightweight. This explains the popularity of REST and message format such as Json. REST is simple HTTP (or HTTP used right) and Json is compact and easy to use with JavaScript.

JavaScript is back, now with HTML5

With better and more usable JavaScript libraries, apps written in this browser-based language are becoming more attractive. Furthermore, open source JavaScript apps are available as embedable gadgets.

HTML5 is the next step in the markup language. This version has many interesting additions. Perhaps the most interesting are the APIs specified. With HTML5 several APIs are part of the standard, including Canvas 2D API for drawing, media playback, document editing, geo-location, and drag-and-drop, to name some. This takes the language from being a simple markup language to becoming an application environment. You can build apps in HTML.


Technology evolves in cycles. With the Web the processing went back to the server side, moving from the heavy desktop client of the client-server era. Now with the popularity of the App the pendulum has swung to the client side again. However, the server-side this time is the cloud.

The iPad Disruption Continues

When the iPad came out it generated the usual but always amazing amount of press. Even before its release this device was keeping the press and bloggers busy talking. When out, reviews were mixed, some people loved it, others failed to see any point in a device of this kind. Now, few months into the decade of the tablets, we are seeing how the iPad effect is playing out. The iPad is already starting to disrupt the laptop market. Even corporations are buying iPads. And we have not even seen the impact of the low cost clones yet.

Apple is selling a lot of iPads. In the first 80 days the firm sold 3 million units which is more than any other product in the same time. Two points I want to make about this. First, the iPad is a cool device. It can even make people look cool with it (but that might be temporary as it is new and not so common yet). Second, and more importantly, it is actually a useful device. One point that I made in my report on the iPad Effect is that the iPad is a consumer device. When I want to browse the web for news or look up something, I grab the iPad, turn it on, slide and I’m there. If I would turn on my Windows 7 Dell laptop I’m lucky with 5-6 minutes. My MacBook Pro is a little faster. Neither of them match the iPad.

The iPad is a disrupting technology. According to an RMR report (discussed at PadGadget) 49% of iPad owners said they don’t need to buy an e-reader since they have the iPad. Similarly, 38% would not consider buying a potable game device, and 32% say they don’t need a laptop or netbook. If this is any indication, iPad is surely disrupting other devices.

We are seeing history repeat itself. As with the first PCs many years ago, reviews were mixed. Low-cost, low performance and simple device. Now we are seeing the iPad disrupting laptop sales. The Silicon Allay Insider reports that the iPad is starting to invade the corporate market. Companies are buying iPads. And this is making some people sweat. SAI lists some reasons. Apple has made the iPad corporate friendly with good Exchange integration and security, it is easy to carry to meetings and showrooms, it is cheaper than laptops. I would like to add the importance of the cloud also. As more and more of data is stored on Internet servers accessible using a browser or an app, adopting a device like iPad poses no limits.

The interesting thing is that the iPad is only the first player in this new market. The iPad could be the high-end. We are seeing an avalanche of new, cheaper devices coming. It is likely that Android will be a big player in the tablet market just as the Google OS is gaining smartphone shares. Quick research shows that Samsung, LG, Velocity, and more, are coming out with tablets this fall. The race to the tablet market has begun.

Looking at this development from the perspective of technology trends, we are seeing a new era in the history of computing. The “device in the middle” is getting adopted by the market. Something between a portable computer and a smart phone, a handy device for simple browsing and playing.

How the Law is Destroying the Internet

Laws and treaties are killing the Internet

When the Internet first came into the mainstream the most amazing thing about it was how global it was. I could, using my desktop computer in Reykjavik, Iceland, view web pages coming from a server in Brisbane, Australia. I could get the home page of a restaurant in San Francisco to see the menu. I could read the local news paper in Eugene, Oregon. With Amazon, I could order books and with Classic FM, I could listen to classical music. The Internet was global and made the world a single united place. Now we are seeing more and more indications that the Internet is getting local. Laws are slowly destroying the global Internet.

As I mentioned in a previous post (see The State of the Internet) the law is changing the Internet for the worse. Let’s take few examples. I subscribe to Audible, a site with audio-books. Usually when I find an interesting book to buy, it ends in a disappointment. As soon as I sign in, the book is nowhere to be found. The reason is that Audible cannot sell the book in my region so it does not come up in a search. This restriction makes Audible much less interesting and practically useless to me and my credits just pile up.

UK based Classic FM stopped working one day and displayed this message:

“Unfortunately, due to music-licensing laws, we aren’t permitted to allow non-UK users to listen to our stations online.”

Hulu has a similar message:

“Hulu is committed to making its content available worldwide. To do so, we must work through a number of legal and business issues, including obtaining international streaming rights.”

Music site Pandora has this:

“We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S.”

There are many more examples.

What makes the Internet so special and a wonder-the-of-world is slowly being killed by old and outdated laws that don’t keep up with the way people use technology. International agreements take even more time to adjust. It is not that people outside US or UK or wherever the content is located, don’t want to pay their share to the authors of the content. If I buy a book on Audible, it is not like my money would be any different than a person in the US. The problem is that someone owns the rights to distribute the content in Europe or even in Iceland. The site mentioned above do not want to violate that right and be subject to litigation.

This shows how the laws are outdated. Now that we have technology which allows a music site like Classic FM and TV station like Hulu to have international customers and expand their revenue base, limitations due to physical distribution prohibits this. With the Internet the distribution is not a issue as distribution itself has no value, yet the laws protect those that have rights to distribute. The real problem however is that there might not even be any will to change this. The law is destroying the Internet – it should be the other way around.