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February 25, 2006

JavaScript web applications

Technologies such as JavaScript and Flash are changing the way we interact with content online. In this week's PodSession Om and I discuss the latest trends in the world of rich interactions.

Are these technologies interaction too complicated for the average person to grasp? When should you add such technologies to your web page or corporate intranet? Why are there not more implementations and examples online? Is there a talent shortage?

This week's podsession is 25 minutes long, a 11.7 MB download.

A full transcript is available below.

Transcript

Om Malik

Hi, I'm Om Malik.

Niall Kennedy

And I'm Niall Kennedy.

Om

And you're listening to Om and Niall PodSessions. Hey Niall!

Niall

Hey, Om!

Om

How are you doing?

Niall

I'm doing well, it's good to be back.

Om

Yeah, it's been a while. We took a little longer this week.

Niall

We're doing eight days instead of seven days, but, yeah.

Om

Life is happening, so can't really complain too much about it.

Niall

Definitely.

Om

You know I have been down to the peninsula so many times this last one week, not only am I tired, it's cut into my blogging time and it's cut into my writing time. But I've been picking up on a new kind of sensation down in the peninsula these days. You were at the Mashup Camp, how do you feel?

Niall

I was at Mashup camp for two days and it felt very corporate. I expected something different from Mashup Camp, I expected Mashup Camp to have an introduction, people getting to know the APIs followed by developers actually coding against the APIs.

The guys that won prizes already had stuff that was out there for a couple of years or at least a year, so they'd been around, people had already used it. Some of them had gotten jobs because of what they had developed using those APIs. So it was just - maybe my expectations were wrong going in but I expected it to be a lot more hands-on developer coding.

Om

You know that's one of the things which I've observed is that you actually have a scarcity of good talent for the so-called Web 2.0 and it's out of sync with the amount of money which is going into these companies, because if you look around there are very few clever AJAX developers. It's a special kind of skill set which people don't realize is very hard to find.

Niall

Well, the interesting thing about the AJAX world, similar to CSS and web design, is you have to know how each browser interacts with your applications. So you have to know, from a similar standpoint of how CSS would render something on the page, you have to know how AJAX or JavaScript in general would change the interaction on that page. So it has added a new layer to how you approach the web app, so you would have HTML which you might have reviewed for search engine optimization -- how did you structure the page and what are the different weightings you are giving to different text on the page for example. CSS then styles the page and now you have the interaction model which is JavaScript and sometimes using AJAX to shuttle back and forth XML.

Om

All right, one of those things which makes you develop a new found respect for applications like Zimbra or Songbird, they do so much of their stuff in all these new technologies and the variables on that is just amazing. Hats off to the guys who do that! I mean, that's my take on this is that even though I still think the bigger issue of human resources or a lack of human resources is going to be a problem, because people like Yahoo! and Google are going to suck up all the talent that there is.

Niall

Could be possible, maybe they're trying to make up for that by putting out their special UI widgets and such, but some of the talent in the JavaScript space, the guys I'm thinking of, aren't with Yahoo! and they aren't with any of the big companies. They're indie guys, they're working on open source projects, open source frameworks that are out there, so they haven't really caught on yet. Maybe even though people are looking for these type of guys they're still doing their own thing, writing their own ticket, and doing it well.

Om

Who are those guys?

Niall

I was thinking of Alex Russell, who you met at dinner the other night. He's doing the Dojo toolkit over at Jot, so Jot's his full-time job. Part of that he contributes back to the open source community.

Brad Newburg, who is a consultant and was working for Rojo and the Internet Archive on some of their projects. When you flip a page in the virtual book on the Internet Archive, that's JavaScript that he helped develop.

While they're doing that they're able to tinker and really profile what's happening in individual browsers such as Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and all those different versions, and know how the apps are going to interact so you can get a good idea of the features to plan for and how your app is going to behave.

Om

But it still doesn't take away from the bigger issue, right? There is a lack of talent and all these companies are seriously getting funded. I mean not just little money, it's getting a little bit out of whack with the reality of building one of these little applications, and even rolling it out. I think that is what is the most amazing part.

Niall

Yeah, they're getting funding to build these new apps that might not get built within a big company. That's another angle: Is it possible for a big company like Yahoo! or Google to take the risks that these small companies are taking? For example, there's Google Video and there's Brightcove, two different Flash apps. I think Brightcove is doing some very cool stuff as a startup that Google is just starting to get into as a huge company. Yahoo! is doing some things in the JavaScript space, the creator of JSON (Douglas Crockford) works there for example, they have Rasmus who created PHP and so now they have some serialized PHP things today.

There's still a lot of talent being discovered at startups. Meebo, for example, has Elaine Wherry working the JavaScript magic there. People are learning this technology and I think we'll probably see a change in book sales. People will be learning how to do JavaScript.

With the new version of Mozilla Firefox, there is now a new version of JavaScript that has been introduced. Now there is a new learning curve as the other browsers, if they catch up to what's called E4X, if other people catch up to the E4X wave there are now new things you can do with JavaScript. Brendan Eich, he's who's working on that, he's at Mozilla, and he's Mr. JavaScript, so Firefox will have all of the nice JavaScript features before anyone else.

Om

Right, so, what is this new JavaScript? What does it do compared to the old ones? I have absolutely zero hacker chops, you should talk about that.

Niall

I haven't looked into it too deeply, so what I've seen just from some docs, there are different ways to handle what are called classes, wrappers around things. Different ways to handle how data is stored, how you parse through something a lot quicker. Really I'm just pulling this out of the air, I really haven't dug into it too much but for people that I talked to who know a lot more about this than I do say it's a big deal.

Om

Since you talked to those people and I talked to you, must be a big deal.

Niall

OK.

Om

The other issue is the issue of why are we bothering with AJAX now that there is the option of Flash, which is more developer tools and more easier for developing interactive browser-based applications. We looked at Goowy, for example, it's a pretty nifty little application and folks at Laszlo are doing some interesting stuff. So why do we have to go learn all these complicated things which generically known as AJAX or Web 2.0?

Niall

So even in the Flash world there's a lot of versioning going on.I spoke to the lead Flash evangelist from Macromedia, Adobe I have to start saying, on Monday and we were talking about the adoption of Flash, so a lot of the Flash tools you'll see out there have a minimum version of 6 and we're now up to 8.5 and there are new things you can do with each version along the way. The newest version has a better, higher quality video codec. If everyone upgraded to the latest version of Flash, you'd be able to have a lot better video similar to how you have better video in the latest version of Quicktime than you would before with the H.264 does that. In this case, the OnVideo 6 versus the OnVideo 7 codec. There's still the versioning issue in Flash that people have to get caught up to be able to do all the latest, coolest things. AJAX is open, people are able to play with it really easily, the IDEs (the development interfaces) are out there for people to play with. Flash now just created open compilers so now you can custom compile what you'd use to construct your app. So after you write the code you can run it through that constructor and write the app. The applications or development environments for Flash still cost money: there's not an Eclipse equivalent.

Just last month for AJAX, JavaScript, it was announced that a bunch of companies including Google, IBM, Dojo Toolkit, and a few others, were getting together for the Open Ajax Initiative to include JavaScript and AJAX development inside of the Eclipse, which is a very popular development tool. I think that will give an edge to JavaScript for the near future.

Om

How does it impact people like me, for example? I have a popular blog, so good, boo hoo. What does it really do for me? How does it impact. How do I optimize my user experience using all these technologies.

Niall

Well, Flash you can look at if you're just playing video on the page, there's a certain adoption rate that's pretty high for Flash video, that's why Google Video uses it, for example. It's about 90% or so, whereas Quicktime is at about 70%. It's a pretty good experience to show that and be able to stream the video and have a good multimedia experience there. You can also have multimedia on the input side. If you have a webcam hooked up and you can get input from that webcam or get input from a microphone, that's what Odeo is doing to create these podcasting apps. You can, in the AJAX world, look at what on the screen to do you want to create a richer experience around. It could be the comment field and giving a rich WYSIWYG editor, what you see is what you get, so you can click on something similar to having.

Om

I get that, I get that. Now I get that, how will I do it? I'm not a programmer so I basically have to pay somebody to get this thing done?

Niall

I think it's the same as other tools you've seen. You'll have to pay someone to do it or it'll be bundled into tools you already use. If you go out and buy Zimbra, you go out and buy Joyent, you're already using the technology that's there. Same thing with Outlook Web Access: these are AJAX tools that you're buying and getting into. If you want to customize any of those tools, you're going to have to pay someone to customize Outlook Web Access for you, for example.

Om

Now I've figured out how O'Reilly actually makes money. All right, moving right along, but you know I still I'm just trying to grasp this whole thing and just trying to see how do I make the experience for my readers better. What are the cool things I can do easily? Not have to pay somebody like hundreds of thousands of dollars, that's all. It's like a fear of big companies, but this is a technology which has bubbled from below and it is a technology which is not taking into account people with some Web 2.0 requirements, which is the blog universe.

Niall

So I don't see it as a barrier to entry. It is in the same way as if you wanted to go in and modify WordPress, or you wanted to add a plugin to WordPress, you'd have the same problem where you'd have to go find someone who knows PHP or knows the WordPress system, so any time you want to tweak a system you're going to have the same issues. With AJAX, JavaScript, or Flash, you're going to look for what's the experience you want to deliver and look for someone to help you deliver that experience. There are still going to be libraries available, you might be able to find a plugin for WordPress, you might find a JavaScript plugin that allows you to do this.

script.aculo.us is pretty popular as one of the scripts that's used in some of the WordPress themes out there. The Prototype Framework is another, there are a bunch of different libraries and frameworks available. MooFX is a JavaScript library that's pretty lightweight. There are all these different libraries that are out there that have, I mentioned Dojo, I have to mention it again because that's Alex's project. There are all these different libraries that are out there that you can tie into and they'll give you instructions on how to change something in your template code and just do this and it will help you get what you want. They have examples about how to do it, it's the same learning that we've experienced with HTML over the years or any new technology that we're trying to grapple with. You can teach yourself a little bit, but really if you want the full deal you'll have to ask someone.

Om

Right. Man, I want to do a full AJAX makeover of GigaOm.

Niall

What would you do?

Om

I want some things, basic things for example, I want AJAX commenting. Why do I have to resubmit everything, because comments and now the volume of comments is increased so much that I want to optimize that experience. I want to be able to do little drop-downs on stock codes and company highlights and kind of do, figure out ways to do more interesting mashups, for example. I want, for example, to take a database of all the VOIP service providers and put them on a Google Map, I don't know. In order to do those things I really need to spend hours and hours and hours of just reading, not even doing those things. This is very difficult for creators in this Web 2.0 space.

We are the creators, right? The reason blogging took off is very simple: you go in, you write your stuff, and boom it's done. Right, so if these things are actually going to have an impact, that's what I always look for. How do I make, I want to do simple things and draw, have a little slider on screen for user for my blog users to just log into the system to leave comments. Those kind of things.

Niall

It's possible they may be built into the core system, some of these features are built in to the Ruby system Typo for blogging, and that comes from the community really liking it, it's a very leading edge community that has Ruby on Rails installed with Typo that has their own custom web server there.

Om

I don't get it, I seriously don't get it, this desire to reinvent the wheel all the time.

Niall

Sure, but I think the things that you brought up are exactly what the AJAX and JavaScript is meant to be or is really excelling at, not refreshing the page. In comments, why would you want to see a new page saying hey, thanks for the comment, here is what you just submitted. Really what you want to is the effect happen right away, your comment has been added to the stream of comments here, and you want to see that placement right away, give that immediate feedback. Similarly, what I think was a revitalization of AJAX, Google Maps just dragging around, so now that's a given feature. Any mapping app that comes out it's "oh, can I drag it?" That's where we started to fall in love with AJAX all over again.

Om

Right, right, right. I mean, those are the things that are exciting to me as somebody who creates a pretty high volume of content and I want to be able to use these AJAX apps to bring out ten stories on Google WiFi I've written in the past five, six, seven, ten months, or whatever.

Niall

Right.

Om

Or bring out build a tag map which is easy to build, these things are very hard. Is it because we're at a very early stage or are they just difficult?

Niall

I don't think it's a level of difficulty, I think it's good that you have, and other people have, the excitement about the technologies to be willing to either pay someone to do it or learn by example, I learn by example, so your can learn by example and try to implement on your own. There are different tricks you can do to add this functionality to your blog. As I said before, I think it is a question of are you going to build it yourself? It's really nothing new, if you wanted to have something new on your blog, whether it's going to be AJAX or whether it's going to be a WordPress plugin, there is going to be a learning curve there a little bit. It's good to pick out the features, figure out what you would like to do. Some of that may be integrated back into the core system like we've seen with the new editing interface in WordPress which you're familiar with, that's something that's new and has added some of these technologies in and there are a lot of different JavaScript technologies that are in your latest version of WordPress, and there are some new technologies that are in the latest version of Movable Type as well

The blogging systems are looking at how do we reexamine our user interface and in that they're making some assumptions about what is the base browser, the base editing experience of our users. If, for example, everyone in the world used the latest version of Firefox it would be an easier development experience. You'd cut features and make it easy. There's still the need to develop for the multiple browser experience and how do you make sure that if your audience involves people using Internet Explorer 5 or Windows 98, how do you interact with them? As the alpha geeks who are always just on the bleeding edge and downloading the latest nightly build of any different browser, we tend to overlook that sometimes, but there's a good community of people out there that are running Movable Type on their Windows box and using Internet Explorer 5, for whatever reason.

Om

Well, since I'm not an alpha geek I'll probably qualify for those.

Niall

You use Firefox, though.

Om

I use Camino, my friend.

Niall

You use Gecko, yeah.

Om

Yeah. I use Camino browser.

Niall

OK.

Om

Camino rocks.

Niall

All right.

Om

Right, on a Mac, let's just leave it to that.

Niall

I compile my own.

Om

You know, big difference. Alpha geek, non geek. It's one of those things. I can't keep up with you. I would love to, somebody should do a more modest plain English language explainer for all these technologies. Set up a community website where idiots like me can go and learn a little bit more in a simpler manner. That's when the excitement kicks in. I am interested, I want to do this on my property, but it is so hard to learn. All these languages and everything else, so alpha geeks, no problem. I think that's what I mean, if you're going to do the web better, let the democratic web be there. Let the little guys be able to participate. In this, the little guys are the people who have less technical skills compared to you.

Niall

Sure, and that's what I try and do when I publish my Movable Type templates, for example. When a new technology comes out I try to put out a template so that the people who don't know how to use the technology just can copy and paste some text into their Movable Type install and create something new. You're welcome to rip off my stuff when I include, I'll be doing some new JavaScript things on my blog so you're welcome to rip those off.

Om

When are you going to move to WordPress?

Niall

Not in the near future.

Om

There we go.

Niall

It doesn't matter, that's the thing about JavaScript.

Om

We're the yin and the yang.

Niall

No, because this is all in the output, this is all in the web page's output, so it really doesn't matter if you're on WordPress or on Movable Type, the generated HTML that is rendered on that page is what matters for JavaScript.

Om

All right. One thing which basically, I wanted to go back to this, is really where does the thing have an impact? All these Web 2.0 technologies, are we beginning to see the impact of this in the enterprise phase. I have often wondered about that because those are fixed environments, right? You have fixed bandwidth, almost 100 MB/s, you have very high availability servers, all those things, so does Web 2.0 actually become the front-end for the back? Does the backend call software on demand or ...

Niall

I think the enterprise application technology is a little more exciting because, as I mentioned, there are all these different considerations you have to make while developing technologies for the general public. What browser are they using? What is the OS? At the enterprise level usually that's stamped out across the enterprise, so if you wanted everyone to use the latest version of Firefox, done, just push it over to the desktops overnight. That's something that's managed in the enterprise, you can make the requirement for your enterprise products. Not that it's a requirement but a lot of people use Outlook, it's just the de-facto standard. Given the Outlook and Exchange setup, if you bolt on something to Outlook like NewsGator, NewsGator has enterprise product, so if you're pushing out feeds, your NewsGator Enterprise Edition and that bolts on to Exchange as well. That's an enterprise product that takes advantage of feed technologies to push that into the existing structure of the enterprise software.

Om

I would have loved to see NewsGator people do a very AJAX browser-based experience, rather than making you download FeedDemon on one side and

Niall

They have NewsGator Online, they just don't talk about it too much. It's an OK experience.

Om

It's not an OK experience, I'm sorry. If you're one of..

Niall

It's not FeedLounge.

Om

Look, it's not FeedLounge and it's not a great experience. I think the real potential of NewsGator is when you really install FeedDemon. That is a great experience. That's one of those products which make me want to use a Windows machine, which is like - whoa. Still, it's an awesome experience and I think they should have gone in that direction, maybe we should email Greg on this.

Niall

Nick's on vacation this week, so I'm still waiting on Beta 3 to get excited about something more. They're doing a great job of it, I really like FeedDemon 2.0, that's an app that I'm enjoying rethinking the space. NewsGator is lucky to have him.

Om

Yeah, and NetNewsWire needs a little makeover, I think it's a little sluggish these days, let's just say that.

Niall

Yeah, it's been a few months, we'll see what Brent's up to. They are working on its integration with NewsGator Online services and we'll see what else he's been doing. It's been universal binary for a while, so that's been finished. Now that he's not worrying about support for the last few months he should be working on all this development code and we should see some cool things.

Om

So talking about universal binary, because we're about to end our podcast, are you in or you're out for the MacBook Pro?

Niall

I'm in, I definitely want to get a MacBook Pro. Apple kind of ruined things for me, maybe in a good way. Right now I'm holding off until next Tuesday to see what they have at the special event. They may just introduce the MacBook Ultimate or something that I really need to have. I don't like to make purchasing decisions while there's a special event coming up and it's only four business days away. I'm going to be good, hold back, see what comes, there may be some new fangled thing that just blows my mind and I'm justifying that by saying there will be more MacBook inventory there in the next four days anyways. They'll be waiting, stacking up, and waiting for me to place that order and come to my house the next day.

Om

I don't know, I'm just waiting for the phone call and they call me, I'm buying it. To hell with what's coming out on the 28th!

Niall

OK. Well, we'll be back on or around the 28th and let you know.

Om

Right, whether Om has a new laptop or not.

February 14, 2006

Online privacy: who's watching you?

Every day we make decisions about the information we allow companies to collect about us online. Sometimes individual users are not aware of the information being tracked, but someone is always watching.

In this week's episode Om and I discuss the current state of privacy online and the trade-offs involved when users interact with advanced features of online services.

This week's podsession is a bit longer than normal at 29 minutes, a 13 MB download.

Topics discussed

  • Business and privacy concerns in China.
  • Personalized search.
  • Browser toolbars from Google and Yahoo!.
  • Google Mail and centrally logged chats.
  • Google Desktop saving an index of your hard drive online.
  • How websites identify users and behavior.
  • A surprise announcement.

February 7, 2006

Startup round-up

Om and I are exposed to many startup companies each week. In this week's episodes we discuss notable newcomers making an impression in the new year.

The DEMO conference kicked off today in Phoenix showcasing 70 companies in short 5-minute launch presentations. Each company spends $15,000 for the privilege of presenting in front of 700 journalists, venture capitalists, and potential business partners. A few interesting companies are announced at the DEMO conference but we chose to focus on the bootstrapping startups building a business for the same price as a marketing presentation at DEMO or the Web 2.0 conference.

Our startup round-up podsession is 22 minutes in length, a 10 MB download. I was using a loaner computer today and the audio quality is not our normal clarity. A full transcript will be available tomorrow.

Companies mentioned

  1. MooBella. Linux-powered premium ice cream vending machine.
  2. StreetDeck. All-in-one mobile electronics package. GPS navigation, DVD video, picture browser, and digital music player with WiFi synchronization.
  3. 30 Boxes
  4. FeedLounge. Premium online RSS aggregator for $5 a month.
  5. MovaMail. Java-based IMAP client for your mobile phone.
  6. Bones in Motion. Track location-based information on your mobile phone. Runners and bikers can track their pace and progress and review their map on an overlay.
  7. Eqo. Presence-aware mobile communication using Skype and your cell phone.
  8. 37 Signals. Productivity services for small businesses.
  9. Zimbra. Open-source groupware software for small businesses.
  10. Joyent. Groupware software for small businesses as an appliance or hosted.
  11. Automattic. The corporate side of open-source blogging platform WordPress.

Transcript

Om Malik

Hey, I'm Om Malik.

Niall Kennedy

And I'm Niall Kennedy. You're listening to Om and Niall PodSessions.

Om Malik

Hey Niall, how are you?

Niall Kennedy

Hey Om, I'm doing well, how are you?

Om Malik

Have you recovered from your cold?

Niall Kennedy

Yeah, I'm doing better.

Om Malik

You are? Green tea and honey did the trick right?

Niall Kennedy

Green tea, honey, whiskey, all sorts of remedies!

Om Malik

As long as whiskey was involved, I'm good with that. Talking about whisky, the other great - I don't know what's the word I'm looking for here - help me - Ice cream. We have an ice-cream related startup come on at us.

Niall Kennedy

Yeah, it was pretty interesting. A company out of Massachusetts. Well, first lets introduce the show and let people know what our theme is. Today, we're going to be talking about startup companies - who's hot and what are some neat things to check out. The DEMO conference is going on this week but companies that we're paying attention to didn't pay us $15,000 to get the message out. We're just talking about their goods and letting you guys decide.

Om Malik

We just like them.

Niall Kennedy

Yeah exactly.

Om Malik

How about that!

Niall Kennedy

So, MooBella was one of the companies that demoed this morning. Showing off ice cream early in the morning is a little bit tough, it's more of an after dinner treat. These guys have a Linux-powered ice cream maker. They take some fresh ingredients -- cream, mixing in raspberries, things you might find in a creamery, chocolate chips that kind of thing -- and they mix in and they make a custom ice cream mix right there in the vending machine. Takes about 45 seconds, they do an instant freeze on it, give you the ice cream right in a cup. They're looking to put this into colleges - right now it's in Brandeis and they'd love to have it in every single Starbucks in the country. We'll see if that happens! Basically they see it as self service ice cream. Premium product without the labor costs.

Om Malik

Mmm Mmm

Niall Kennedy

And they have low fat options.

Om Malik

C'mon That's just not even something that bothers me anymore! I'm headed towards TeraOm anyways, so what the hell! Bring it on!

Niall Kennedy

All right, there's another company that took my interest looking at all the demos today. This new product's called StreetDeck. It's an all-in-one car entertainment system. This thing has navigation, vehicle diagnostics, satellite radio, satellite imagery, music center, DVDs and my favorite is the syncing ability. You can sync via WiFi when it's in range. You can pull down your latest music files, your latest movies, you can also load stuff up on USB stick. That sounded pretty sweet!

Om Malik

Where are they based?

Niall Kennedy

The name of the company is Mp3Car? I think they are a Silicon Valley company (actually in Maryland)

Om Malik

How long do you think before they show up on Pimp My Ride?

Niall Kennedy

They're entirely Windows XP based. Pimp My Ride isn't happening anymore. They shut that down.

Om Malik

Then you and I should start "Pimp our Cars" or something!

Niall Kennedy

Definitely. We could have a South-Central flavor to it.

Om Malik

Hey, I'm brown enough! What can I say. Anything else which caught your fancy?

Niall Kennedy

I got to see a demo of 30 Boxes, it's a new calendar app that's pretty sweet. We're now starting to see premium apps come around that people are willing to pay say $5 a month for a premium service. 30 Boxes is along that same area. They're looking at charging say for it as a premium service. Other things we've seen come along in that same area like FeedLounge is a paid service for online RSS aggregation. Anyways, back to 30 Boxes, it's a social application. It's something very different. Normally a calendar is something you just keep to yourself - you have it on your Palm device, you have it inside of iCal - it not something we're really used to sharing and sending notifications to people - and that's a very neat thing.

Om Malik

I think what they're doing - they're taking the sharing of calendars part of the enterprise and putting it into our daily lives. So that's why it's a pretty cool company. There's three of them, they're bringing a really great product. I'm still sticking to my prediction they're going to be the Gmail of calendars. They've really made a calendar not suck! That is the most important thing. And the sharing and aggregation and all those things are just so intuitive that you don't have to think too much. You can just look at it and pick it out. 30 Boxes, 30 days. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. And the best part about them is they didn't need gazillions of dollars to bring out a calendar app.

Niall Kennedy

$20,000 bootstrap. Pretty amazing!

Om Malik

Isn't that what the whole Web 2.0 thing was supposed to be?

Niall Kennedy

Definitely!

Om Malik

And it's gotten out of control right now

Niall Kennedy

It's also taking advantage of the power of the always-on Internet.

Om Malik

Absolutely!

Niall Kennedy

You need that in order to have web-based apps like this. You call up the calendar, you get directions, you get the Google map to find out exactly where are you going to dinner tonight. You can e-mail to connect instantly with other people. I really like their profile feature. You're able to fill in profile information about the different people you're interacting with, seeing their photos from Flickr or their latest blog posts and I think that will be really interesting as they add the ability to have an API and add in more information to 30 Boxes. You might want to find out about someone, like the last time you had a Skype call with them for example.

Om Malik

I think one thing that was a little missing in their application, and I'm sure they're working on it is the ability to sync with your cell phone. I don't think syncing with your computer is that important, but syncing with your cell phone is a crucial feature for any calendar app.

Niall Kennedy

I use that all the time, I sync my calendar with my phone and when it's time for me to go to a location I can pull up what's the address, what are the notes about it. Because I have it on my phone is definitely an influence on how I input the data.

Om Malik

So so far we've talked about three companies, two we've both given two thumbs up. MooBella and 30 Boxes. I've got another one for you - this company up in Vancouver called MovaMail - I heard about them a couple of days ago. What they are is basically a tiny Java application - you can start it in any form that supports Java. And basically it's an IMAP client. It turns an IMAP into a near Blackberry kind of experience. It's fast, it's very lean, mean, it's very easy to use, it's very intuitive and the best part, it's from Vancouver - like Flickr. They can't do anything wrong, and if you're going by the Flickr yardstick, this must be great.

Niall Kennedy

It's where Tim Bray lives as well.

Om Malik

Tim Bray lives there. Dick Hart lives there as well. So, I think these are interesting kinds of applications. This is also a bootstrap company. They've been out for two months or so - two and a half months - and 400,000 people have downloaded that application. And it's not free. The first 60 days are free, then it's $30 a year for the service. It automatically finds your Gmail account if you have one, you can put in your user ID and everything and you're ready to go. It's so much better than Google Mail. It's so much better than Yahoo's own wireless e-mail client and so, so much better than Hotmail. So if you're one of the masses who don't have fancy smart-phones, this is a pretty good application.

Niall Kennedy

There are some pretty good J2ME apps coming out for cellphones. Opera Mini is another really good example of something that's really caught on that's based on J2ME. One that I saw yesterday that I really liked is Bones in Motion - and this is a location based app. It's meant for people who are 'outdoorsy' - doing marathons, doing hiking, that sort of thing. You throw the cellphone in your bag and it tracks where you went running today, what was your training regimen like, keeping track of that - it gives you an audible beep as you go along about if you're above or below pace, which is great for bicyclists and then the whole thing, once you're finished - it uploads to a central server where you can share with others. It even does an overlay on a Google map. They've really thought this thing out about how people would like to use this app.

Om Malik

Aren't there like GPS applications - like standalone GPS devices which do that?

Niall Kennedy

Not built-in to a cellphone. If you're going for a bike ride or you're going for a run you're always concerned about the weight that you're carrying - so are you going to carry car keys, are you going to carry house keys or wallet etc. So the more devices that you have on you - Garmin has a humongous wristwatch that you can wear - but have it integrated with the cellphone - and the cellphone already has the ability to tie into a data network and upload right away.

Om Malik

Right. Not that I'll be using this service anytime soon!

Niall Kennedy

Nope.

Om Malik

I can't be caught dead with something like this!

Niall Kennedy

The other cool thing they did on this app is you can take photos with it and upload it. Say these are the photos that correlate to the route. So as you're going for a run you can take photos with the camera phone and it'll geocode that and add it at their location.

Om Malik

Wow. Talking about mobile phones, I've got a good one for you. Another Vancouver company. I don't know, I'm in love with Canadians. They're always so nice to me! This company called Eqo. Pronounced "echo" but spelled Eqo. Another tiny app. Install it on your phone and basically you can start using your Skype as your switchboard. So this application basically allows you to - it uses the presence features of Skype to figure out if somebody is on the Skype network - if they're on or not. So, looking at that, they can take that information coming over the internet pipe and you can use the Skype In feature on your personal Skype account on your computer at home, calling to your Skype number and then the call gets routed to the person you need to reach. So this is a pretty nifty little application because the cell phone carriers are pretty happy. Not only do you have to own the data pipe - you have to pay for it, you're also making a call, back into Skype in so this is one of those curious situations where everybody's making money. Except you're spending a lot of money. But that's OK - if you need to call somebody and get them on Skype that makes a lot of sense and there's a lot of people who actually communicate with their families using Skype but who have to stick around at a certain time for their parents to call for example. We have some friends who do that, who wait for their parents to call.

Niall Kennedy

My brother for example, sends IM from Iraq. If he's able to get on a computer he can IM with my mom, from Iraq.

Om Malik

But this is basically if you are calling somebody on Skype and they're not at home it will exchange it to the cellphone and you can use cellphone to cellphone calls, but you're using Skype as a conduit. This is going to be an interesting one. But the best part about this is not just for Skype, they do this for the Gizmo Project or Google Talk. Basically any community which needs voice interaction and has desire to exchange in that community will find Eqo pretty useful.

Niall Kennedy

This is an emerging trend - presence management. Presence management overlaid with a social networking interface. What services to you have available - whether it's a cellphone, Skype, SIP, IM - how you going to privilege different people on your network to have access to that. So if you make a call to me over Skype for example and I'm not there you might go to voice mail, but if I really like you you might be forwarded to my cellphone. You can set that up and there's room for a middle man to charge a monthly fee on that to manage that entire flow.

Om Malik

There's a bunch of companies that are doing that so that's going to be an interesting one to see. So that's my mobile portfolio for today. What do you think?

Niall Kennedy

Sounds pretty good.

Om Malik

Thumbs up, thumbs down? Like it, don't like it.

Niall Kennedy

Skype In doesn't have much use for me. I make mostly local calls so I'm not really sure where I'd use that service. So I'm not completely thrilled by it. But it has its uses.

Om Malik

Move to Ireland and you will see the value of it!

Niall Kennedy

Well yeah, when I make a lot of calls to Ireland or overseas it starts to make a lot more sense.

Om Malik

And you want to move to Ireland anyway, so just trying to give you an opportunity! Any interesting Web 2.0 companies that you've come across, any RSS stuff? You're the master of that world.

Niall Kennedy

I think FeedLounge is pretty interesting. I've tried them out and had mixed results, but I'm interested in seeing how people are playing the RSS game - like Bloglines or NewsGator, Rojo. It's more than a standard free service. Feedlounge go above that and charge $5 a month for it - that's what FeedLounge is doing. A more graphical interface, more interactive, a lot of tagging and organization for your data and that's pretty interesting that they're able to do that and able to have a subscriber base. The idea's interesting. The actual implementation didn't work all that well for me but I like what they're trying to do and I hope a lot of other companies will start these what I call Pro-Am services, sort of a professional / amateur mix.

Om Malik

I used FeedLounge too and I have a little bit of mixed feelings about it. I like what they've done from a features perspective. I was a little bit lukewarm on the look and feel of it, and I think that's only a matter of time until they get it right. I hope! Talking about FeedLounge and premium services and those kind of things, do you think that Web 2.0's ready to support companies that charge people?

Niall Kennedy

Definitely. I think people are actually expecting that a little bit. For the things you want to use all the time you want some reliability and feel you're becoming a member of a community. A good example would be TypePad, they've got millions of users. People are paying for pro LiveJournal accounts, people are paying for - I paid for a pro Blogger account back when they offered that.

Om Malik

I want my money back for that!

Niall Kennedy

I got a sweatshirt...

Om Malik

I didn't get nothing!

Niall Kennedy

So people are willing to pay for the extra services, companies are able to try new things that may not scale too well but because it's a limited base, it's actually paying them to make it work out OK. I like that idea, I want to see where it can go with a variety of companies offering that. I like the idea of there being a business model behind the premium services and than not everyone's trying to compete with Blog*Spot or NewsGator Online or Bloglines.

Om Malik

37signals has been doing that very successfully. I'm surprised that more people haven't done it. It really is - I think somewhere down the line the message got lost that this is all supposed to be - so what if you're small, that you don't have millions of dollars, you can still build a profitable bussiness out of it as some of these guys have.

Niall Kennedy

The thing that surprised me about 37signals is the small business focus and how willing people are to hand over their data about the business. I never would have thought people would be willing to hand over data about their business and hand that over but I was also surprised with Gmail and hearing of companies that are running all of their email through Gmail. We've seen some of those services. Now I think about it, people were paying for premium Yahoo! mail for a while and paying for a Yahoo! account that would get them extra features. That's something that has been around for a little while.

Om Malik

Talking about Web 2.0 companies, one of the companies that I like a lot is Zimbra. I've been using their hosted email and if somebody offers that as a hosted service, I think they can build a nice little business out of it. But that's another business model for some of the Web 2.0 companies out there - to develop apps which can be rolled out by independent application service providers. You used to have ISVs back in the day, now we have independent application service providers.

Niall Kennedy

What Zimbra's doing is I think a larger trend in the market - there is an open source product and they're also making a business out of it, doing the consulting and installing the open source, or in Zimbra's case they will sell you a box that has it pre-installed and that's one of their business models. I'm seeing the same thing with WordPress. WordPress, they have the free version. It's open source. Automattic is the corporate entity that's running WordPress.com the hosted blog service, Akismit plugin and doing WordPress consulting. They're able to have that open-source as well as get paid. And Drupal which has been known as the community site is also going to be moving towards free as well as Drupal corporate doing hosted Drupal installs. This is an interesting area they're going into. Speaking of Zimbra - they're going to be presenting at an event that I'm doing - got to do the plug! - I'm doing called SF Tech Sessions on the 23rd of this month in San Francisco. Zimbra and Joyent will both be presenting their groupware strategies and it's the solution in a box as well as hosted. Joyent will be launching their new hosted platform and Zimbra will be talking about hosting their groupware platform and we'll hear direct from those startups and have some really tough questions.

Om Malik

Excellent. There you go then. We should also point out that in the SF sessions you're looking for companies to bootstrap - that haven't raised lots of money and can't go to trade shows to make their business cases - but if they have something interesting and technology that should be showcased then they should get in touch with you.

Niall Kennedy

Definitely. I wanted SF Tech sessions to be an event where two needs are met: One, there are a bunch of people out there who want to hear about these products, whether they're journalists, small business owners, bloggers who want to be better bloggers or better businesses or better journalists. I definitely want to fill that need. But I was really, really frustrated with conferences charging - in Demo's case they charged $15,000 for people to come and do a five minute demo. And Web 2.0 I heard they were charging $32,000 for their launchpad event. For a small company that's bootstrapping, $15,000 is all of 30 Boxes's development budget, and $32,000 is above, so I don't want to see someone blowing an entire wad of cash to get in front of some of some VCs. I want them to be able to do cooler stuff with less money. And we've done it in the hardware space by getting commodity hardware, the software space by getting open source software, but marketing still has some work to do about how it gets out, and we have the power of blogs behind us and I think we can do some cool stuff there.

Om Malik

I think as Niall pointed out, there's the premium model for people who are selling premium services and there's the open source model which is what SF Tech sessions wants to be so, I hope a lot of people show up for your first event and hopefully you'll find new companies in the months to come and there is any suggestions people have they should send us - and I'm supporting you on this one as much as I can and hopefully it'll go well.

Niall Kennedy

Thanks, I hope so too! And that's the end of this tech session.

Om Malik

Thanks, Niall

Niall Kennedy

Thanks for listening and hope you can start something up!