Winer unloads on iTunes

It’s kind of a guilty pleasure, but I can’t help it — I love reading Dave Winer when he gets on a rant (except maybe when it involves Adam Curry and the origins of podcasting). His latest is on iTunes, and having used it before with both Windows and Mac, I have to agree. Dave’s rant was apparently sparked by this post by Rex Hammock on his blog.

“The user interface on iTunes is awful. It’s the worst piece of crap I’ve ever used. People would tell me when I was a Windows user that it was because the Windows version of iTunes is crap but the Mac version is easy. Well, both programs are head-up-butt impossible to figure out. The user model makes no sense. When is something on the iPod? How many copies of the music do I have? Where the fcuk are they? How do you delete something? Is it really gone? Why does it wipe out the contents of the iPod when I don’t say it’s okay to? What did I do wrong? I swear, I have no idea, and I’m a professional software designer. What about the poor schnook who is just a user?”

Rob Hyndman says he has dumped iTunes as well, mostly because it’s a pain to use in a networked environment (memo to Apple: this is a big problem, and likely to get bigger). And David Berlind at ZDNet has some thoughts on the DRM issue as well.

Why would anyone want to buy Opera?

So now it’s Microsoft that’s supposedly going to buy Opera, everybody’s second favourite alternative browser (next to Firefox, of course). Not that long ago, Google was reported to be the one looking at buying the company. Of course, Google was supposed to buy Riya too, but that never happened.

This one could wind up in the “nice rumour, shame about the facts” file as well. A spokesman for Opera says there is no truth to the rumour, and while companies often deny things that eventually turn out to be true, the denial wasn’t one of those weaselly “we can’t comment” denials – it was a flat-out “no way it’s happening,” kind of denial.

Could Microsoft be looking at acquiring Opera? Sure it could. After all, buying the company would probably cost about what Microsoft generates in free cash flow every half an hour or so. But why? Opera has about 1 per cent of the browser market, which makes Firefox look like a giant. It’s not a bad browser, but all the things that make it special – including the tabs and other doo-dads, as well as the stripped-down mobile version – are fairly easy to duplicate.

So the question is, why buy the company? Any goodwill that Opera has developed in the browser market would be annihilated by a Microsoft acquisition, so that’s worthless. The browser is free (thanks to a deal with Google). In fact, the Google rumour made way more sense, since Google doesn’t currently have a browser. Of course, that doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t buy Opera anyway – it just means I don’t think it makes much sense. My friend Paul Kedrosky says it makes as Microsoft “buying a lavender farm.”

It’s not Flock vs. Performancing

It’s too bad that the popularity of Performancing.com’s blogging extension for Firefox seems to have turned into an anti-Flock thing, because I don’t think it has to be that way. I know people tend to see things in a kind of binary way — Performancing is great, so Flock is f***ed, as Paul Kedrosky so eloquently put it — but I think there’s plenty of room for both, or at least I hope so (Paul takes another crack at his thoughts on Flock here).

Chris Messina, who is Flock’s ‘director of experience and open source ambassador’ (that’s quite the title, Chris), has written an impassioned defence of where he thinks Flock is going, and why it makes sense. He makes some good points, but I also liked his comment on Paul’s blog, where he says: ‘I hope you get a lot of traction out of Performancing. It’s a decent piece of work and I’m excited to see more Firefox folks getting into blogging. Flock isn’t going to be for everyone and nor will Performancing. Isn’t it nice to have choice on the web again?’ (Miss Rogue over at horsepigcow has another take that I quite enjoyed).

People like Mike at TechCrunch shouldn’t feel like they have to come to Flock’s defence. The company and the app came under some fire for the early hype, and an initial version that was a lot more alpha than beta, but that’s the way things go. I’ve tried the Performancing extension too, and I think it is fantastic — and I must admit it made me question the need for a whole separate browser too. But we shouldn’t get religious about these things. I’m going to keep checking out Flock.com to see if they can change my mind. Choice is good.

Will Google-AOL help consolidate IM?

It may be nothing but a footnote to the Google-AOL deal, but to me (and others like Stowe Boyd at Corante and Gary Price at SearchEngineWatch) the proposal to blend GTalk and AIM into a seamless instant messaging service is the icing on the cake — and if there’s one thing I love, it’s icing.

It may take some technical voodoo, but at least it takes us down to two main networks — since Microsoft and Yahoo have said they plan to make theirs interoperable. I’ve been using Trillianand Gaim (which Paul Kedrosky over at Infectious Greed also seems to like) because I know so many people on other networks, and I haven’t used GTalk because I know most of them won’t switch applications just to talk to me.

And why should they? It’s like asking people to get a new cellphone because your phone can’t call theirs. It’s absurd — and that means it has to change. Will Microsoft or Yahoo ever agree to make their networks compatible with GTalk? It seems pretty unlikely right now, since all the big companies seem to see IM as a kind of Trojan horse that can bring VOIP and a host of other services to users, and help achieve “lock-in.”

I think they are wrong. Lock-in is something that very few companies achieve (operating systems being one of the main exceptions) and it’s particularly unlikely to happen when — as with IM — the whole point of the software is to be more connected and communicate with others. Anyone who facilitates that, whether it’s Trillian or Gaim or Meebo and other Web-based IM clients, will benefit.

Update:

Julian Bond at Voidstar has some interesting thoughts on the IM front as it relates to VOIP, and the Googletalk blog has some more info if you’re interested in that angle and how it relates to Libjingle.