Archive for August 2005
Google’s Desktop Search tool had its limitations. Perfect to search through web/file cache, unusable otherwise.
Now, with the launch of Google Desktop 2 (still Beta). The newly added Sidebar may be usable for some, but for me, instant search capabilities are much more important. I have used Copernic Desktop Search in the past, and found it much better performer in this regard earlier. Though, God knows why, Copernic is determined not to push their already good tool – adding a few features, and a bit of marketing won’t harm the cause.
Now something about Google’s Sidebar. “Web Clips” works great (it automatically subscribes the syndication, if available), but “News” takes forever to load on my desktop. “Scratch Pad” is a nice idea, but yet to find usefulness of “Photos”. Newly introduced “Quick Find” is working very well.
Along with previous limitations of not being all-purpose search tool, the other draw-back for me is search results display in the browser, it’s even slower than that in previous version. And Google probably has already realized that browser is not a good interface for desktop applications. So With this Sidebar, Google Desktop is not a browser app anymore.
So whats all this hype about. There has been talks of Google talk coming with VoIP features, and which would be in direct competition with Yahoo and Skype. The latter being the big daddy of VoIP messaging. While Yahoo is well-known Jack of All Trades, though has been victim of Google’s success in search business.
Skype, with over 51 million users, is celebrating its second anniversary next week by opening up its platform to anyone who wants to integrate Skype’s presence and instant messaging services into their website or application.
Wikipedia is vulnerable. Anyone can change it the way (s)he desires. A case has been reported of an atricle on Wikipedia about a fictional character potraying as a real person. The fictional character Kane belongs to an online alternate reality game from BBC.
There has been lot of debate over the reliability of Wikipedia as a trusted source of knowledge. But the point is, such a system is self cleansing. The fact that the truth came out so quickly is good indicator of the effectiveness of the design.
Now, some argue that “The premise of Wikipedia is that continuous improvement will lead to perfection. That premise is completely unproven”. Apparently it is. But the past has shown, just as this time, errors don’t go unnoticed on Wikipedia. If someone is interested in the reliable information, just combine the discussion page with article and one will get all the different perspectives on issue of the quest.
Someone will always be able to abuse any system, or may be Wikipedia is vulnerable to abuse, but it is made by design to correct itself over the time, and that is Wikipedia’s greatest strength.
Now, indeed AJAX is a huge step in the direction of making browser based applications more efficient as in how the data is being handled. Traditional web interface has to reload every time to show any new data and that means redundant traffic over precious bandwidth. AJAX techniques let the client call data as it requires instead of traditional brute force reload. Google’s GMail is one of the first applications to use AJAX in its present avatar and Google Maps perfected the art, though the concept of AJAX itself is not entirely new. Wikipedia has plenty of information on the evolution of AJAX.
Besides that, there are other unavoidable limitations using browser as a user interface. There are certain quirks of each and every browser, and that won’t be very easy to tame for AJAX developers. Moreover, browser based application will be unreliable as the data has to travel through network and there lies the bottleneck. And I haven’t even said anything about security, and what about offline interactions.
The more plausible scenario would be close interaction of web with OS, something like what KDE trying to do with Wikipedia in their planned collaborative development. And what Microsoft calls Smart Applications – applications which interact closely with the Internet, and utilize local computing hardware. Besides, there are unlimited possibilities to develop a user-friendly interface with desktop apps, which a browser cannot provide. There are simply too many browsers to take care of. So OS is certainly not going to be irrelevant. AJAX is exciting and but there are even more possibilities with desktop apps getting “smart”er.