Final thoughts on Future of Web Apps

After two days of very intense conference we have tons of impressions – quite a bit to structure and summarize, but we will try. First of all, web 2.0 is still the new and cool thing. It’s very much about letting the users interact, letting the users be both consumers and producers and ‘harnessing the mass’. The last thing is saying that you should build products that becomes better as the number of users increases. Examples of this is wikis, digg and other collaborations. But as Edvin Aoki from AOL said, with building these communities comes great responsibility. As the users are more involved you have a greater responsibility to protect your users and keep what they consider as theirs safe.

Opening up your API is the next big thing, a thing that has actually already started to happen. API in this context is synonymous with letting other people jack into your service and use it as a component in their product. By doing this both parties win. A typical example is Google maps, which is used by a number of companies when map services are needed. The idea is that the whole can be larger than the individual parts. Still, as Stefan Magdalinski from Moo said, using API:s can be dangerous since it gives other people control over you. In their case their entire business is build around getting photos from flickr, which makes them very dependant on flickr.

Connected to the opening of the API:s we can conclude that proprietary is really on the way out. The future lies in collaborations, open source and standards. Even Microsoft now has embraced this in their future web projects, seems to be the message from Chris Willson at Microsoft.

Simplifying web development and not inventing the wheel over and over seems to be a trend. Many companies are offering solutions where they take care of the “heavy lifting” or “plumbing”. They provide simple to use API:s and all infrastructure needed to launch your project. This is all done on a pay per use basis. The idea is you can start small and cheep, and as you grow it will automatically scale (as does the cost). The second part of this trend is in the new generation of web creation tools. These are a merge between the old what you see is what you get editors and the kind of advanced programming possibilities needed in web 2.0. For us who have experience with using integrated program development environments, this looks a lot like a web version of what has been possible to for some time when developing applications.

An interesting thing that Matthew Ogle from spoke about is the use of attention data. This might be an upcoming trend. This is all about not asking the users to tell you what they think, but getting this information by tracking their behavior. As Matthew says, everything a user does gives them data. If she or he skips a track that says something, even if she or he does nothing at all that tells you interesting important things. Doing this, gathering usage information and then sending it back, has previously been called “spyware”. But when the users are aware of it, and use it because it’s in their own interest, then it’s “myware”, a term coined by

The question of who user data belongs to was shortly discussed in a number of speeches. In general, if you want to be 2.0, you should let the user have control over his or her data, because it doesn’t belong to you. Trapping the user by not letting him export his profile or data seems to be very web 1.0, at least when listening to the visionaries.

A technology that we will most likely see a lot of in the future is OpenID. This is a collaborative effort to solve the “single sign in”-issue. According to Simon Willson the big players are now in on this, which means that this will be the future standard. It has the benefit of not being owned by any particular company and so the “who has power over my identity”-issue seems to be at least partly solved.

Our final impression of the conference is that it was well organized, and most of all it had a very good mix of topics. Not only bringing in the obvious, but also for instance letting a venture capitalist tell us about his view on things, was clearly raising the quality. Also a lot of work was done on creating opportunities for people to meet and make new connections. We also want to thank Ryan for letting us make a brief presentation of our thesis.

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