Archive for December, 2006

The new wave of software?

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

I was looking for an easy way to create blogs for a while, and I stumbled upon TiddlyWiki http://www.tiddlywiki.com/. I think it is safe to say that there is a completely new set of applications hanging around which are breaking new ground compared to the classical way of working with C/C++/Java whatever. TiddlyWiki is a single HTML (!) file, and it is programmed in Html, CSS and Javascript. A similar revelation was Scrapbook http://amb.vis.ne.jp/mozilla/scrapbook/, which is a little Firefox extension which allows you to capture the webpages you are visiting, and potentially edit and comment them. (Here editing mostly refers to cleanup – in sense of removing all the adds, links and other @#$% which infects todays pages – it is providing a little tool called the DOM Eraser for this). I was looking of the source for a while – and then I realized that the whole thing is implemented in JavaScript – and it was a 65KB (!) download. And inevitably, one needs to think about all the AJAX (supposedly, asynchronous javascript and xml) type of interfaces which are popping up everywhere. The most obvious ones being the Google mail and mapping applications – but of course there are many others – including most of the new online mailers from Microsoft and Yahoo. I am ambivalent about all this furry of new applications:

  • they put back the fun in hacking – they allow very small applications to be useful – this was not true for a long time.
    • BUT: they are annoyingly hackish and spend a lot of effort to do things for which clean implementations exist. Designing active user interfaces in HTML is an unqualified nightmare (and that includes tag libraries, server faces etc). And that when user interface libraries are the poster child of clean object oriented design! Seems like a step back to me.
  • the apps are undoubtedly cool and useful. I use them all the time.
    • BUT: they won’t scale. I am not talking of GMail AJAX – obviously what you see in a single page can be handled, and everything else goes on the server side, whatever that be. But unfortunately TiddlyWiki and Scrapbook can not become the big generalized knowledge repositories we are all dreaming of – their architecture simply does not permit this.