Web 2.0

Marco Barulli from Clipperz reached out to introduce their online password-manager. I’d been looking for a good solution for some time now. While their Password manager seems pretty cool, especially the Direct Logins feature, I’m more intrigued by how Marco and team will apply this technology to other areas.

Clipperz had originally used the term “zero-knowledge web application” to describe Clipperz’s approach to managing sensitive data via/over the Internet:

“We simply meant that Clipperz knows nothing about its users and their data!”

It appears that the term “zero-knowledge” has a previous meaning, but I can’t think of a better term right now. How is an application a “zero-knowledge” application?

“1. Host-proof hosting: In order to avoid storing readable data on the server a zero-knowledge web application should encrypt and decrypt the data inside the browser.

2. Hide nothing: … Therefore full access to the source code of the application is required.

3. Prevent code changes: … Therefore it’s of the utmost importance to implement the necessary measures to stop any attempt to modify the code executed by the browser.

4. Learn nothing: … As a consequence of the “learn nothing” mantra, every zero-knowledge application should be completely anonymous, or at least it should make it impossible to relate the real name or email of a user to his data.”

I’d consider #1 and #4 to be must-have capabilities in a world where we access applications and data residing on a 3rd party cloud vendor’s infrastructure. This is true for personal data and for corporate data, (difficult to say which would be more important). I don’t know if Amazon, Sun, IBM, Microsoft or any of the other current/future cloud providers offer capabilities to address #1 and #4. If not, Clipperz is available under the AGPL or commercial license ;-).

Additionally, I see a use for Clipperz technology at virtually every SaaS company. It’s somewhat surprising that companies have been storing corporate data on servers belonging to Google, SugarCRM, Salesforce.com, Yahoo/Zimbra, without these capabilities.

Chris Keene of WakeMaker reached out to me in response to my Freetard post. Since then, I’ve been reading his blog and have learned a thing or two about his thoughts on Web 2.0 and why WaveMaker is addressing the market in the way they are.

Chris writes:

“Applications are like meteorites – they never migrate, they just land and stick.

The real power of Web 2.0 lies not in modernizing legacy client/server applications, but in modernizing the skill sets of client/server developers. If an app was built in VB or MS Access and it works, leave it there. The real question is what to do with the developer who built that app?”

WaveMaker is focused on this question. Obviously a large percentage of Microsoft customers are happy being so. However, some customers are considering whether Web 2.0 style architectures can be a route towards open standards or potentially a lower risk of vendor lock-in through open source. Hundreds of AJAX toolkits are available today, but this itself is a huge problem. Next, there is still a skills requirement to get the toolkit working and construct a visual development environment like the developer has/had with VB and Visual Studio. That’s where WaveMaker comes in. According to the WaveMaker website:

“WaveMaker Visual Ajax Studio is an easy-to-use visual builder that enables the drag & drop assembly of scalable, web-applications using Ajax widgets, web services and databases.”

Interestingly enough, WaveMaker Visual Ajax Studio was built using the WaveMaker foundation (which itself is built on OSS products Hibernate, Spring and Dojo Toolkit). With over 1,000 downloads a day, WaveMaker is beginning to gain traction. Download WaveMaker and follow the tutorial and let us know what you think. WaveMaker is licensed under the AGPL and also available under a commercial license.

Rich Internet Application (RIA) vendor Curl, named InfoWorld’s 2008 Technology of the Year in the RIA category, announced that they will be rebasing the Curl IDE on Eclipse. The Eclipse-based product, named Curl Development Tools for Eclipse (CDE) is expected to Beta in mid-2008. Why the rebasing? According to Curl:

“Today’s programmers expect to do much of their programming in an integrated development environment (IDE) without having to jump around to unrelated and disconnected tools.”

Valid point indeed. I wonder why Curl didn’t start with an Eclipse-based IDE from the beginning. In researching this post, I found this InfoWorld article on Curl:

“One of a number of “middleweight” solutions in the RIA (rich Internet application) spectrum, Curl is a language, an IDE, and a runtime engine that goes beyond the capabilities of lighter-weight AJAX without incurring the heavier overhead of the Java or .Net runtime. A number of Curl characteristics make it especially suitable for enterprise use: excellent performance, the ability to handle intermittent connectivity, support for large data sets, and graceful presentation of complex interfaces.


As I said last August, “Curl may well be the most interesting computer language that you don’t already know. Given that you can use the personal tools free forever and deploy the results on the Internet for free, the only barrier to evaluating it would be finding the time””

Ahh, time….hey, if Curl can find the time to rebase on Eclipse, surely some of you can find the time to give the Curl language and runtime a whirl?

I’ve been playing around with Adobe Flex for a few days. Heard about them open sourcing the Flex SDK later this year. Didn’t think much of it, since it was already free. Then I read this from Dana. Maybe Dana has been wearing OSS goggles for a few too many days, but come on.

If you take a second and think about what Adobe wants to do in the market, this move has NOTHING to do with desperation. It has EVERYTHING to do with aspiration. Adobe wants everyone building browser-based rich internet apps to do so with Flex. It’s that simple.

Today, the Flex SDK is free. Free is a great way to attract developers – don’t charge them to learn your stuff. Good is an obvious necessary condition for attracting developers also. This announcement is nothing more than moving to the next level to attract even more developers.

Part of this is because of the proprietary slur against apps that run inside of the Flash player (Flash, Flex & Apollo apps). The alternative to Flex Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) is to use AJAX, and depending on the AJAX toolkit/framework you select, you’re using something that is OSS or proprietary. Here’s a list of some AJAX/RIA vendors. For the most part, you have a much larger selection of open source goodies if you start with AJAX for your RIAs. And your apps don’t need the Flash player to be installed (at the correct version level or above).

As any middleware vendor will tell you, the SDK isn’t where you make money, and that’s not what Adobe intended either. They are going to do that with the Flex Builder and the Flex Data Services product. (I’d guess some version of Flex Builder goes out the door free/OSS in a year).

Adobe is doing the right thing. Getting developers on board with the free (today) and OSS (in June) Flex SDK. When they start writing enterprise applications that need to connect to back-end data, that’s when Adobe will ask for a PO ;-) Arguably, once developers know and are productive with Flex, convincing their managers to write that PO is going to be a whole lot easier.

So, Dana, I’d very much disagree that this is a desperate move.

PS: I wish it were as I’m really not a fan of Flash (from a usability standpoint), but that’s another story :-)

PPS: Surprised that Duane doesn’t have anything to add on his blog.

Okay, I’ve spent way too much time playing around with the visualizations on this IBM alphaWorks site called Many Eyes. I read about it on CNet, and popped over to take a quick look…over an hour ago!

I know I’ve seen at least one user generated “data reference” site where users upload charts from various sources. I can’t find that site again for the life of me though.

The interesting thing about Many Eyes is the visualizations you’re able to create with the data, and how others can create different visualizations with the same data.

This is a cool one dealing with US Budget Expenses from 1962-2004. Check it out!

After speaking with many vendors on the AjaxWorld expo floor about their business models it seems like the OSS business model is being used by about 50%, for the products here at AjaxWorld.

Selling applications or custom application development services:

Product is not OSS or does not use OSS business model in Web 2.0/AJAX/RIA space
Isomorphic Software

OSS product or uses OSS business model in Web 2.0/AJAX/RIA space

I was somewhat surprised with the high share of companies using a traditional software license business model. Of the companies using the OSS business model, the best known, Laszlo, is totally focused on selling support around their open source framework/foundation, they’re selling end user applications. They built a framework to simplify writing applications and made the strategic choice to open source the framework to deliver value to 3rd parties also. The openLaszlo framework drives services opportunities (and later, customized applications), but very few customers purchase support for the framework itself.

I was expecting more OSS companies (although ~50% is pretty high). It could be that these companies got into Web 2.0/RIA/AJAX/etc. 2+ years ago when OSS adoption was less than it is today. It could be that there’s room for both models?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/purpleslog/150983118/IBM is offering a preview/beta/early release of an AJAX toolkit/extension for use with any Eclipse 3.2 development environment (such as the WebSphere Application Server Toolkit) and with IBM’s WebSphere family of Application Servers. There are some samples including an AJAX version of the Plants by WebSphere sample app that most WebSphere App Server customers should be familiar with.

An observation: Could the page be written in a more AJAX-101 fashion? I guess it’s fair to assume that some customers haven’t heard of the AJAX development approach, so explain as much as possible. But if someone is going to find this page and download the toolkit, they’re likely already in the know, no?

Oh the wonders of template driven websites, begging for template-like content. ;-)

PS: The pic is of a Sudoku Template from flickr user purpleslog.

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