It seems that a lot of emerging web apps today are invite-only during alpha/beta. This is smart because it allows you to limit the number of users as you deal with design, coding bugs and scalability issues. However, I’ve noticed that these sites bring a lot of attention to themselves because only a select few are able to gain access to the site. Think about it, you’re get free marketing from these select few who are offering invite codes to their friends. These friends want to know what’s going on, sign up and then brag to their friends about what exclusive service they got into (I would know, I’ve done it :-P)
Like an exclusive Hollywood night club, those who are “on the list” feel like they are part of the “in-crowd” while those who arn’t on the list want in. Sites like pownce and dopplr have benefited greatly from this because they now stand out from hundreds of 2.0 startups that many people could care less about at the moment. Since you need to be invited to joined, all of a sudden people want to see what it’s all about.
Remember when Gmail first came out? The fact that it gave users 1GB of storage was pretty remarkable at the time. However, the craze for Gmail started because it was invite only. I remember people were SELLING invites on eBay for a pretty decent amount of cash. Is an online email provider worth bidding on eBay for? Apparently it was because it was an exclusive service.
Joe Stump has just announced correlate.us which is a feed aggregator that consolidates your web2.0 feeds to one source. I already use yahoo pipes for the purpose of checking my Twitter and Flickr feeds. Unlike Yahoo Pipes, correlate.us will also consolidate your tags and adds the social aspect of checking out your friends feeds. Lastly, Joe has taken advantage of Facebook Application support, so you can add it to your facebook account.
Currently correlate.us supports twitter, digg, del.icio.us, and flickr. Although the application is still in its infancy, I love the idea of this application and can’t wait to see the addition of services like ma.gnolia, last.fm, and blog feeds/comments.
Today I have been playing around with the social web browser Flock. Flock is based off of Mozilla Firefox 1.5 and has integrated support for services such as photobucket, flickr, del.icio.us and various blogs. Like so many things, I first heard about flock at SHDH13 after overhearing Chris Messina talk about it. After looking into it I became interested in the idea of a social browser (Or hipster browser as my co-worker Kyle calls it). After about a month I have finally found the time to sit down and take a look at the newest version of this browser.
The setup process was very smooth; I was able to import my settings from Firefox and setup my del.icio.us, flickr, and blog without issue. I was even able to install some of my favorite firefox plug-ins (Fetch Text URL and Firebug) pretty easily. Once setup, the browser’s flaws quickly revelead themselves. Here is a list of features I would like to see in the browser to make it a more user-friendly experience.
- Gallery2 support: It’s great that Flock has integrated online photo service support, but what about the people who host their own gallerys? (such as myself) Most of my photos reside my gallery2 photo gallery. The photo feature is of very little use to me because I don’t use flickr as my primary photo service (but that might change in the future).
- ma.gnolia support: This doesn’t bug me as much as my previous concern, but it would be nice to have support for this other bookmarking service. I might actually be making the switch from del.icio.us to ma.gnolia in the future, but that’s a whole other blog post ;-)
- Firefox 2.0 features: This should be obvious and is already a big discussion topic on the flock forums. The two biggest features I miss from FF2 are the spell checker for textareas and the support for 3rd-party RSS readers when clicking on the RSS feed icon. With flock you only have the option to add RSS feeds to the built-in reader, which I am not a big fan of.
- Blogging features: I really like the idea of being able to update my blog from my web browser. The biggest use I can see from this feature is being able to blog on the fly about a website I’m visiting; however, where is the button to add the URL of the site you’re visiting at? Also, what about saving the blog post you’re working on instead of only being able to publish it? Don’t get me started on tagging options…
- Default buttons: I think the blog button should appear by default on the toolbar, if you have a blog configured, for quick access. Why else would you setup your blog on the browser?
- Bookmark support: Overall this had to have been the biggest disappointment about the browser. When I read it could integrate my del.icio.us bookmarks to my bookmarks, I was sold. When I saw my bookmarks however, I saw well….nothing. I finally did find my del.icio.us bookmarks in the favorites manager; Even this wasn’t all that impressive. First off, I feel the bookmarks should have the option to be in the main bookmarks menu or at least have their own folder. Furthur, what about sorting bookmarks by tags? Perhaps a folder per tag with bookmarks in those folders with that particular tag? It would beat displaying the tags as a comma-separated value.
- Quick search: Where is the support for this? I’m sure Flock has it built in somewhere (since it is built off of Firefox), but I think it should be more obvious of how to add/edit quick search links.
- Starring: This seems like a promising feature, but I think it needs to be more customizable. I thought I saw something about adding the sites I star to del.icio.us, but it seems to be gone. From what I gather, a starred site appears in your “recent favorites” folder. It’s nice, but I would like to see the ability to customize its function.
Overall Flock is a great idea that is still in its infancy. It has some features that are still left undiscovered, so I plan on playing with it some more. Once the community grows larger, I expect great things out of this browser. I still plan on sticking with firefox 2.0 for my browsing needs, but I will be keeping a eye on Flock.
If you’re anything like me, then you’re moving from computer to computer. Syncing data between all of these workstations can make your workflow both inefficient and unorganized. There are also cross-platform issues, and the different data formats between applications. This article will demonstrate how to overcome these problems with the use of web 2.0 applications in regards to bookmarks, RSS readers, office applications, email, and more.
- Bookmarks: When I’m at my various workstations I usually bookmark websites that are of interest to me. This concept is not new, but what happens when I need to access a bookmark from another computer? I could always sync the bookmarks manually or possibly write a script to do it. Instead, the usage of an online bookmarking site such as del.icio.us or ma.gnolia solves this issue. These services allow for access to your bookmarks from anywhere you have an internet connection. I personally use del.icio.us (although I will be looking into ma.gnolia soon), so I will use it as my example. With del.icio.us you either install a plug-in for firefox or put two buttons on your Bookmarks Toolbar; one for viewing your bookmarks, and the other for bookmarking the site you’re on. It’s a very simple process that has led to a large list of bookmarks that I still need to check out.
- RSS Reader: RSS is one of my favorite web2.0 technologies that I use on an daily basis. First I used Vienna to manage my feeds, but I found myself having to export my list so I can sync it on my other computers. This obviously had it shortcomings. Then at SHDH 13 I was introduced to the wonder that is Google Reader. Google Reader is an online RSS feed reader. Besides being cross-platform and accessible everywhere I go, the greatest feature isn’t even in the program itself. Like a lot of people, I use firefox. One of my favorite new features in Firefox 2.0 is how you can click on the RSS feed symbol when visiting a web site and add the feed to your online reader of choice. This makes it just as simple as bookmarking a website with the del.icio.us buttons.
- Office Applications: We have all used a word processor or a spreadsheet program; Microsoft Word and Excel being the more popular of the two. Google has created (or bought-out) their own version of these programs for online use: Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Sure there are desktop freeware alternatives, but by using online applications you don’t have to worry about any time consuming installations or running updates. Another feature worth noting is how it saves the documents you are working on in a central location. Just today I was talking to a co-worker about how he was able to work on a school assignment on his home computer (running Ubuntu Linux) and continue with his assignment during his lunch break with his work computer (running Mac OS X).
- Mail/Calendar: You should start to see a trend by now, so it should be obvious what my recommended online email application of choice would be; Gmail/GCalendar of course! Back when I was using windows as my primary workstation, I used Outlook for my mail and calendar needs. I often found myself needing to access mail or contact information from a remote location to look up information. Instead I had to wait till I got home to look through my archived mail or contact list. When I made the switch to mac, Entourage (The Outlook clone) seemed like the natural choice since I was never a big fan of mail.app. The process of exporting my data from one OS to another AND from one data format to another was much more difficult than it should have been. This is when I made my official move from a desktop email client to an online email client. I currently use gmail as my primary email client and haven’t looked back. Google Notifier will let me know immediately when I get a new email or if there is an upcoming calendar event. This makes the entire gmail suite feel like a desktop application.
- To-do list: We all use stickies or scattered text documents for our to-do lists. Using a site like voo2do lets us store all of those stickies or text documents in 1 central location. It’s great for jotting down random ideas wherever you are. I also heard about using Google Calendar as a to-do list. This may seem like more of a logical choice by allowing me to consolidate my services to 1 provider and add native features.
I hope this has demonstrated the benefits of using web 2.0 applications in the place of standard desktop applications. There are many alternative programs than the above listed, so if you don’t like my recommendations, go out and find something that suits your needs. There are some downfalls of using these applications, such as when you don’t have an internet connection, but I feel the benefits far exceed the downfalls. Remember that the above posted solutions are free, usable on any platform and you don’t have to back up your data (especially handy when you format and need to reinstall applications).