I wrote most of this long ago, but don’t think I ever published it.
The next generation of web tools and web services will all relate to one special site, http://127.0.0.1/. It is fortunately so that no single person or company owns this site. So, what is on that site? Well, you have to ask yourself that question, because it is your own machine, your desktop!
127.0.0.1 is for some reason the IP-address of your PC (or Mac or whatever), localhost. Most of us doesn’t, however, ever see this address. At least not via the browser. Of course, it would also mostly just give an error page if we tried.
But that is a pity. Think of all the good stuff you have on your harddisk (or network drive). Imagine this to be accessible, to yourself, via your browser. The World Wide Desk is a somewhat scary idea. There are of course lots of things that should never get out on the WWW, but WWD is different – it is your web.
Writing is good. It should be easy to write, also to write for the web. Desktop applications like MS Word suck. Web-based tools rule. This is the argument behind one of the most successful innovations in web applications, we have seen in recent years: The weblog. Normally, however, a weblog is something you write for others to read. The modern fear of exposure, as Richard Sennett calls it, is hereby challenged. Some people love it, but many are “afraid” of the exposure it implies. But what about a Desktop Weblog, the DeskBlog, then?
Ideally, we get the best of both worlds. Harnessing the computation power at the desktop, and the interoperability and interactivity of the modern, semantic web. The total realisation of what “client-server people” have talked about for years.
Dave Winer talks about Desktop Websites: In the centralized model for the Internet, your browser makes requests of a server that could be very far away, or slow for other reasons. Now imagine that the server is very close and you don’t have to share it with anyone, it’s yours and yours alone. It would be fast!
The DeskBlog phenonemon is an example of what Winer calls Internet 3.0.
Version 1 was the pre-Web Internet, the playground of techies and geeks and professors and programmers. Gopher, FTP, email, newsgroups.
Version 2 was the Web, instant messaging and email. Broad adoption. You can buy movie tickets on the Web. Internet kiosks and cafes are everywhere. URLs on all business cards. Who needs the Yellow Pages when we have Yahoo?
Internet 3.0 will realize the groupware vision of the late 80s which was really Doug Engelbart’s vision of the 60s and 70s. Shared writing spaces with good boundaries. Structures that link to each other but are capable of managing greater complexity than the page-oriented metaphor of the Web.
Moore and Metcalfe in action
In Internet Version 2, your desktop computer’s performance monitor got flatter and flatter as CPU performance travelled up Moore’s curve, but the architecture failed to take advantage of it (except from things like games). In Version 3.0, your CPU will start doing more work and your local hard disk will contain much of the information stored on centralised servers, that you have told you want. The ‘intelligent’ DeskBlog system will ‘know’ what you normally find important, and send a “bot” out and look for news on the web, or at friends’ DeskBlogs. Techies like Winer are creating opportunities for “average” users to write scripts that customise your desktop interface, and allows you to include your own creations in the user interface. “You won’t have to be an eyeball (sometimes it’s relaxing), your brain will be more active in Internet 3.0”, Winer writes.
Desktop Websites are according to Winer technologically similar if not identical to modern, centralised webservers. The network effect that Metcalfe’s Law dictates will be proven right even for Version 3.0. The owners of a DeskBlog will be creating and consuming content in XML via webinterfaces, so the average user does not see the XML unless requested. The desktops can be set to co-ordinate internal and external resources with a minimum functionality “cloud” that links things together, in the background, using new syndication standards like RDF and RSS. For example, the communication channel can be optimised to flow content when you’re not using bandwidth, whether it is grabbing high-fidelity audio or video, or updating applications such as virus protection, or refreshing content through news feeders, etc.
The possibilities are endless, once you start to imagine various scenarios. This is why broadband internet access is interesting. This is the basis for the semantic Two-Way Web. This is what the internet is all about!
Scenarios for 127.0.0.1
Right, let’s not get too carried away. Let’s look at some practical application scenarios:
There are some pretty good search tools out there on the web. Bring them to our desktops too! We really need them.
Personalisation de luxe
Big portals offer advanced personalisation services. Let the desktop help making these services even better.
Automated translation service
… is just one of the affiliate type of services we could start to use. These services are getting better and better on the web, so let’s also get them to the desktop.
Radio Userland is also a news aggregator, but first and foremost, a blogging tool. It’s quite popular, but proprietary.
AmphetaDesk is a “free, cross platform, open-sourced, syndicated news aggregator” that “obediently sits on your desktop, downloads the latest news that interests you, and displays them in a quick and easy to use (and customizable!) webpage”.