When Tim O'Reilly and others began using the term "Web OS" (or sometimes Internet Operating System) to talk about the evolving landscape of companies and web services, I was skeptical. I've been skeptical for a long time and convinced that it's not going to happen on anywhere near the time scale that many people seem to think it will.

But I recently came across something that completely changed the way I think about the idea of a Web OS. Over on the Flickr Ideas forum, I came across a posting titled Flickr is NOT MySpace compatible... please make a javascript free "Badge".

Take a minute and think about the language that Daniel used there. It the exact same sort of complaint you might have heard 5 or 10 years ago about a desktop application. "Is CoolNewGame compatible with my Mac?"

That's what opened my eyes. I had always been thinking about a Web OS from the point of view of a software developer--someone who sees many of the problems inherent in making Tim's vision into reality. And that's even before trying to get users to understand what it means.

In fact, I never stopped to think about how, if, or when "normal" users might start to think about web sites (or services) in the same terms. I just assumed that would need to happen "later."

Apparently that has already begun to happen.

Posted by jzawodn at April 27, 2006 12:55 PM

Reader Comments
# Ray Everett-Church said:

Javascript-free badge? Sounds like a job for Flash. One of the upsides of Flash is that you can use it in places where the security problems of javascript make it impermissible.

on April 27, 2006 01:13 PM
# Abu Hurayrah said:

Haven't been been struggling with standards-compliance and browser-only compatibilities for the longest time? It's the constant battle between open standards & proprietary functionality.

I'm sure you've encountered more than your share of sites that have worked only in IE and nothing else, or only in Firefox & not IE (even though it's possible to make it work in IE sometimes), and so on.

As long as there is an insistance on doing things in a proprietary fashion, then incompatibilities will continue. Then comes the next point - whose standards should we follow? That's another can-o-worms, but it's easier if they're all open. Firefox has already started supporting WHAT-WG standards alongside with W3's, and I haven't seen "crossing the beams"-style devastation yet...

on April 27, 2006 01:26 PM
# Raghu said:

Right, users will expect that their Numsum spreadsheet be cut-and-paste-able into their Writely doc. As simple as that.

If you haven't already, take a read of http://www.zimbra.com/blog/archives/2006/04/zimbra_ale-ajax_linking_and_embedding.html

on April 27, 2006 09:36 PM
# James Day said:

It's an excellent point alright.

There's much to like about web services but I'm not going to be fully convinced until I get satisfactory answers to:

1. Will I get a search warrant, subpoena or other due process before my data (including my work and my company trade secrets and information about my customers that I'm required to keep confidential) is handed over. If not, why would I want to let it out of my custody and lose those hard fought for protections?

2. How do I back up and move my data from service to service without losing any of it?

on April 27, 2006 09:38 PM
# David Young said:

I thought the whole point of the Internet Operating System was that you don't own your data, the service does.

on April 28, 2006 12:14 AM
# Peter Forret said:

A JS-free badge for Flickr photos? Why would you use Flash?

If it's static, use an auto-generated JPG of 4-6 vertical pictures. If it's supposed to do some basic animation, use animated gif.
Look at the Feedburner Headline Animator: you can argue about the design and layout, but using an 'API' like [img src=""] really works everywhere.

Better than any [OBJECT], [EMBED], [SCRIPT] or the likes.

on April 28, 2006 01:28 AM
# Raghu said:

No David Y,
You still *own* the data but it lives on a server farm somewhere rather than on your computer. Sort of like Bank of America holds your money or ETrade holds your share certificates. You still own it - they hold on or host it for you.

The pt I think Jeremy is trying to make is that the Internet OS might seem kind of complicated from a programmerr's of view but users expect things to 'just work' and this rather than programmers might be the drive to making this reality.

on April 28, 2006 08:20 AM
# David Henderson said:

When choice is abundant the user is in control.

Basically what that user is saying was if you (flickr) will not fulfill my needs someone else will. There are how many web 2.0 photo apps? Now if a user says they want a feature in Excel, how many Windows spreadsheet apps are there?

I was precious observing this telnet in Media 2.0.

It goes like this:

Content is abundanant
Distribution is open and abundant
Attention is scarce

Therefore the consumer is in control.

Apparently it works in Web 2.0 as well.

2.0 apps are abundant
The OS is open and abundant
Attention is scarce

Therefore the consumer is in control.

on April 29, 2006 05:59 AM
# David Henderson said:

opps...previously not precious ........duh ;-)

on April 29, 2006 06:05 AM
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