Ajax on the rise, finally

My good friend Jesse just posted a great essay about javascript-powered web-apps he calls “ajax.” It’s the start of something big and I’m glad to see Google finally doing innovative stuff with this technology.

All this talk of persistent connections and javascript powered streaming data reminds me of my brief time at KnowNow back in early 2001. Adam and Rohit discovered and exploited a largely unused feature of the http 1.1 spec that allowed a browser to connect to a server and stay connected. New data would stream in via javascript and they built half a dozen of the most amazing applications I ever saw. I remember being sure that this technology would change web application development forever, and enable web apps that felt more like desktop apps, way back in 2001.

Google Maps and Google Suggest barely scratch the surface of what you can do with this technology. I don’t know what the statute of limitations is on NDAs, but internally we had full blown IM environments, auction pages with real time bidding and chat with the seller, and a whole host of other demos all built in HTML and javascript that never saw the light of day. They did get seen at PC Forum back in 2001 and they caused waves. Where those waves went, no one knows.

Without going into any more details or burning any more bridges than I already have in this post, I also remember all the great ideas from the passionate engineers and designers getting squashed one by one by upper management and everyone with a good idea being squeezed out as the company lumbered from one hair-brained attempt to the next to become an enterprise software company. There was a tremendous opportunity for innovation and the company could have been at the forefront, but everyone was laid off or quit from boredom, and here, 4 years later we’re finally starting to see a few apps get built using this technology.

links for 2005-02-19

Ye Olde School

Jason’s latest retro feature reminded me that I too used to have a boring webcam on my site, and how folks used to setup multi-blogs with everyone’s webcam shot going down the side with their posts intermingled. You could probably do the same today fairly easily with RSS and a bit of hacking.

So anyway, there’s now a shot of me taken every 60 seconds from my office. Not much to see unless you work with me or IM me and wonder why I’m not answering (“oh, he’s not on the cam, so he’s probably eating or on the phone or something”).

I’ve long weighed the issues between private and public life and tried to strike a balance. Five years ago, I was all free software, free love, and free information. I practically had to be stopped from posting my SSN on my site. A few hard lessons taught me to scale that back, but it’s still my belief that deep down, once we all have blogs and all our thoughts and dreams are out there in the public database, we’ll be less prone to privacy attacks. If everyone can see everyone’s skeletons in their closet, they cease to be skeletons anymore.

At least that’s what I tell myself when I inevitably see someone save a webcam shot of me picking my nose.

links for 2005-02-16