Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Forget AJAX. GData is Much More Interesting

AJAX is all the buzz these days. Yeah, sure. It makes my web-based applications feel like desktop applications. That is important (but I kinda already had that with Flash anyway, so...). AJAX as a technology is certainly nothing new (JavaScript and XML have been around for a very long time). AJAX is a pain in the butt to use, so folks are starting to rally around Ruby on Rails instead. Again, great stuff - especially as my web-based applications become richer and more intuitive. Death to the Submit button!

However, we're spending all this time and talk on the interface technology. The needle movers are really elsewhere.

GData is poorly named (not nearly as cool as "AJAX" or "Ruby on Rails"). It's got a branding problem, to be sure. Heck, there's not even a fancy logo for it. But, ignoring that, the technology is dead-on right.

GData is the Google Data APIs (Beta). Google has plugged this into Google Calendar, Google Base, and Google Blogger. It's basically RSS & Atom (the technologies that fundamentally drive this blogging ecosystem) done right.

Right now, we all subscribe to a "feed". The "feed" is delivered to us through a newsreader client of some kind (I use NetNewsWire). Information is getting packaged into RSS & Atom feeds like there's no tomorrow, which is great for us information consumers (and aggregators). However, this is all a very passive experience today. We poll for information, download it, then process it in our client. Nothing more. Very pre-Web 1.0.

The underpinnings that drive GData allow for this to become so much more interesting. GData allows for your application (think beyond a newsreader/feedreader) to interact with the service programmatically. It's no longer poll and download. It's an API to interact with feed services. We talk about this in the context of blog and news "feeds" today, but you need to think bigger than that. These feeds are really just portals to information (think: ALL information, including that inside databases and filesystems - it's all getting plumbed with Atom right now).

What I like about this:

  • GData and other similar approaches allows for the "architecture of participation" for the applications themselves

  • It's easy to use

  • It's an extension on the stuff (RSS & Atom) that is getting plugged into every layer of our applications and operating systems (Microsoft is doing so with Vista big-time)

  • Since it is REST-based, it's so much easier to deploy and manage. This architecture has a much better chance of winning over any of the complicated SOA tools that I've seen out there to date

  • There is a serious opportunity for a startup to create a framework (or, better yet, a hosting provider similar to FeedBurner) that allows for the server applications to easily adapt to this new two-way world of feeds.

What I don't like about this:

  • It's not a standard. IETF is working on this. Stay tuned.

  • Google has done horrible marketing of this very well conceived and implemented technology.

Bottom line: This is the beginnings of the true programmatic web. The Web As A Platform. I look forward to watching the innovation.

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