Future of Web Apps 2008

This isn’t a philosophical rant about what constitutes the future of web apps but rather a quick plug for the extremely informative FOWA conference which takes place in October (8th to 10th) in London. I’ve already booked my place and I thoroughly recommend it to others.

These conferences can sometimes be all hype and no substance but this one is full of great content. If you still don’t believe me then read my Blog post on last years event.

I’ll see you there.

I’m registered as both an academic and a manager this year, that should give me a confusing and interesting choice of ‘buddies’!


Future of Web Apps (day 2)

Day two of the web apps conference was much like day one and I could describe the talks which would perhaps be interesting but nothing more than looking on the FOWA site and checking the tools out.

I met up with some colleagues and after the morning sessions (on SlideShare by Rashmo Sinha and The Future of Presence by Jyri from Jaiku and Felix Peterson of Plazes) and we discussed the fact that there are a plethora of tools that are aggregating feed of other services to provide you with a presence generater (where am I what was I doing, what do I intend to do) this can be a very good or very bad thing and people seem to be divided on whether it’s useful or not for them. For example why do I want to be part of the dopplr community when I don’t do any serious travelling (this is the further I’ve been in a couple of years) and those people I know that do travel has someone (usually their secretary or partner) who knows where they are! :^) – I can see how it would be good if I was part of a crowd of frequent travellers, so dopplr has a user group but it’s just not for me.

This made me think about the themes emerging form the conference so I’ll share these instead and they actually correlate with some of my predictions which I included in my earlier future of content blog. This is pretty good since you can assume that about 80% of predictions never come to pass.

So here are the themes I took away

(i) Entropy and Chaos – Website builders can’t predict how people will use their sites. You can’t simply throw people off since this makes them come back with a vengance so rather you need to ask why are they using the site in this particular way? – it could be that they have an idea that needs to be pursued. This is how Dogster and Catster came to being because people wanted to share pet profiles with each other but couldn’t do it on other “about me” type spaces (they tried and the administrators remove the pet ones, ha!). You need to adapt to users needs and keep control to a minimum at least on social networking sites.

(ii) Omni-visual-presence – (almost but not quite godlike!) – having your presence available to everyone in the world, “where am I”, “what am I doing”, “where am I going”, “where have I been”. Big mashups are being created around presence and the aggretaion of dynamic content (calendaring, twitter, mobile location sensing (plazes) and so forth) to create a real sense of the real you.

(iii) Semantic web or just screen scraping? – The semantic web is still proving a pig to bring to life and the demo’s I saw around it were disappointing to put it mildly. Slightly clever screen scrapers. It doesn’t mean it wont happen but it’s not here yet.

(iv) Web apps developers are still extremely geeky – Not a problem really just an observation. There were a lot of navel gazers and people with silly tee-shirts.

(v) The big players are still running the show – I think that Google in particular is doing so much that it would be foolish to ignore the big ones and focus in on the tiddlers.

(vi) A lot of the ‘ideas’ were variations on a theme – There were a lot of similar developers working on Facebook Apps, Social networking sites and spinoffs, ‘washing lines’ or ways to collect together data for you (aggregators), publish on demand systems and presence helpers (twitter et al).