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Online Ajax Pages The New Web Desktop? 266

SphereOfInfluence writes "With our existing models for operating environments aging badly, how do we manage our information and software as we get increasingly mobile and short on attention? In a ZDNet piece, Dion Hinchcliffe discusses the rise of the new dynamic, online, roaming Ajax desktops like Netvibes, Live.com, Protopage, and Pageflakes. Will concerns about privacy and reliability kill these or is this the wave of the future?"
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Online Ajax Pages The New Web Desktop?

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  • Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:35AM (#14704499)
    Although cool and nifty, who is really going to want a remote desktop which governments can potentially access at their free will? Especially nowadays with lax wiretap laws and the like.
    • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sleeper0 ( 319432 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:50AM (#14704540)
      I think the popularity of web based email answers that question. People will use non private web based applications for private data.

      The real question is who needs it at all? The linked article mentions consumers probably not being ready for this kind of service for 1-2 years. The reality is that the market is fragmented, and while there are API's the results generally just resemble personalized home pages. I saw much better technology die on the vine at desktop.com 6 years ago - it was cool stuff looking for an audience. The same team had made what became yahoo mail - much simpler tech but in the end much more popular. The same situation probably stands today - (semi) cool tech looking for an audience. More or less we've long gotten past personalized home pages as a neat new thing - just adding AJAX doesn't change the paradigm. Desktop.com went some major steps beyond that but didn't just get killed by the bubble... they also never had an audience.

      • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by javaman235 ( 461502 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:26AM (#14704637) Homepage
        I think the popularity of web based email answers that question

        I'm not so sure it does. The difference is that my email goes over the internet whether I use outlook or gmail, but my journal never does...And I'm not so sure I feel comfortable having my journal online, but I do feel okay with having it on my box.
        • The difference is that my email goes over the internet whether I use outlook or gmail, but my journal never does...And I'm not so sure I feel comfortable having my journal online

          Some [livejournal.com] do [blogger.com], or even crave [deadjournal.com] it. And there are more [google.com].

      • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:36AM (#14704667) Homepage
        Agree. Most of the examples shown were "Yahoo" with the ability to drag stuff around and edit-in-pace. Wow. Color me... unimpressed.

        Take a look at your personal computer's desktop. Do you have every document, email, and application you own open on it, running side-by-side at the same time? No? Then why should I expect the wave of the future to be a personal web page?

        Want the future? Extrapolate from an "always-connected" world. Figure servers will increase in power exponentially. Figure the devices we carry will increase in power exponentially.

        With all that, the "future" is an oversized web page? Please.

    • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Greg Merchan ( 64308 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:18AM (#14704615)

      If more people could safely run their own servers from home, we could have the benefits of these web-based apps without entrusting our data to strangers.

      I think the first barrier to this is the ISPs: I don't know of any broadband provider in my area that allows one to run a server. (The cable provider even tries to get people to pay extra to set up a router.) I'd think there must be little demand, but then I see ads on TV for remote access (to Windows machines).

      I guess no one has found a way to make a profit providing some sort of secure server appliance that allows a house to be networked and provides a remote connection. It seems we've had the parts of the technology for over a decade, but noone has put them all together. Heck, it's only in the last couple of years that we've seen home entertainment center computers, and those were possible at least as early as 1992.

      • Re:Privacy (Score:3, Interesting)

        by putko ( 753330 )
        If you can find a good, smaller ISP, they'll let you do what you want.

        Perhaps MSN doesn't allow you to run a server, but the smaller folks don't care.

        Basically, the phone company forwards them the packets. If you run your own server, that's less work for them. As long as your modem can connect, via the phone system, to their network, their job is essentially complete.

        Also, users that are savvy enough to run their own server typically don't have all the bullshit Windows problems, so they are constantly calli
        • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Jaruzel ( 804522 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:14AM (#14704770) Homepage Journal
          Also, users that are savvy enough to run their own server typically don't have all the bullshit Windows problems, so they are constantly calling with some malware/shitware related problem.

          You were doing so well... until you threw in a random anti-windows statement.

          I run my own web servers at home, on my network, with forwarding from my internet facing router. These servers run Windows 2003. These servers do a variety of public and private web-serving. For a while I even ran a MUD server on another Windows box.

          For those that don't have access to a copy of Windows 2003 Server, Windows XP's IIS Web Server implementation is more than adequate to serve several low traffic sites (including those with dyanamic content)

          So, I resent your inferred statement that to have a workable at-home server solution it has to be be on a non-windows platform.

          • until you threw in a random anti-windows statement.

            Lets see.. the grant parent said that those people don't suffer from the typical windows related problems,. This can of course be because of running Linux, it could also be because of having a clue about running a server on Windows.

            Wether that is a statement about the users or the product is not clear, so I'd say you are reading more into the statement then was being said,

            I'd like to ask you however how likely you think it is that many home users are going
    • Although cool and nifty, who is really going to want a remote desktop which governments can potentially access at their free will?

      The whole thing is exactly like the distributed java/network computer model of 10 years ago. I suppose that failed because people didn't want or need it.

      Are we really different now?

    • Re:Privacy (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zoloto ( 586738 ) *
      I just finished watching "I, Robot" moments ago so take this with a grain of salt if it seems I'm a little wary (wait... that's normal - nevermind)

      I believe there very well will be a means of having a "central system" to hold some of our types of data we really need access to. School reports, dissertations, files for work or more where we simply can't keep them on one computer. Your /home or /Users or 'Documents and Settings\user' may be on remote systems when you "sync" your directories designated to be on
    • Yeah, I can't exactly see independently-minded Chinese lining up to keep their important documents and links at Yahoo! Desktop (or whatever Yahoo comes up with).
    • Re:Privacy (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Nosklo ( 815041 )
      Although cool and nifty, who is really going to want a remote desktop which governments can potentially access at their free will?
      People who have nothing to hide?
    • Re:Privacy (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Although cool and nifty, who is really going to want a remote desktop which governments can potentially access at their free will? Especially nowadays with lax wiretap laws and the like.

      The thing you need to realize is that the vast majority of people out there just aren't terribly concerned about privacy. Most folks figure their lives aren't interesting enough for a hacker/police/whatever to go digging into their email...and if it did happen, there's very little of importance to be found there. Maybe

  • by luvirini ( 753157 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:36AM (#14704501)
    The way these services and others make place irrelevant is a good thing, people have tried many different solutions from PDAs and laptops to remote control software to achieve the same goal.

    But this solution has also it's own problem, like all the earlier attempts, in this case the problem is a lot about security and secrecy.

    When these applications start to be sold to companies to run on the company's own servers, some of the problems do go away ofcourse..

    • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:10AM (#14704589)
      Aaaah good old incompetent Sun and it's stupid management. Only if they had any foresight, will, and brains we would not all be hyping AJAX all to hell and be perfectly happy using applets and java web start. We would forever be saved from trying to shoehorn applications into a stateless publishing technology.

      Too bad they could not figure out how to make AWT look nice, how to get swing into every desktop, how to make multipe applications run in the same VM, how to make it easy to build swing apps, how to make gui threading managable by humans, how to not make java web start be the butt ugliest thing in the face of the planet.

      Instead we are forever doomed to try and build applications in XML and javascript quite possibly the worst combination of tools to build a applications ever invented by mankind.

      Thanks Sun, I blame you, you could have saved us from all this madness but you just couldn't capitalize on the golden goose sitting in your barn.
      • by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:00AM (#14704733) Homepage
        Don't worry. There's always Flash...
      • Agreed (Score:2, Insightful)

        by coder111 ( 912060 )
        I'm sick sick sick to see HTTP+HTML+JS used for APPLICATIONS instead of a thin client. Browsers make horrible thin clients, and HTML+HTTP+JS is a horrible way to write remote applications for thin clients. Some solution that was designed from the start for this purpose would be so much better. HTML+HTTP should be used for information transfer and PRESENTATION, not applications... To bad- while Microsoft controls desktop, this isn't going to change.

        Sun did have a shot at this with java, but they failed ho
        • The best languages and designs are rarely used in the mainstream. Why HTTP why not LaTex, Why Windows why not Mac OS, or Unix. Why VB over PRP (Python/Ruby/Perl). There are a million of reasons why they may have failed, Pricing, Licensing, Legal Battles, Marketing.... But for the case of the popularity of Web Apps, which I agree are not the best way to go but have the following benefits that make it popular.
          1. Good enough platform independence. Every modern computer has a web browser, Linux, Solaris, Window

      • Indeed.

        I don't have as bleak a view, however. The web-app crap that is today's fad will eventually be replaced by better and cleaner technology.

        Its just a question of how many years developers have to suffer through the pain of consecutive "frameworks" that seem to be coming out at a rate of one per week. None of these frameworks give a damn about addressing developer productivity.

        Anyways, in the not too distant future, I look forward to making a living unplugging old ugly j2ee apps and replacing them much
    • The way these services and others make place irrelevant is a good thing, people have tried many different solutions from PDAs and laptops to remote control software to achieve the same goal.

      But this solution has also it's own problem, like all the earlier attempts, in this case the problem is a lot about security and secrecy.

      To me the two biggest issues (besides security and privacy) seem to be:

      1. need network access to get to my data (compare to a PDA which works perfectly fine without it, tho your data m
  • Buzzword alert (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:40AM (#14704515) Homepage
    Oh dear, its only a short article and its got "leverage" and
    "rich" (as in experience). Pass the sick bucket. Still, I
    persevered. Not sure why I bothered. Seems like just another
    snake oil "evangelist" (he missed that one) trying to flog yet
    more CPU sucking eye candy that will have a large impact on your
    computers power consumption but a small impact on how much more
    usable the web will be. Is it just me? Is there really something
    wrong with clear, simple HTML pages that load quickly without all
    this flash/ajax/flavour-of-the-month-tool crap shoved in just to
    please web fashion victims?
    • by BrynM ( 217883 ) * on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:46AM (#14704531) Homepage Journal
      "Online _____ is the new ____!" If there was some way to monetize every time I hear this.... It would be the new money. Thus, online bullshit is the new bullshit - only digitized!
      • It makes a great drinking game...

        pass that bottle again!
        • Are you one of those suicidal internet users in Japan? Because not only does that headline repeat itself, but the articles repeat themselves so much that you'd probably die of alcohol poisoning before the end of the day.

          As far as "AJAX 2.0 Blognets! being the Next Sliced Bread" I have two methods of working when I am away from home. I can access anything I need if I can go through FTP (or fill in your favorite existing technology which has allowed you to do this for the past ten years). My mail is forwarded
    • Ajax runs quickly and isn't graphic-intensive.

      There is nothing wrong with HTML pages, but pages are a sight more useful when they display exactly what you want. This is a very natural evolution of web pages, I don't see what the problem is.

      Yeah, Ajax has been a buzzword recently, but you seem to have an issue with the technology, and not the buzz. Have you used any of these services? You'd notice that they're REALLY COOL! There's nothing wrong with easily organizing content. Try it before you knock it.
      • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Viol8 ( 599362 )
        I don't want "REALLY COOL" "dude". I'm not 12. I just want
        information. Google manages to present relevant information from
        a couple of billion web pages with a simple HTML front end.
        Why can't other sites manage it? Why do they have to resort to
        some developers wet dream to get their info across? Because most
        of them wouldn't know good usability design if it the dictionary
        definition was stamped in red ink on their foreheads, thats why.
        • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:2, Insightful)

          by sleeper0 ( 319432 )
          just so you know, one of the primary reasons that the world caught on to what is now called AJAX applications is google's use of the technology - granted not on the search homepage but in several other big apps.
        • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:5, Informative)

          by Dominic_Mazzoni ( 125164 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:00AM (#14704562) Homepage
          I don't want "REALLY COOL" "dude". I'm not 12. I just want
          information. Google manages to present relevant information from
          a couple of billion web pages with a simple HTML front end.

          I hate to break it to you, but Gmail and Google Maps are totally AJAX, and even a basic web search on Google makes use of JavaScript. Google integrates it all so seamlessly, you don't even realize that they're using fancy "Web 2.0" tricks to give you what looks like a simple HTML page.
          • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:26AM (#14704639) Homepage
            I wasn't talking about Gmail or maps. And yes the search page
            uses javascript but so what. That takes no longer to load up
            and run than HTML. And even overuse of javascript can be a pain.

            If some people want to ultimately have their browser as some
            kind of web based virtual computer thats up to them. But I don't
            see why that sort of crap should be foisted upon the rest of us
            who just want to look for stuff and do it quickly. I still have
            to use dial up at home and I don't appreciate having to download
            a 1 meg app just to view a friggin web page which could have been
            rendered in HTML in a few kilobytes, albeit with a few less
            poxy graphics (Boo bloody hoo).
            • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Westley ( 99238 )
              Do you have any examples of the 1MB apps you're talking about? Most AJAX usage I've seen has been really small.

              As for doing things quickly - I totally agree, which is why I infinitely prefer the Google maps way of doing things to the "old" way where you were basically in the "North by a square, north east by a square, only show me 3x3 squares at a time" trap. Did you really find that more usable than Google Maps?

              • There's some BAD AJAX out there. Mostly, you'll see this when crappy tools are used to generate exceedingly crappy JavaScript + CSS + XHTML with loads of redundancy and automated cut-n-paste.

                Then again, there's that kind of bad code in just about every language.

                AJAX is not a bad tool, it's just prone to be used by people who don't understand it.
            • Do you even know what AJAX is? It sounds like you're ranting about Java or Flash. AJAX doesn't even have anything to do with graphics.

              AJAX is just Javascript that communicates with the server in the background. Obviously not every web site needs it, but stuff like Google Maps is clearly far superior to anything you could create with static pages. Google Maps is much faster and less bandwidth-hungry than the mapping sites that existed before it.

              If Slashdot used AJAX, you'd be able to read it a lot faster
              • If Slashdot used AJAX, you'd be able to read it a lot faster on your dial-up line since you wouldn't have to re-download all of the page formatting for every comment you read.

                Are you insane?! Under this system, comments would have to be fetched and transmitted to the client on a client by client basis. No more static html pages for CmdrTaco.

                Ajax would quickly result in the Slashdot servers going critical and the resultant thermal shockwave would obliterate Taco in a spray of charred bones and vaporised Jolt
        • It does really take longer to go from slashdot, to amazon, to your email, to a to-do list, to cnn.com than it does to see all that information presented in one place. There isn't really any kind of tradeoff for that functionality. When I say REALLY COOL, what I mean is REALLY USEFUL. It's easier to keep tabs on what's going on. If you don't regularly check a number of sites, then yes, it may not be that useful for you, but for me, getting all the information I regularly read in one place is very convienient
          • I use personalized google too, but you do realize that none of that functionality is really AJAX? The AJAX component is the drag-and-drop style of configuration. All the grunt work is done via traditional methods. So, in this case, AJAX really is used for nothing more than eye-candy.

            Of course, there actually are some places where AJAX provides functionality and not just good lucks (gmail for one), but personlized Google isn't a good example of this.
      • This is a very natural evolution of web pages, I don't see what the problem is.

        If I want an application, I'll run a program locally (where I'm not dependant on a stable internet connection). I've been using Gmail (a fairly simple (and thus in my opinion, better then most) Ajax program) and for 3 reasons only.
        1> It is nice to be able to know I'll never run out of e-mail space. I never would have thought it was such a big feature before I got it, but now I wouldn't want to do without it.
        2> It's nice to
    • Your lack of respect for exciting Web 2.0 user experiences is disturbing!
    • Re:Buzzword alert (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:22AM (#14704795) Journal
      Is there really something wrong with clear, simple HTML pages that load quickly without all this flash/ajax/flavour-of-the-month-tool crap shoved in just to please web fashion victims?

      Yes. Amount of repeatable content, basic pain of CGI/PHP. Take a GOOD application of AJAX: DeviantArt comments. Each art piece posted to the site may be commented by the users. Sometimes there's 200-300 comments, discussion occurs etc. Indentation provides some threading, there are some basic forum-like features etc. You probably want to cut on page switching when you dig into the comments. You set it to display 100 per page. Including links, avatars, smileys and some more such crap plus bandwidth throttling from the server if you're not a subscriber, it starts getting really lengthy to load the comments page. But it's still better than loading 20 separate pages 10 comments each. Then you want to participate in the discussion...

      Non-AJAX, non-javascript, pure CGI way: Click "Reply" in given thread. Wait for the "reply" form for given thread to load. Type your answer. Click "preview". Wait for preview to load. Click "send". Wait for the whole discussion page, 100 posts, plus your answer to load.

      AJAX way: Click "Reply". Immediately a textarea appears, where your post would go, with "send", "preview" and "cancel" buttons. You type in your reply and press "preview". The border around the textarea blinks for a moment and then turns into your post's final look, in context of the 100 other posts, differing only by "preview" replaced by "edit" (which with no further delay gets you back to editing your post). You click "send" and the border blinks a moment more. Buttons vanish, your post is placed in the context amongst all the rest, where it was supposed to be. No single other post gets reloaded.
      • Yes. Amount of repeatable content, basic pain of CGI/PHP. Take a GOOD application of AJAX: DeviantArt comments. Each art piece posted to the site may be commented by the users. Sometimes there's 200-300 comments, discussion occurs etc. Indentation provides some threading, there are some basic forum-like features etc. You probably want to cut on page switching when you dig into the comments. You set it to display 100 per page. Including links, avatars, smileys and some more such crap plus bandwidth throttlin
        • > Art piece gets posted, now lets assume this is a big picture and give it 2mb.

          Let's assume it's average and it's 100K. It's meant for viewing online, not printing. Some morons like to post 3000x2000 GIFs but most people try to stay around 800x600.

          > comments get added, lets assume people really have something to say, and write 300 comments that average 2k bytes each.

          Counting in the HTML overhead (borders, links, styles etc) yes, about 2k each.

          > Now, the page also contains some other stuff like menu
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:51AM (#14704543)
    Netvibes [netvibes.com], Protopage [protopage.com], Pageflakes [pageflakes.com], Live.com [live.com], and a bonus Google Personalized [google.com]

    Ah hypertext links. What wonders have Tim Burners Lee wrought. And look, I'm anonymous so no karma whoring.
  • A partial solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @04:52AM (#14704547) Homepage
    I think Google and Gmail illustrate the limits of online apps (that would include Ajax as well as any other remote system). I see three basic issues:

    * I (like many others) use mail as a general information storage system. And whenever I'm offline, that information is unavailable. And yes, offline still happens quite regularily - there's still plenty of trains, planes, trainstations and airports, hotels and conference venues that don't have it, have it but at ridiculous cost, or have it but some random component is down leaving everyone offline.

    I need to have data cached locally - but if I'm going to have a local solution set up anyways I might as well go with that and avoid the hassle.

    * If I leave data at Google (or some other off-site organization), my data integrity is only as good as their security. That is something I do not have any control over and (as has been demonstrated) even supposedly very security conscious companies regularily goof.

    * Google and Yahoo have amply demonstrated a third issue: jurisdiction. If I have information stored with Google, I may suddenly be exposed to liability and possible data seizures in both my own country as well as Googles base country (USA at this time). If I am a company owner, do I really need the headache of reading up on data retention minutiae for a country on a different continent?

    As a private citizen, there are today plenty of books and audio recordings that are in the public domain in Europe but not in the US. Also, rules about fair use are different. If I store an mp3 of an early Elvis recording in a service run by a company that is based in the US, will I get hit by a lawsuit, or have my (perfectly legal) recording deleted with no warning? I do not need that headache.

    I think these kind of apps really will find their niche as internally run company-wide systems, where you have control, not primarily as the kind of third-party enterprises we usually talk about.
    • by jetxee ( 940811 )
      I would like to add to your three points (no offline availability, requirement for trust, jurisdiction issues) yet another three:
      • Backup. I case of GMail I may do backup with POP. In case of general web-desktop service I will not have such an opportunity. This is close to the concept of lacking `local cache'.
      • Permanence of service conditions. One may never be sure that the service he is using will remain available on the same conditions. I expect GMail to remain free, but I would not be amazed if any `no-
    • I need to have data cached locally - but if I'm going to have a local solution set up anyways I might as well go with that and avoid the hassle.

      In less than 20 years the standard PC hard drive will hold 100 terabytes - as much as the whole internet today.

      The drive will cost about $100 in today's money. A different type of client will be possible and routine by then.

  • by broothal ( 186066 ) <christian@fabel.dk> on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:06AM (#14704576) Homepage Journal
    I used to think this would be the future, but my views on that has changed. Lately, it's been very obvious that any script-kiddie with control of a sufficient amount of compromised machines (zombies) can ddos any webserver, almost regardless of the capacity of the datacenter.

  • Saying 'No' to an Executable Internet [slashdot.org].

    His point basically was that MS will bulldoze its version of an Internet desktop to become standard, with their famous attention to security. Maybe overstated a tad, but nowhere in the current FA were the issues of data security, from accident, malice, government, hackers, big companies... addressed.

  • Reliability? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:07AM (#14704581) Homepage
    Will concerns about privacy and reliability kill these or is this the wave of the future?

    If you think reliability is likely to kill this, I have two questions for you:
    1. When was the last time Google stopped working?
    2. When was the last time Windows stopped working?

    The simple fact is that a single centrally administered server farm is vastly easier to administrate -- and will be vastly more reliable -- than a hundred million home PCs, most of which are managed by people who are vastly less competent than the average server farm administrator. Of course, if Windows broke and your home PC isn't working, you won't be able to use it to connect to sites online; but this isn't much of a problem. People care far more about their data than their hardware; if all else fails, they can borrow a friend's terminal.

    Privacy and security, on the other hand, are much more serious issues; but (sadly) I don't think they have much chance of stopping something like this. Computer security is something which most people simply don't understand.
    • Re:Reliability? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:17AM (#14704609)
      Google stopped working when windows stopped working.

      Something to think about who wears the pants in that relationship.
      • Re:Reliability? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:59AM (#14704732) Journal

        Google stopped working after last storm that broke my ISP's router.
        Google slowed down to a crawl when I was delaying paying my ISP bills.
        Google stopped working when the Ethernet plug got loose in the hub.
        Google stopped working when power supply in my firewall box died.
        Google stopped working while the ISP network was down for maintenance.
        Google stopped working when the local DNS got poisoned.
        Google stopped working when a neighbor was driving his car with broken ignition near the WiFi accesspoint.

        Common home networks are too unreliable to base your desktop and mostly everything you do on them.
        • Exactly - the internet connection is pretty much the least reliable part of any home computer. What would probably happen is that web app developers will realise this and start pushing more of their webapps client side for reliability, until we end up in exactly the same position as today, except with our apps written in javascript.
    • When was the last time Google stopped working?

      Let's see.. the last time was when my ISP was doing some upgrades. Both Windows and I kept working without Google, though.

    • 1. When was the last time Google stopped working?

      Just now, when I was in a taxi and there was no wireless coverage.
    • 1. When was the last time Google stopped working?

      I've lost access to google for various amounts of time due to:

      * my ADSL link going down
      * google deciding to temporarily block my subnet due to excessive traffic

      In all of those times (and the first happened a lot for a number of months until I bought a new router) Windows was just fine.

      Also, as others have pointed out, if Windows goes down, so does your access to google...
    • 1. When was the last time Google stopped working?

      A couple of hours ago when my internet connection was down (ok, not their fault, but it doesn't matter for me, I cannot use the g* apps, and that is what counts)

      2. When was the last time Windows stopped working?

      In my case, about a decade ago, I replaced it with something that was more of my liking, that I got a say in (ok, a small one, but still), and that turns out to be utterly reliable and stable for local applications.

      The simple fact is that a single cen
  • by J0nne ( 924579 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:13AM (#14704598)
    If you rely on webapps exclusively, you can't reach your information all the time. Your internet connection could drop out, or you could be someplace without an internet connection (wardriving might be easy, but I never find an open access point when I need one).

    Webapps complement regular apps, they don't replace them. It's good that websites are finally feeling more like real applications, and it's nice to be able to reach your information from everywhere, but they'll never replace them completely.

    Why does one technology have to kill the other technology? Both can coexist fine. I use Gmail, but I still use Thunderbird to read and send my e-mail when I'm at my computer.
  • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:17AM (#14704608) Journal
    Online Ajax Pages The New Web Desktop?

    I think I'd be happy to see this... as long as the Internet transfer speeds would equal that of a hard drive, and I wouldn't have to pay just to stay online and do my work.
  • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:18AM (#14704614) Homepage Journal
    Is this the wave of the future?


  • General consumers do not care about privacy until they get bit by it or a "trustworthy" news agency makes it sound like the whole world will collapse.

    That's not really being stupid - just relativly uneducated and most people are too busy with other things to really think it through. I talk people out of using this type of stuff all the time - simply tell them how it can be abused. Until then they usually just look at the marketing hype about how useful it is when it works.

    The first major public group that l
  • XUL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pubjames ( 468013 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:28AM (#14704643)
    The problem with AJAX as I see it is that it is a bit of a Kludge.

    Why did XUL never take off? I think that is a really interesting technology, much better than AJAX, but I guess being mozilla only it will never really reach mainstream? I guess it wouldn't be possible to create a XUL plug-in for IE?

    • Re:XUL (Score:4, Informative)

      by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:41AM (#14704679) Journal
      XUL is a language for writing GUI looks with room for hooks. It's not all that much better than HTML for it. Both for XUL and for HTML you need the same Javascript backend, and if given JS backend to HTML includes xmlhttprequest() for dynamically changing the HTML content (through DOM tree), it's called AJAX.
      The kludginess of the solution lies in less-than-perfect reliablity of xmlhttprequest and hideous access to the DOM tree in JS. (e1=document.getElementById('e1'); e2=document.createNode('H1'); e2.value=reqResult; e1.parentNode.replaceChild(e1,e2); e2.id='e1';)

      With XUL it would look just the same, very similar DOM tree with the same hideous access methods, same unreliable xmlhttprequest and only different tag names. It could look differently, it could be more sleek as a GUI because it was meant to be a GUI in the first place, but it would be just as kludgy inside.
    • XUL did take off as the framework for Mozilla/Firefox plugins and crossplatform applications (including Sunbird, Songbird etc.). But it was never intended to be a replacement for web applets - for good reasons, since it offers no sandboxing and no safety constraints for code. Making the XUL interface world-writable from web sites would be the ActiveX fiasco all over again. This is why Firefox tries its best to prevent XUL plugin installations from untrusted sources.
  • Ajax all you want (Score:3, Informative)

    by palad1 ( 571416 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:35AM (#14704665)
    But please make your ajax scripts available through https or half of the corporate users won't ever stand half a chance of seeing your 'loading please wait' splash screen...

    Hint: https://mail.google.com/mail [google.com] (thanks google)
  • by layer3switch ( 783864 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:41AM (#14704678)
    Although I do think, Ajax with javascript/dhtml is pretty cool, it's a bit overkill to think that it will be the "desktop" platform of the future. My beef would be an idea of a secondary application layer (only logical, not literal) over OS and within browser application framework. The shared load between Javascript JIT compilation and native applications to make Ajax application smooth, stable and functional would be hard to implement especially for portable PDAs with underpower processors and limited memory and buffer cache. Not to mention Ajax applications will always have to be confined within browser application, not able to compete with multithreaded and compiled bytecode applications.

    Try benchmark Javascript against your machine here;
    http://www.24fun.com/downloadcenter/benchjs/benchj s.html [24fun.com]

    I think, for web "desktop" to be successful and attractive for "users," the web browser platform itself has to change dramatically to give Ajax applications an development edge and ability to compete with native applications. Otherwise similar fate of Java Applets may be ahead for Ajax.
  • It's... (Score:2, Insightful)

    Not like we have a WHOLE load of privacy online or offline now, your PC is under the jurisdiction of the government if they so wish to search it, what's the difference with storing it online?

    Even if you encrypt it you have to give up the key or go to jail.

    Why not just sit in your tin-foil hat with a copy of DBAN boot-and-nuke in the drive ready at all times..
    • Re:It's... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by miro f ( 944325 )
      the difference is that if the information is stored on your computer, the feds can't get to it without a search warrant

      if it's online, they only need a subpoena. Much easier to get, however, if it's a serious issue I don't think they're going to give up just because they need a search warrant.

      however, look at the recent DOJ subpoena. There's no way they can subpoena information that is on your computer. so there's a difference. If you're doing illegal stuff, you would have to be a moron to do it through a m
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:42AM (#14704681) Journal
    Not my choice but that is live. Anyway I went from xs4all.nl to tiscali.nl Now those who are dutch might already know what is going to come next but for the 99% of /. readers who aren't let me explain. xs4all is a bit crap, they are expensive, their helpdesk is always busy and they have network problems from time to time. In short, they are the best.

    Odd conclusion? Well no. They are expensive but that is because they do not actually have a datalimit, or rather you have one 100gb on my account but they don't actually measure your data throughput. Tiscali does and the limit is 1gb for half the price. Mmmm. 40 bucks for 1gb or 80 for unlimited.

    Next is that their helpdesk is always busy, this is nasty but at least the helpdesk fucking knows their business AND is available in the weekend. Oh and their online help is good enough that the only thing I ever needed from them is password resets.

    So who cares about this? Is this on topic? Well no but I am getting there. Next is reliability. I said xs4all sucks? Well it does, it always managed to drop my connection at least once per month. Fucking annoying.

    Offcourse that was until I moved house and now am on tiscali. Wich drops the con every 10 minutes. Suddenly the internet is totally different. Even simple browsing becomes a pain when every 4th click results in a minute long wait for the modem to reconnect.

    Why is it crap? Oh who knows. I actually have worked for tiscali (then worldonline) in the distant past and they never struck me as the brightest bulb (they hired me after all) but perhaps it is just the phone line.

    But it really doesn't matter. On my old con it was already troublesome that a couple of times per year I could not google or whatever but with this ISP can you imagine using web apps? It would be like trying to do work on windows 95 adware edition.

    And that is my fundemental, and I think everyone elses, problem with the whole idea of webapps. Very nice until your connection drops out.

    As long as we got joke ISP's with idiotic data limits web apps are never going to take off. Think of it like this. Who here does not have some kind of emergency equipment like a flashlight for when the elec drops out or camping gas stove for when the gas drops out? And that is (at least in holland) extremely reliable stuff. Trusting my internet connection to determine wether I can work or not does not sound very smart to me.

    Oh and as far as mobile computing is concerned. Those who can afford mobile connection costs don't need it, they got secretaries and those who need it can't afford it.

    You can forget the net 2.0 the same problem that killed the 'bubble' ideas of the net are killing any new ideas. The ISP's simply ain't up to the task of providing reliable constant connections. Oh the better ones come close but xs4all in holland is tiny. The best and reviewed that way by consumer organisations but still tiny.

    • Hrm, wtf move to Tiscali? I am not aware of any location within the country where Tiscali has coverage and XS4ALL doesn't.
      Oh, and when you had to leave XS4ALL anyway, I'd have gone with Versatel before Tiscali (despite having family working at Tiscali and being able to get a reduced price for my subscription). Versatel has so far served me well (for about 3 years now). Have had 2 connection drops over the last 6 months, and those usually happen during the night. Getting the promissed download speeds (not on
    • Aren't there any better options for you? I always figured Holland to be some sort of internet heaven, you always seemed to get the good stuff some time before we did. If I can get 6 Mbit and no cap for 50 Euros, so can you! No? Maybe moving wasn't such a good idea. ;)
  • Scary news (Score:3, Funny)

    by Exaton ( 523551 ) <{exaton} {at} {free.fr}> on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:54AM (#14704712) Homepage

    "roaming Ajax desktops"

    I swear that statement would scare my mother.

  • Subscription model (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jaymz168 ( 555580 )
    We've all heard over the last few years that Microsoft et al want to move all their software to a subscription model. Gone will be the days when you pay for a piece of software once and it just works for a very long time. This isn't going to happen overnight, but this all ties together and that's where these guys want this to go. Thank god for F/OSS.
    • So the future is 'like UNIX but with a subscription model', hooray!

      Seriously, I remember being able to access my UNIX desktop from anywhere in the world already ten years ago. The media rage about the idea as if it's some coming wave of the future, and certain companies market it as such as they add more elements from UNIX over the years to their systems. But the media rage about it as if it's new because they don't know any better - I mean, they don't know what UNIX is and what it could do 20 years ago al

  • by Max Threshold ( 540114 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @05:59AM (#14704730)
    "With our existing models for operating environments aging badly . . ."

    sh has aged very well, thank you very much.

  • by wwmedia ( 950346 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:08AM (#14704752)
    Theres a good thing about remote applications

    if theres a security bug,
    ALL the clients can be fixed in ONE update

    none of that microsoft / symantec patching every so often business
    • But if there is a security hole, all client data could be stolen before the update is installed. With local apps you could add extra security whatnot, but with remote apps all your eggs are in one basket.
    • Theres a good thing about remote applications

      if theres a security bug,
      ALL the clients can be fixed in ONE update

      There is a bad thing about centralized remote applications

      if there is a security bug
      ALL clients get compromised at the same time.
  • The problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gavin86 ( 856684 ) <gavin.b.lynch@nOspam.gmail.com> on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:22AM (#14704794) Journal
    The problem I see with AJAX technologies is that almost none of them have been put to any good -use-. Everyone keeps talking about the 'potential' of such applications, the 'implications' AJAX-like setups can have for software and desktops.... But how many actually -useful- applications do I use a day? What, Gmail? Every now and then when I get directions or I'm board enough to check the satallite photos, Google Maps. And really, those things are the cream of the crop for AJAX applications. Most other sites integrate AJAX in a small way, ways that are helpful and I'm sure appreciated by their users, but nothing earth shattering and certainly nothing that ushers in the obvious defeat of the modern desktop as we know it. Most of these things are subtle improvements on an existing platform.

    Frankly I would be both a bit suprised and pissed if the user interface of webpages -didn't- evolve into something much more responsive and a bit more slick. Am I the only one who sees this as a completely expected progression and not the eXTreM3 R3V0LUTION 3.0??

    I understand AJAX from a technical perspective, I've made a few "AJAX" applications myself, I just don't see the results and the real world practicality to back up the absurd wave of hype. Consider me slightly amused and half-interested until I see the types of applications that fundamentally shift the ways I'm using this machine as I've been promised.

    I'm new to the business world and particuarily the business/marketing aspects of software developement and website design, but do all industries act like this? Am I getting bent out of shape over nothing, or is the hyperbole really hitting the roof on this one?
    • Re:The problem... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Tarwn ( 458323 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @06:51AM (#14704892) Homepage
      Excellent, if I had mod points I would have burned some. I completely agree. Everyday some new set of articles is posted about "Web2.0", etc and yet things like AJAX don't seem to be revolutionary as much as small steps and, in most cases, gap fillers.
      I've written some "AJAX" stuff in the past. Granted only a few of sites I wrote using javascript and asynchronous XML calls were written after there was a name for it, but as the parent poster said, it is not revolutionary. There are some sites out there that are heavily AJAX-ified. Some of them are useful, some of them are just feature-filled for features sake. In most of the cases I have seen, though, AJAX has been used to fill the gaps, as a polish, if you will. Now don't get me wrong, this is not a bad thing, but even GMail and Google maps are far from the promised revolution we read about in articles such as this.

      All this AJAX "revolution" does for us is allow us to treat the frontend web page as a bit more of a client, as opposed to treating it as content in a thin client. Flash did as much, if not more. The only difference here is that AJAX isn't a platform that requirs a plugin, it is instead (at it's core) a group of existing plugins accessible by the browser. How long has AJAX been around as the cool, hip thing? It's already available to every developer with notepad/vi and a browser, it's not very complicated to implement, so where is this revolution that has been remarked on since the day it got an acronym all it's own?

      And a commentary on the original article: I lost interest in reading it right after the author said that our OS's are out of date and what we really need is a web-based desktop to truly leverage all of the fantastic capabilities of our machines...right. I didn't look too closely, but to me it just looked like he was selling start pages, similar to what Yahoo and many others have had for ages...personally I like my desktop environment to do a little more.
    • The original article is an opinion piece. While they bolster their argument with existing AJAX technology pages, it doesn't change the fact that the author is extrapolating in hopes of being correct.

      AJAX is a tool like everything else. It is not the end all to be all that some people may think it is. Some existing web based operations benefit from it, but quite a few won't. Security concerns are huge and most people haven't realized that yet. For example, you wouldn't want your online banking informati
  • Security aside, is there a good ajax word processor with internationalization support ? I'd like to see a french dictionary, the two I tried were english only...
  • I can garantee, this will not be a panacea for those of us who do not want to be 'computer savvy' and have to mess around installing software, or maintaining it. It is just as easy to get digitally-screwed with online content whether it's your desktop or your pay-pal account. One good thing is that it's another option in the desktop area. We need more of those.
  • As soon as someone (except me, right here, right now) mentions "Web 2.0" you can pretty well write-off the rest of the conversation as marketing crud. That page mentioned "Web 2.0" twenty one times.
  • Perhaps not.

    It could be very useful to have an environment (hardware, or a virtual environment on a PC) which replicated an (encrypted) private data store with a central server and did the same (in the other direction) for a public application repository. Documents available everywhere, continue to work if network down, no software installation (it just arrives as required). However, it would require a *standard* environment which delivered a decent, interactive user experience for all application types. So
  • by _flan ( 156875 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @07:59AM (#14705094)
    I think it's interesting to note that AJAX and online desktops were presaged by Desktop.com in 1999-2000. I worked there, so I can say with authority that we did have a full web-based operating system going in Netscape 4 and IE 4. The stuff that's done now isn't as complex as the stuff we had, in general, though recently (GTalk through GMail, for example) it's started coming close. (I admit I haven't been following some of the other sites mentioned, so maybe some other folks are further along.)

    We ran into a couple of killer problems:

    * Browser instability -- we had no control over this. Netscape lasted on average 10-15 minutes and ate tons of memory. IE lasted longer, but also consumed memory until it crashed.

    * Slow connections -- we had a good 500K download at first connection (or empty cache), which was *slow* over dailup, which was the norm.

    * Apps -- nobody is going to come if the apps aren't there. In the day, even making a notepad clone was difficult because native HTML controls were always on top.

    The first two of these problems have been/are being slowly overcome. The third one is still a problem.

    But the problem of privacy has never really been foremost in the minds of users. Maybe it will be, but with everyone using web mail, I'm kinda doubtful.

  • While there might be some concerns about privacy, or even confidentiality, given that some people might feel as though they're risking the confidential nature of thier information by putting it on an online word processor, I think that most of these fears will fade. Like email, people will eventually become comfortable with this new way of doing things.

    I certainly think the idea of the online word processors is bound to catch on to some degree.

    Later, GJC
  • Missing the point... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by qazwart ( 261667 )
    We see a few "Web 2.0" apps, and we make our comments based upon those. However, that's like looking at Alexander Graham Bell's demonstration of his first telephone and comment that it would never get anywhere because of its technical limitations.

    * What if instead of your Web 2.0 application using a remote server, it used your own desktop machine as a server. Would you still need your Internet connection?

    * What if businesses ran their own Ajax applications for wordprocessing, spreadsheets, and whatever else
  • The article mentions quite a few corporate-hosted AJAX desktops.

    Are there any similar open-source entries in the market for those of us who might want a "usable from anywhere" solution but which is hosted on a machine we control?

    I currently use Horde IMP for web-based email, and I'm thinking of possibly installing FCKEditor on my home server box, but I'm wondering if there's an "all in one" solution out there.
  • by penguin-collective ( 932038 ) on Monday February 13, 2006 @10:58AM (#14706650)
    I think a well-designed system for running apps remotely would be great, but all attempts so far have had serious problems. AJAX's problems are that its component technologies were designed for completely different purposes (web document display), that it lacks many UI components, that it lacks a programming model on the display side that supports good GUI development, and that it lacks desktop integration (drag-and-drop, menu bars, window closing, etc.).

    The previous attempts at this haven't been much better; X11 got everything right on the application side but screwed up on security and compression, Display Postscript and NeWS had serious technical problems and never really pushed remote usage, etc.

    The closest to a good web applications delivery language might be XUL or Microsoft's proprietary clone. Or, maybe, just maybe, people will finally clean up the HTML/Javascript mess and fill in the missing bits and pieces; the standards for that are on the drawing board, but whether they get adopted is anybody's guess. Until they are, AJAX applications are going to remain painful to develop and limited in functionality.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay