The Web Is 25 Today

mosaic.6beta_610x569If you think about it – not a lot has changed since the web was born 25 years ago – we still use browsers – even though some have come and gone and have been reborn again – even thought we’ve seen a huge uptick towards mobile, even there we use mobile browsers to view the internet. In fact, I’m typing this blog post in a browser – of course no one at the time would ever imagine how the browser and the web would fully disrupt software as we know it.

If you look a Mosaic today, what you see is a very, very crude versions or what I’m using to write this blog post – while the power of the browser itself has changed – and many layers of technology have appeared to replicate the software on my desktop experience in the browser, I’m still loading a web page. If I were to look at my source right now, I’d still see HTML and hyperlinks, just as Tim-Berners Lee imagined it.

Of course, in the early days, the power of hypertext was in the ability to let you jump to the link when you needed additional exposition on that specific word – thus the term web “surfing”, you’d bounce from page to page, sometimes digging into the pages, other times, finding another path to somewhere else, with no idea how to get back. Until of course, you pressed the “back” button.

Even though we still call it “surfing”, we no longer surf in the traditional sense, well, most people I know don’t. They take a less active role, preferring instead to allow curated content to come at them in feeds, whether they be properly curated or not, The web of today is more of a lean back experience than ever. And since most people experience the web via Facebook, Google, Amazon and the like, and rarely venture far off those beaten tracks, there is even less – and likely to be less tomorrow. We went from a free roaming experience to one on rails (borrowing from the video game world) – even though we CAN go anywhere, we choose not to, preferring the popular neighborhoods than going off the beaten track.

Where will the web be in 25 years? Unrecognizable, I should think. First of all, we are already seeing a burst of different devices, mostly wearables, which will give us new form factors to consider. The web itself will shatter into a million niches – requiring the ability to display everything from single words, to weighty tomes, in any format, on any device, in a way it can digested. It’s like responsive design on steroids – and it will have to look awesome on all of them – since design will continue to be super important.

Secondly, a lot of the “stuff” that we have to do – things that seem really complicated and formidable to accomplish, will simply disappear. Oh, they will still be there, but they will subside into a pure platform play. For example, something like eCommerce, selling stuff, paying people, that won’t be a thing onto itself, its will become integrated into the fabric of the web. There won’t be payment apps, just payment APIs, hidden from the end user. And not just payment APIs, many services which require a full app and complicated instrumentation will disappear.

So many things will become effortless and seamless. You won’t need to do many things any more – agents will do things for you on your behalf – based on things that you’ve already done, things that it thinks you will be doing, and even things that it think you might want to do. Everyone will be a rock star, as technology provides everyone with an amazing virtual entourage, anyone can enjoy a rock star experience.

After that – the web will be everywhere. Once the web is everywhere – once every dumb device is smart and connected, we will have so much big data that we are able to, we can solve every problem.

We do have the web to thank for that. If it wasn’t for Tim, then the only people using the internet would be nerds and geeks like me. And there are only so many of us.

One of the things I like to joke about is that my Dad used to say “Why are you doing computers? Computers are a fad! You should get into a business which is necessary! Like being a doctor, lawyer, real estate agents. Everyone gets sick, everyone needs a house! Even barbers are necessary. But computers?” I think about what he said and I realize that the web is not only responsible for my career over the last 20 years, but also the careers of millions more. If you can possibly imagine life without the web, and the huge driver of commerce and economic growth that it has become, then I don’t want to live in that world. I could, but I wouldn’t want to.

So cheers to Tim Berners-Lee and the web. I have not idea where I’d be if it wasn’t for his awesome invention. Probably still crawling under desks and replacing hard drives, I suppose.

Why So Flat?

why-so-flat

Been doing some research on wearable devices (see Next Hot Space: Wearables) and I’ve come to the conclusion that we will have to see a radical shift in the way interfaces operate in this new world. When I look at wearables like the Meta space glasses, which project a 3D, nearly holographic image into your field of vision, then go back to the interfaces on your typical device today, I’m struck at how flat and similar everything looks.

Almost every app is just FLAT. Sure, its in 2D, but then everything is in 2D. Every know and then, you can see that the designers understand that they can do 3D, but its more of a nice design touch, and not integral to the design. For example, when you switch users in the iOS twitter app, it looks like a turning box. Nice, but no boundary pusher.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking 3D like the Nintendo 3DS or even 3D TV. In fact, I fully believe that we will soon, if not already, get a pushback on the use of that kind of 3D. What I’m talking about is making our interfaces live in a 3D world behind the screen.

Games have been doing it forever. Look at Infinity Blade, for example. It seems to me that sure, 3D is very cool in games, in rendering a new world for your users to experience and your characters to live in, but for some reason 3D hasn’t caught on in the app space outside of games.

If you ask me, there is a great opportunity here not only to create cool new 3D interfaces for mobile, but interfaces which can be seamlessly ported to the 3D wearable world, when projecting a 3D interface into a wearable device becomes more commonplace.

Despite what we see in Minority Report, I don’t think displays will remain floating 2D constructs which can be moved and swiped away, but 3D objects which can be rotated. We’re talking Tony Stark vs John Anderton, and Stark’s the winner.

How to prepare? Easy. Just look at your interfaces and see how they can be reworked for 3D. Consult with or bring on a designer with 3D modeling expertise. Have them generate menus and functions as 3D models in Maya, or if you can’t afford that, Blender. Use something like Unity 3D or some other game creation software to take those models and turn them into a fully functioning app.

If you do this, you’ll be ahead of the curve next year as wearables start hitting the mainstream in a big way, and you’ll already be working on an interface of the future.

Kill The Loading GIF

Seen this lately?

loading_spinner

 

I’ll bet you have – and the hundreds of other variations of the ubiquitous, LOADING, PLEASE WAIT gif or whatever – you know that thing designers throw in when they realize that their page is taking too long to load?

The thing that I don’t get is that if you ask me, we are seeing way more of these that we should. Not only that, we are seeing MORE now than we ever have before! If our network speeds keep going up, why do our pages keep slowing down?

When I first started out on the internet, using a trusty dial up to get on, we could live with a few seconds delay when we logged on. For one company I worked for, we got a fully graphical home page which, gasp, clocked in at 50K, and it took what we thought was forever to load.

Fast forward to today: we have fiber to the home, upwards of 25Mb to most homes, and if you actually clock the real time from click to page or app load, its worse than a few seconds, placated by a loading gif. Why is that?

As processing speeds and network throughput speeds have increased, we’ve kept pace by making our web sites and apps slower and slower, burdening the user with having to wait and wait. Even the normally snappy Google home page has now added junk, in the guise of Google+ notifications, an apps grid, and other stuff which most probably don’t need. Reminds me a bit of the days where Microsoft would release versions of Windows which would slow existing computers which were upgraded because they were targeting the next generation of hardware – I think they learned that lesson with Vista.

If you ask me, the web and apps should be loading faster, not slower. We should be seeing LESS of the loading gif, and not more.

I get that as technologies move forward we need to use the latest and great tools to provide the absolute best experiences. But we should also look to the overall speed experience, from click to run, and I’m not talking just adding in loading gifs when the pages slow down. I mean, figure out what is slowing you down and unless its key to the whole experience, junk it.

This is also an unfortunate side effect of the API economy, where a lot of what you are doing depends on some API or another to work. For example, I just switched thinkfuture.com over to Livefyre, and even though I feel its a better experience, my comment load time has slowed down.

We are going in the wrong direction. We are slowing down our sites and apps at a faster rate than the speeds that the networks and devices are accelerating. We’ve got to make it a focus to turn this around, to retire the loading gif for good. So let’s do it.

Facebook: The Good, Bad & Ugly

facebook-like-butonAs one of the 5 sites most people use to experience the internet, Facebook has really strayed from its original purpose. Now, I’m all for a company making money, as a miniscule shareholder I applaud that, but on the flip side, it’s made using Facebook, at least for me, pretty excruciating.

The Bad : The News Feed

I have 402 friends as of this writing. A modest amount I’m thinking, I’ll bet there are plenty more our there with a lot more than me. I find that as a way of letting me know what my friends are doing, its pretty damn useless now. Here are my main issues with the news feed:

  1. It feels like its more full of sponsored posts than actual items from my friends. My wife says it feels like about 20-30% of her feed is sponsored posts, to me it feels like 50%
  2. I can’t tell you how many times I open up the app on my iPad and see something interesting immediately from one of my friends, for about a split second. It then immediately updates and I lose that post, having to dig and dig through a tons of other updates and attempt to find it again
  3. Some of my friends are really prolific – others not so much. I seem to get so much more from the prolific friends than anyone else. Please, Facebook, implement some algo which allows me to tone down some people and amplify others. I know I can mute people but with all of the smarts back there, you’d think they’d be able to at least do one thing: put anything from your significant other (as indicated by you being in a relationship with) front and center. I can’t remember the number of times my wife asked me “did you see that thing I sent you on Facebook?” and I missed it because of all the other junk
  4. IMHO, the news feed is the core of FB. It needs to be awesome. And at the moment, it isn’t

The Good : Chat

I’ve used the messaging on FB very effectively. My wife uses it to keep in touch with her friends from all over. That’s one thing that works very well.

The Ugly : Ads

OK, so like I said, I can’t fault them on trying to make money but the ads are terribly targeted: I get ads for single things even though I plainly state that I’m married, plus I get all sorts of ads for games (which I never play) so I can’t imagine why they think I might start. I understand that some of this is the advertiser picking an audience, but still, FB needs to have some overrides in place in order to continue to provide me with RELEVANT ads. I’m sure that they could improve both their click through rate, their revenues and make their customers and users much, much happier if they targeted better. Its not like its impossible, Google has been doing much better than this for a while, and they know way less about me than FB does. Please, FB, leverage all of that great data to give me ads that I can’t help but click on, not reams and reams of irrelevant crap.

Got your own story of Facebook love, hate or indifference? Let me know below…

Apple Announces iPhone 5S & 5C : Nothing New Here

iphone5sI just finished watching the iPhone 5S and 5C announcements and boy, I didn’t realize that I was going to be so right when I wrote Apple Misses The Innovation Sweet Spot last week – there is literally nothing new – sure its faster and the screen is better but everything else except the for the fingerprint sensor remains the same. How long has the idea of a fingerprint sensor in your phone been around? Forever.

How the mighty have fallen…

I was discussing Apple’s apparent lack of innovation with a friend of mine and we agreed  that Apple will continue to rake in huge money for a while, but they really have lost the ability to innovate – there will likely be nothing new and different from them. Not that they don’t likely have a ton of innovators with great ideas, but I think they have settled into a comfortable position, just like the hard drive companies outlined in The Innovators Dilemma – they are fat and happy and can’t see themselves being upended by anyone.

IMHO, they should really take the threat from Microsoft seriously. If Microsoft decides to ride it out in the same way they did in the video game console space, in 5 years or less, they will be the second place smartphone vendor to Android, and Apple will slide into their natural spot at 10% of the market, unless they do something bold.

My prediction: by 2020, Android 55%, Windows Phone 35%, Apple 10%. Whats’s your take?

 

Thoughts On The New Yahoo! Logo

yahoo-logo

Back when I used to work at Yahoo!, we used to have all hands meetings on a regular basis – we’d all pile into the huge cafeteria on campus and there’d usually be all sorts of goodies – one time when Krispy Kreme first came to the Bay Area, we had boxes and boxes of sweet deliciousness delivered, other times it was pizza, beer, popcorn. Those days were pretty fun, even if sometimes the news wasn’t so good, we all felt like we were part of one big family.

My most memorable moment: we were all sitting down and watching the stage, I think it was right after Terry or Jerry had said their piece, and I seem to recall someone rolling up to the mic in a wheelchair. The crowd completely hushed, wondering what it was all about. She started talking about being diagnosed with a disease (I can’t recall which one but it was fairly rare) and feeling incredibly alone and sad. But then she went on Yahoo! Groups and found a group which was focused on the victims of this particular disease. She never felt alone again – they found support with each other via this group – some of them even moved closer to each other based on the connections that they made via this group. I don’t think that there was a dry eye in the house as  she told this story – and I’m sure that for most of the people there, that was the proudest that they ever felt about the company that they worked for.

My colleague leaned over to me and said “this is what Yahoo! should be all about” and I said “yep, connecting people”. This is what the internet should be about – amplifying the voice of the user so that they can be heard.

When I look at the new logo – do we see that passion? Do we see the heart and soul of an internet company which has touched so many lives? Does what you see now represent all of what Yahoo! has to offer? Doubt if even superlogo can do that. Tall order, huh.

I like it. It’s modern, its clean (i remember using tiny versions on powerpoint decks and the serifs making it look muddy – lets hope that this cleanliness starts to infect design all over Yahoo!), its practical (I can see it work in all sorts of resolutions and formats). Plus there are all sorts or subtleties that are cool – the larger Y and O almost connoting a dual loudspeaker. In another light, it has a slight reference to a fish – maybe a goldfish cracker coming up against a fishing line (the exclamation mark). I think that loudspeaker connotation is cool – you can say that it represents an amplifier – that Yahoo! amplifies the voice of the people – the voice of their users.

loudspeakersYahoo! has always been most powerful when it amplifies that voice – the voice of the user (Yahoo! Answers, Groups, Tumblr – anywhere where regular folks get a voice), the voice of the long tail. Maybe if Yahoo! can focus on the long tail again and be that amplifier, that would a be powerful value proposition.

 

Don’t Just Consume, Create!

create

I’ve been having a long, back and forth discussion on “whats wrong with the youth of today” with various folks of my, somewhat advanced age group, and I think I’ve come to a few conclusions:

  1. We are probably saying the same things about “the youth” that our parents said about us
  2. The divide is not between the young and the old, its between those who consume or create
  3. It’s never been easier to create, so why don’t more people do it?

I’ve heard many laments about the employment situation as well – both young and old are having trouble getting jobs. They spend endless hours looking for work, and then spend other endless hours watching YouTube videos and playing video games. Pretty soon, as time goes on, less time is spent looking for work and more time is spent on entertainment. Eventually, entropy and human laziness being what it is, most people fall into the consumption trap. They spend all of their time consuming, and none of their time creating.

A few nights ago, I was talking with one of my sons about his career path. He’s always said that he wanted to develop video games. So I set him up with Unity and he cranked out an app called Birdhouse Mania (with some help) and it is now sitting in the app store, where its racked up a grand total of 6 sales. Better than zero, right? Prior to this, he would spend all of his spare time endlessly playing video games or watching YouTube videos, when he could have been cranking out more games. He was consumed by consumption, not creation. Of course, creation is much harder than consumption, so he’s back to his old ways, but I’m pushing him to create more.

One of my other sons chose music as his major, only after a lot of hand wringing and major swapping. He had trouble figuring out how to actually make a living at it so he first tried chemistry, then math, and finally realized (after lots of pushing from my wife and I) that he should major in music, since that’s where his talent lay. But how to make money at it? Create, not consume!

In my experience, no matter what you are interested in, if your interest only ever drives you to consume things created by others in that interest, then you will never make any money from your interest. Consumption doesn’t pay. However, creation DOES pay. It pays directly in some ways, and indirectly in others.

My music major son listens to and plays a lot of music, but never records it. I’ve encouraged him to start a blog, post stuff, video or audio record himself playing, join social networks, interact with others. Create some content featuring his talents, that might lead to money. He talked about a pianist in Russia who charged $470 a year for access to her library of videos, and the ability to send her questions and have her post new videos answering those questions with techniques to solve the issues asked about. Not only does she make money from the subscriptions, but she also creates more content for her library. Its a win/win – for her and for her students. Creation pays. So I suggested that he do something similar, he said it was too much work, and went back to his studies.

But I digress. My point is that if you have an interest, don’t spend all of your time consuming content on that interest. There may have been a time in the past, prior to the internet, were it was near impossible to create monetizable content from your interests, now its completely doable. Difficult, but still doable.

So to all of those out there who are unemployed looking for their next opportunity, whether you are a high schooler, a newly minted college graduate, or an industry veteran finding yourself between jobs – now is the time to put this time to good use and start creating. Set up a blog, on Tumblr or WordPress. Spend time blogging about the stuff you are interested in. If you want to learn to code, just do it. If you want to learn how to write video games, just do it. Spend some time, between job searching, creating, blogging, recording videos or podcasts. Get as much content out there as you can, while you can.

The more content you generate, the more content will get out there, the more chances that someone who can give you that leg up will see that content. Or if you are even luckier, you can just live off of the content you generate, via adsense income, affiliate links or whatever.

The point is – time in creation is much more valuable than time spend in consumption. And nothing is stopping you from creating, right now. So go create!

Are We Seeing A 3D Backlash?

3dglasses

After making it the default setting to always see the 3D version of any big budget sci-fi, superhero, big bang bang action movies if its available, I’ve made the decision to stop – after seeing Avengers, Iron Man 3 and Star Trek: Into Darkness in 3D, and planning on seeing Pacific Rim, I don’t think its really worth it. Being a huge Star Trek fan, I watched Into Darkness in both 2 and 3D and I can safely say that the 3D did not add anything to the experience. I’m finding that with nearly everything out there, that when the 3D is added post production, that it simply does not add anything to the film.

I read lately that the latest 3D Doctor Who special didn’t go over very well and that the BBC was going to shelve any more 3D stuff for at least a few years. Plus I hear that ESPN is dumping their 3D feed.

Here’s my thinking – not only has 3D not really been properly utilized, there really is no compelling reason for 3D unless the environment is more fully immersive, ala the holodeck. 3D works great when you are fully immersed in the experience, like with VR, but not if the 3D is simply popping out of a screen, unless that screen is huge.

I saw Avatar in an IMAX theater in 3D. While I didn’t like the premise of the film (just another Dancing With Wolves, tech & capitalism bad, natives & nature good), that was a great 3D experience, due to the real thought put into the 3D experience AND the immersive effect of the giant screen.

While it sounds like a great idea on the surface, its not there yet and if you’re planning on seeing any 3D films soon I say save your money and check out the 2D versions instead. Although, I’m wondering what they might look like through an Oculus Rift

iOS vs Android vs Windows: It Doesn’t Matter

iospress13-1370892975So the Apple Developers conference was here in San Francisco this week and there of course were thousands upon thousands of Apple fanboys and fangirls thronging the Moscone Center and many surrounding areas. I usually try to stay away from these pure fanatics but I just HAD to say something once I saw the new interface for iOS7.

I’m sorry but unless you are a total tried and true Apple fanatic its obvious that a lot of the design of the new iOS is a complete lift from both Android & Windows phone (also the new Yahoo! Weather app, which is very cool). But as most Apple fanatics can’t see beyond the awesomeness (in their mind) which is Apple, then they can’t see that at all.

I randomly posted that I thought that iOS 7 looked a lot like Android and boy did I ever get spammed. Apple fanatics were basically telling me to GTFO the message board, like it was for Apple ass-kissers only.

Sigh.

We really should be beyond this crap. Personally, I see operating systems, interfaces, etc as tools to get a job done, not something worth having a jihad over. If I need to code for a Mac, I’ll do it on a Mac. If I need to code on Windows, the same. I’m typing this post on a Ubuntu box that I set up for a specific project. All of these interfaces and operating systems look and act similarly, and they are all simply tools. You use the tool which gets the job done most effectively.

It’s kind of like the differences between Democrats and Republicans, there really aren’t any. ;)

When it comes to IP, c’mon people: everyone has always ripped everyone else off: Xerox PARC came up with the genesis of what you see on a desktop, and everything is a distillation of that. Google stole from Apple, Apple stole from Google, Microsoft stole from both, everyone nabs what they feel are the best features from other OSs and puts them in, hoping no one will notice, but of course, unless you are a total fanatic, everyone does.

Personally, I don’t think the latest reveal will save Apple with anything innovative: they’ve been all about incremental innovation since the iPhone.

We’ve read the rumors, we’ve seen the banners, and now its finally here. Live from the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Tim Cook has just taken the wraps off of the latest upgrade to Apples mobile operating system after pumping up the crowd with some shimmering stats for the current OS, naturally, and as expected, the company’s maintained its familiar naming scheme, introducing the world to iOS 7. Cook called it the biggest change to the operating system since the introduction of the iPhone, bold words supported by new features and a new design that managed to get a visible gasp from the room full of developers when shown off in a promo video.

via Apple shows off completely redesigned iOS 7 at WWDC, coming this fall.

A 3D Printed Face

This is very cool – using 3D printing technology to replace tissue – we have barely to scratch the surface of what 3D printing can do – it truly has the ability to disrupt a huge number of markets – with luck it won’t be regulated out of existence like many other industries .

Next step: figuring out some way to build using biological materials instead of plastic. Its coming.

Surgeons have employed cutting edge three-dimensional printing technology to create a prosthetic face for Mr Moger, 60, in what is thought to be the first procedure of its kind in Britain.Advertisement By making scans of what was left of his skull and using computers to recreate what his face would look like, they were able to use a new type of printer that builds up layer upon layer of nylon plastic to produce the components they would need.The prosthetic face has transformed the father-of-twos life, allowing him to drink his first glass of water and taste food for the first time since he underwent surgery to remove the tumour. Until now he has had to eat and drink through a tube directly into his stomach.

via How a 3D printer gave me back my face.