eHub
September 30, 2005 6:20 AM   Subscribe

Web 2.0 overload - "eHub is a constantly updated list of web applications, services, resources, blogs or sites with a focus on next generation web (web 2.0), social software, blogging, Ajax, Ruby on Rails, location mapping, open source, folksonomy, design and digital media sharing." Tons of links to mashup apps like PervWatch, Podomatic, ThinkFree, etc, etc, etc...(note: a lot of these sites are in beta)
posted by tpl1212 (41 comments total)

 
Techcrunch is a wonderfull resource for this as well. Of course, you could just check del.icio.us/tags/web2.0 as well.
posted by rzklkng at 6:33 AM on September 30, 2005


Web 2.0? I thought by now we would be at WebXP or even Web20005!
posted by blue_beetle at 6:34 AM on September 30, 2005


Whoa, I've never seen ThinkFree before. That looks amazing.
posted by mathowie at 6:38 AM on September 30, 2005


Lot of great ideas here. Lot in beta though. OpenCourseWare Browser sounds neat.
posted by destro at 6:45 AM on September 30, 2005


I meant to add: via bokardo...who also mentions TechCrunch...and I agree, TechCrunch is awesome. My bad for non-attribution.
posted by tpl1212 at 6:46 AM on September 30, 2005


I hate the term Web 2.0. It's kind of a mash-up between Madison Avenue ad execs and McKinsey style business consultants.

Lots of interesting links on the ehub site though.
posted by caddis at 6:47 AM on September 30, 2005


ThinkFree uses old-fashioned Java applets. It's been around for five years.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:59 AM on September 30, 2005


I start to tune out whenever anyone starts to use the word revolution. Having been a foot soldier in the BBS revolution, the email mailing list revolution, the personal web page revolution, the CGI application revolution, and the revolution of social weblogs that just repeated the first BBS revolution, I'm increasingly frustrated with techno-utopian rhetoric that results in the same BS every five years.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:03 AM on September 30, 2005


Btw, Writely is a pretty nice Ajax-based word processor.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:09 AM on September 30, 2005


So, how good is ThinkFree?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2005


I just discovered ThinkFree. Given the poor condition of Java-built UI's (YED is the only tool I've ever seen that I didn't immediately know, or mind, was written in Java) that they have a near pixel perfect clone of Office 2003 is astonishing.
posted by effugas at 7:10 AM on September 30, 2005


Meebo (multi-system IM in a browser) is also really slick.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:25 AM on September 30, 2005


Just another step backwards.

When the web first started out, it was all about making access to information easy. Then Mosaic comes out and before you know it, everyone is hacking around HTML to get pretty layouts that jumble up the underlying information. CSS was suppose to come around and rid us of all that. Take the presentation away from the information, get back to the roots of the web.

But with this "2.0" buzz going around, and ideas like this being the era of interfaces, we're taking a step backwards.

It's like Flash all over again. Unless you're a human, able to interact with a visual interface, your access to information is cut off. Search engines, screen scrapers, screen readers, etc.. will be blocked from information sitting behind "2.0" apps. No JavaScript interpreter? Well you're out of luck. Disabled XMLHttpRequest and related functions for security reasons? Well, tough luck to you too.

It's no different than designing a website that only functions under a specific brand and version of browser. It locks other users out.

"2.0" works for applications that do not manage access to information like an office suite. To me, that serves the same market Flash and JAVA have for the past few years. Revolution? Naw, just reinventing the wheel.

There are already laws in place to keep accessibility to at least government information open to everyone. Here's hoping the private sector takes a cue from the government on this one, and not get caught up in all the buzz.
posted by ruthsarian at 7:27 AM on September 30, 2005


Well...I think there are some pretty spiffy steps backwards out there...
posted by tpl1212 at 7:41 AM on September 30, 2005


(note: a lot of these sites are in beta)

Of course they are in beta, it wouldn't be web 2.0 without the "beta" tag ;)
posted by menace303 at 8:19 AM on September 30, 2005


Search engines, screen scrapers, screen readers, etc.. will be blocked from information sitting behind "2.0" apps. No JavaScript interpreter? Well you're out of luck. Disabled XMLHttpRequest and related functions for security reasons? Well, tough luck to you too.

Umm, so what? Look at Meebo. If you need to use an IM client somewhere that you only have access to a browser, it's great. Who cares if search engines or screen scrapers can't get at the information? They're not relevant (or even desirable) for that kind of app.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:21 AM on September 30, 2005


isn't alpha the new beta, and pink the new black?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:33 AM on September 30, 2005


I hate the term Web 2.0. It's kind of a mash-up between Madison Avenue ad execs and McKinsey style business consultants.
I hate the term mash-up. It's kind of a remix between abused hipster slang and blogger vagaries.

oh, and I thought that the rise and regression of dot-com business magazines like Fast Company, Industry Standard and Business 2.0 would've put paid to the idea of using "$whatever 2.0" as a hype label.
posted by bl1nk at 8:41 AM on September 30, 2005


Armitage: ruthsarian told you in good detail exactly "so what": that these application prevent use by blind and other handicapped people by being inaccessible to screen scrapers. By dismissing them as irrelevant and undesirable, you're suggesting that this type of person has no need for the applications developed under such technology.
posted by boo_radley at 8:43 AM on September 30, 2005


The basic accessibility problem with a lot of DHTML-based stuff out there is that the app is relying on a visual cue to let the user know something has changed. Supplying an audio cue for visually impaired users might be all some of these applications need.

Things like "drag the shirt into the shopping cart to get the price" are a bit more problematic.
posted by gimonca at 9:08 AM on September 30, 2005


But with this "2.0" buzz going around, and ideas like this being the era of interfaces, we're taking a step backwards.

and

...that these application prevent use by blind and other handicapped people by being inaccessible to screen scrapers

I'd like to think that a lot of these applications are early-on in development...and on a broad scale "Web2.0" (or whatever-the-hell is an acceptable term for this type of development would be [is beside the point]) is young. I'd like to think that these developers aren't totally shrugging off accessibility issues...and in fact this type of application will end up being quite accessible.

Currently, I see these apps & services more as an testing ground for new things. As they evolve, larger scale user and community issues (such as accessibilty) will probably/hopefully also evolve.

I disagree strongly that things like this are "steps backwards."
posted by tpl1212 at 9:15 AM on September 30, 2005


This thread could easily devolve into a slugfest between (sometimes self-identified) contrarians like myself / KJS / ruthsarian and people enamored of the new-for-being-new.

So, in the interest of pre-empting some snark threads, let me propose some theses:
  1. This is not a revolution. Instead, it's a bunch of people waking up to the fact that you can now do in all (graphical) browsers what you could do in IE (and Mosaic 3.0) c. 1999.
  2. These changes are really only useful to graphical users.
  3. Not all web users are graphical. Humans with normal eyesight and normal-range motor control capabilities are graphical. Some 'bots are probably graphical.
  4. Richer graphical interfaces don't help non-graphical users.
  5. Not all activities benefit from richer graphical interaction models. For those that don't, "web 2.0" offers no new benefits.
  6. Apps that are partially hosted, can only be fully used when the client is online.
  7. Yes, I'm aware it's 2005, and yes, I'm online a lot -- but not always, and not always for the obvious reasons. For example, I haven't been able to contact my POP server for six hours, due to some certificate issue.
SUMMARY: Yes, AJAX / Web 2.0 is cool. But cool don't take out the trash.
posted by lodurr at 9:31 AM on September 30, 2005


By dismissing them as irrelevant and undesirable, you're suggesting that this type of person has no need for the applications developed under such technology.

No, I'm suggesting that you can't set accessibility for everyone above everything else for every application. A fully-featured IM client that used only HTML would be absurdly difficult to build and virtually unusable. Complaining that it's a step backwards is analagous to complaining that an interactive 3D visualisation applet is a step backwards because it can't be scraped or used by blind people. What makes this a step forward is that it's possible to build rich apps like this without having to use bulky and proprietary technologies like Java or Flash.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2005


Web 2.0 is great.

My examples: Google Suggest and Google Maps

Is it really a step backwards, that google suggest can offer up suggested searches, or that google maps can scroll around without tedious reloads of the whole page?

Like every other web technology, some hoser will do something dumb with it, but that's no reason to dislike the concept.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:17 AM on September 30, 2005


I love how MeFites are so hard to please.
posted by Lush at 10:20 AM on September 30, 2005


lodurr: It amuses me how we go around in circles. About 16 years ago, I was using hosted thin-client applications writing articles for a campus Newspaper. Probably 2009, people will be using hosted thin-client applications to write their documents.

The socio-cultural definition of Web2.0 I linked to above strikes me as being a better conception than a shopping list of technologies and applications. But it still strikes me as a bit blinded to the fact that a lot of those things were already happening before javascript and xml.

It's not a step backwards, but it certainly isn't going to turn society upside down.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:28 AM on September 30, 2005


Let me quantify my "step backwards" statement.

It's a step backwards for the world wide web.

In terms of creating applications that are platform independent, yes, this is ufcking awesome. I love the idea that I could use a word processor inside my web browser. That I dig. It allows application developers to target a much larger audience while only having to maintain a single code tree. From ever aspect, in terms of application development, this is great.

But this is a step backwards for the world wide web. Why? You can read my own wild rants on this but I'll try to summarize. The web is about information management; specifically the quick and easy access to information.

A "Web 2.0" word processor is not a gateway to accessing information. It's an application used to develop information, not access it. (Or it shouldn't be used as a primary means to access information, anyways.) But as "Web 2.0" matures, you're going to see people use it as a means to access information.

I go back to Flash as perhaps the best example of what we will see with "Web 2.0". With Flash, things started out as small movies that look kind of neat. Eventually we saw things like games and animated shorts being developed with Flash. That's fine.

But now we have entire websites that can only be access through a Flash movie. Information that is only accessible through a Flash interface. Anyone without Flash has no means to access this information. This includes search engines, screen scrapers, screen readers (older ones at least, which are still popular) and anything else that doesn't have Flash and isn't able to process information through a visual means.

You're going to see this come about with "Web 2.0". You're going to see websites working entirely through XMLHTTPRequest calls because it makes it so much easier to track usage than parsing log files. You're going to be able to have live operators that monitor user activity and if someone is having a problem, the operator can step right in and walk the user through the site to the intended information. Sounds like a great idea.. but it's "Web 2.0" based, and any client incapable of processing "Web 2.0" is left in the dust.

This isn't just screen readers and search engines, I'm trying to be forward thinking here. I have a belief that there are even greater, better applications yet to be developed that can take information and process it in ways we haven't seen before. Maybe some kind of dynamic encyclopedia which pulls its initial information from a search request, then spiders those sites, pulling out headers and strong text to generate a summary to the user. Who knows what else. I believe there's a million ideas out there that have yet to see the light of day because it is still impractical. The web is still too inaccessible with people using Flash for their whole site, using tables to create pretty layouts that break information up into unintelligible bits (unless you see it rendered visually, then it all makes sense).

But for all this to happen, for any of this to become a useful reality, we need to standardize on how information is structured and accessed. This is what HTML and the web give us. But with the creation of the graphical web browser, we've lost this focus. It's all about visual presentation to the user, not the accessing of information.

This is why "Web 2.0" is a step backwards for the web. Information will only become less accessible. The millions of ideas that lay dormant waiting to act upon a web of structured information will remain dormant.

You cannot disagree that the web has become targeted towards the visual human. We use to have text with only a few HTML tags. Anything, any client (human or otherwise) could easily parse that information and use it for their own purposes.

Then we started putting text in images, and that text became unaccessible to text-processing applications.

Then we moved to Flash, where non-Flash clients could not longer access the information. (Insert DHTML & JAVA in here as well.)

Now we move to "Web 2.0" where you'll need a modern web browser with JavaScript and XML capabilities. Where each site has it's own method for accessing information. (Yes, you use XMLHTTPRequest, that's standard, but the structure of the request will change site-to-site, making it virtually impossible for an automated process to "learn" how to use a "Web 2.0" interface.)

We continue to move away from accessibility of information, and we become focused on the visual human experience.

A step backwards for a device (the web) intended to create easy access to information.
posted by ruthsarian at 11:05 AM on September 30, 2005


Ironic that a "Web 2.0" site is using a mailto link to accept submissions.

All this new DHTML stuff reminds me of good old Word.com. Now that was a self-consciously hip site.
posted by hyperizer at 12:27 PM on September 30, 2005


We continue to move away from accessibility of information, and we become focused on the visual human experience.

I'm not sure it's that simple. I think it may be both worse than and not as bad as you think.

Not as bad, in the sense that new information aplications will likely be built to conform to "web 2.0" (gack, why does that stick so in my throat?). If that's the direction things are going -- it will go there. The information web will evolve.

Worse, though, in that i think you're right about the human actors: We are becoming overly focused, in general, on the presentation in preference to the information. We like the pretty pictures; we don't care so much what they mean.
posted by lodurr at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2005


We are becoming overly focused, in general, on the presentation in preference to the information.

I would agree that this is certainly a potential problem, but I would argue that a lot of new apps we're seeing (like any of the googlemap remixes) are actually focusing on reworking data and information in new ways...ways that potentially mean more or mean different things than what the information began as. It seems like data-display is actually driving innovation of some of these projects (and some of them happen to look pretty darn cool, to boot).

I do see potential problems...a lot of which were (nicely and thouroughly) laid out by ruthsarian and others...but just as Flash is becoming more accessible, I think/hope the same could be said for other web technologies as they progress.

Of course, I agree with lodurr...this stuff is pretty sweet, but it's, but I certainly don't see it as the be-all-and-end-all of the internet.
posted by tpl1212 at 2:13 PM on September 30, 2005


First of all, it's difficult to even argue (not for mefites) the merits and pitfalls of web 2.0, when the term is defined differently in almost everywhere.

I can't wait until I can arrive at google.com (from any internet connected PC) and load my personal graphical OS in a browser. Someone please explain to me how this is not progress?
posted by |n$eCur3 at 4:50 PM on September 30, 2005


differently almost everywhere.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 4:52 PM on September 30, 2005


It's incredible how quickly geeks pull out the BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BLIND PEOPLE argument these days. Every buzzword, whether it's RSS or Web 2.0 or the Semantic Web or CSS3 somehow has to justify it's existence to people who are using screenreaders.

It just seems a little suspect to me that a generation of tech geeks have suddenly developed a deep and wide sense of empathy for the visually disabled. There's something else going on here. Every technology that aids screenreaders is lauded as a major, important step forward. Every technology that makes things more difficult for screenreaders is rejected as a waste of time.
posted by Jimbob at 4:58 PM on September 30, 2005


Jimbob: That doesn't seem so odd to me. Several tech geeks I know happen to be physically disabled in one way or another. These are people who often need alternative communications methods and end up on the cutting edge of such things as BBS' and the internet. I tend expect more sensitivity to the needs of the disabled from tech people just by association.
posted by wobh at 6:43 PM on September 30, 2005


We continue to move away from accessibility of information, and we become focused on the visual human experience... A step backwards for a device (the web) intended to create easy access to information.

Paging joeclark... joeclark to the red courtesy phone...

Technologies like AJAX have their place, as does the current status quo of HTML/CSS. No one's suggesting this "Web 2.0" become the defacto standard internet experience, any more than HTML emails over plaintext emails. And if done properly, stuff like AJAX shouldn't hinder anyone's ability to view information; in fact, this sort of backwards compatibility is easy to code. So if your XMLHttpRequest is off, guess what—you can still gain access to important information, even if you have to load a bunch of extra pages like the way things are done now.

And let's not forget that the web has actually been decent at accomodating various accessibility issues, far more so than the rest of the computer world. From screenreader style sheets to RSS, the internet landscape has improved considerably since the days of table-based layouts. And note that a lot of people concerned with accessibility are also tinkering with AJAX and trying to figure out how best to use it; I don't expect the emphasis on accessibility will change any time soon.
posted by chrominance at 6:50 PM on September 30, 2005


It just seems a little suspect to me that a generation of tech geeks have suddenly developed a deep and wide sense of empathy for the visually disabled.

Accessibility is not all about the blind people, it's about providing information in an open, accessible-to-all format. Blind people are the canaries in the (information) coal mine, being more susceptible to the usability issues presented by less-than-open information formats than fully sighted users might be.

Are ramps going into buildings only useful to those in wheelchairs? Are elevators only important to those who can't navigate stairs? Closed captions (or subtitles) only for the deaf? I make use of these all of the time.
posted by mkdg at 9:39 PM on September 30, 2005


Accessibility is not all about the blind people

Indeed, your most important "visually impaired" visitor is Google.
posted by gimonca at 10:41 PM on September 30, 2005


Jeezopete, ruthsarian, don't you realize that a Web 2.0 (whatever that is, we have a lousy definition over at Wikipedia) application will -- in many if not most cases -- be accessible through an API and not just a customized Flash interface? Flash interfaces exist, no doubt, but the essence of Web 2.0 is in fact not the human interface but the machine interface -- this is in every way the reason that Google Maps mash-ups are possible -- and popular.

I really think you've misunderstood the point. If you don't have to go to Amazon to read your wishlist, but can import it into an RSS feed that you can display on your site, it instantly becomes ten times more useful. That site could use your wishlist to interface with the local library and tell you when the books are available, or when your local Borders is having a sale. That's information to which Google accessibility is thoroughly irrelevant.

Web 2.0 also makes web applications like Last.fm possible (not only do they stream music to a custom browser-based player, your desktop music player talks to the Last.fm servers -- even your iPod can). In the new edition it's AJAXed up for some functions, too, and I can see the difficulty of using these through that UI. You can search Last.fm by Google (in fact I prefer to search it that way, using an address bar shortcut) -- and I have access to every artist, album, and song on the site this way. Google accessibility is not orthogonal to Web 2.0 functionality. A bad flash-only interface is still a bad flash-only interface. If it's integrated using the open standard of XML, however, someone can write an alternate accessible interface using the same API.

I won't doubt that XML gateways will hide some information, but well-designed ones -- with public information -- will find a way to make that information public.

The power of Web 2.0 capability can still blow me away when I see a new implementation. I agree some of these just aren't accessible, but there's no way that I would go back to a web without images either.

Personally, although the AJAXness and user-interface emphasis in some Web 2.0 applications is often essential to what makes them worthwhile, it's also about the API, which is almost antithetical to the idea of a user interface. The power you get from a mash-up is often very much not in its user interface, but in what combining and synergizing services lets you do.

Let's take an example of the Google Maps census data mash-up. It is highly UI-centric in that you get information based on where you click on a visual map. That's what makes it fun for the sighted to play with. But the essence of the mash-up is in the data, and there's no reason that couldn't be accessed by an intrepid coder in a text-only interface. In fact I'm surprised it hasn't happened already.

Please, continue advocating for accessibility, but don't conflate issues that aren't really related.
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on September 30, 2005


This discussion is going well. Not so much of the gee-whiz vs. die-hard noise I was afraid of. Surprisingly high level of rationality. Actual discussion. Cool.
posted by lodurr at 8:10 AM on October 1, 2005


dhartung, I look back and see that my thesis #2 was ill-considered. You are right, of course; I knew it before I read what you wrote, but for some reason wasn't putting that together. Of course the click-coordinates can be mapped to map-coordinates and just passed via API call -- assuming the app is written to accommodate that, and while sophisticated apps architected by forward-looking designers will be, apps hackd together to make a buck or get some "gee whiz" cred won't be, thus (at the least) increasing my general angst. (Not that you should care about that.)

One objection I could raise to this is a sort of Wineresque one: the APIs get more complex, making the informatino inherently harder to get to.

Maybe that's just something we have to live with. Greater information transfer capabilities entail more overhead, either literally or metaphorically (or both).
posted by lodurr at 8:22 AM on October 1, 2005


I HATE EVERYTHING NEW
posted by delmoi at 7:19 PM on October 8, 2005


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