[linux-elitists] What ever happened to the Open Web? (and other topics)

Andy Bennett andyjpb at ashurst.eu.org
Mon Jul 13 14:49:32 PDT 2015


What happened to the Open Web?
Facebook XMPP deprecated
MSN Messenger protocol now closed
Google Talk XMPP is 2nd class
Don't mention Slack.


Lots of land grabs in old territories now that "startups" are
mainstream. Did the UNIX vendor wars teach us nothing?


Yes. I appreciate the irony of tweeting these things but I suppose
you've got to meet people where the conversation is.

What follows isn't really an essay. More like a bunch of
barely-sentences strung together in the hope that some of you can help
me form them into Actual Thoughts. :-)

I cut my teeth in the '90s just about when "Free Software" was a thing
and "Open Source" was becoming a movement. I guess I never really
noticed the change in me from becoming a beginner to being an old hand
but now I look back and there's not many left of us!

So perhaps that means I'm the one who should be taking responsibility
now. Yet somehow I'm not. I'm doing a little bit of software and sending
it out into the world with open licenses where I can, but I'm not really
like one of those great people in the '90s who really started the
communities and held them together. Where are those people now? Google?
Blogging? Retired?

"We" really did make a lot of headway in the '90s, through until about
2005. Not only had we made pretty good alternatives to most proprietary
products, they were almost usable by "real" people. Then Ubuntu (for all
its sins) came along and made it accessible to "regular" men and women.

I noticed we were losing ground in the handheld space. That was "the new
platform". ...but it was "OK", right? ...because general purpose PCs
were where the genesis of "the next big thing" always occurred because
that was the only environment that could host them.

Now there's "mobile first" and whilst that's not a terribly open
platform, it's certainly where the mind-share of so-called "developers"
is. No matter what you think of modern development methodologies and
product values, that's where the mind-share is. ...and, as has been
wrung out on this list in the past, that culture cares nothing for the
Open Source foundations that it builds with. That's where the next big
things are happening now. Or in walled garden apps (and sometimes
ecosystems) that are hosted on a website somewhere. Even if it's not
intentional, there's usually not any time to invest in the
infrastructure or build a lot of connectors.

I don't want to pick on anyone in particular, but why didn't Slack
embrace the IRC protocol? Isn't it just as easy to make an IRC bot as it
is to make any single Slack integration? Damn: even if they embraced it
and extended I'd still have a lot more respect for them than I do for
what they've done. Afterall, it's easier to write a new, 80% thing than
it is to understand an existing thing that works.

...but don't let me rant! Back to mobile!

Over the last few years (since the demise of Open Moko really) I have
come to the belief that "we" have a very small window to really attack
the handheld device market in a meaningful way. However, this window is
now closing fast.

With the advent of colour e-ink there is, for the first time in about 20
years, an opportunity to ship a very simple handheld device. The barrier
to entry for current handheld devices is rather high because they
require a lot of processing power and graphics capabilities to support
the kind of experience that is expected. However, with a first
generation, colour e-ink display the requirements are far lower and
there's a fighting chance that someone, working on their own without
much budget, can ship a useful device with a decent battery life.

I'm not talking about taking the market by storm. Such ambitious plans
are not for me. I'm talking about itch-scratching. I'm waiting for
mobile devices to get as good as the Psion and the Palm Pilot were!

They were about *productivity*, not media consumption & messaging. I
want something that I can empty my thoughts into as I wander around. Not
"whilst sitting on a train": actual wandering.

I'm a technical person, so most of my work is done sitting at a desk,
but it turns out that I do most of my thinking when I'm wandering from
place to place. For now I'll forgo my shower thoughts: those tend to be
more along the lines of architecture and design which are less word
based, difficult to type and waterproof computers are harder.

So I want something with some kind of editor.

...and I want a long battery life because I really am incredibly lazy.

...and I guess I'll take an Internet connection and a cellular
connection as well because they enable a whole bunch of really useful
things when you're in the city and even I have to admit that messaging
has it's uses even if it exposes you to interruptions. ...but I do that
with a small hesitation because I'd really like it all to work really
well "offline" so that I can keep going whenever is convenient for *me*.

A colour screen enables one of the killer apps of large-screen handhelds
which is mapping.

...and e-ink enables a sensible battery life.

...so we need GPS.

Of course, once you can type effectively on the device then you can
program as well. So it'd be nice to write little macros for things.

...and that implies a much more tightly integrated environment than the
commercial platforms.

Rather than a system of apps that are hosted in an OS, I'd have a system
of services that could project (or create) views. I'd make it very data
centric. So you might have a "mapping" view where each service could
offer a different layer: one for the images or cartography, one for the
GPS, one for the GPSs of your friends, one for the router, etc, etc.

Anyway, I seem to have degenerated into a wishlist rather than anything
productive and I've covered "The open web", "free software development &
culture" and "mobile" which I think is plenty of stuff for now!

Am I the only one living in this frustration?

Where are all the sensible people of yesteryear who could see the flaws
in the status quo, knew how to fix them and had the energy to go about it?


andyjpb at ashurst.eu.org
0290 DA75 E982 7D99 A51F  E46A 387A 7695 7EBA 75FF

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