In the video below, Aza Raskin of Mozilla — who happens to be the son of legendary Apple designer Jef Raskin and is also the developer of the excellent music app Songza.com — demonstrates some of the ways in which users could tie together different services with Ubiquity, by inserting a Google map and reviews of a restaurant quickly into an email to a friend. The app recognizes simple terms like “map these” (after a number of listings are selected), and different services can be added by simply subscribing to scripts that use Ubiquity’s code.
It seems like everyone is moving in the direction of desktop-to-cloud synchronizing, or the blurring of borders between online and offline. Google has Google Gears, which lets you synchronize your Google Reader RSS feeds, and Zoho has synchronizing features for its online document-editing and spreadsheet tools (which Google will presumably be adding to its Google Docs services soon). Google has had a rudimentary bookmark-sync tool for awhile now, and Opera recently added one to its browser. Where will Mozilla’s Weave sit in this landscape of tools?
More importantly, are we going to have several competing standards for this kind of syncing, or is everyone going to agree to use open-source methods such as FOAF and OpenID and all that other semantic Web goodness? I would hope for the latter. If there’s anything worse than having to type the exact same personal info into half a dozen social networks, it’s having to replace all your bookmarks everytime you get a new machine. Synchronizing would be a huge boon — and Mozilla says it will be encrypting the data too, which is another plus.
So I can click on a desktop icon and open a Gmail window, which is great — but it’s really just a browser window with all of the browser bits (like the address bar and the back and forward buttons) taken off, as Phil Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped points out. It can be added to the Start menu on Windows, but you know… ho-hum. I seem to remember that Internet Exploder’s “Active Desktop” setting could do something similar, but no one really cared and so no one used it.
I realize that this is still an early demo, and there are no doubt all sorts of great things ahead for Prism, some of which Phil mentions in his post, and others of which are described by Ryan Stewart at ZDNet and the Wired blog. And there’s no question that the blend of desktop app and Web app is something that holds a lot of promise. So maybe I should give Prism more time to become amazing. As it stands, I’m underwhelmed.
Valleywag isn’t the only one to smell a rat. Why would the founder move on and say he wants to build another company? He’s not even finished building the first one yet, for chrissake. It’s not as if Flock has become a massively successful enterprise and he can move on to bigger and better things — there’s still plenty of debate about whether there’s any point in developing another browser with Flickr and blog integration, since Firefox is so extensible. I like Flock, but it seems like a bunch of features tied together and disguised as a product.
A quote from Bessemer Venture Partners makes it sound like they need someone with talents Bart doesn’t have. Says general partner David Cowan:
This development has been anticipated since the day we started the company, and if itâ€™s happening sooner than anyone expected, itâ€™s only because of the traction weâ€™re getting with partners that taxes the team for experience and resources.
Here’s Bart’s bio. He’s the former head of marketing and business affairs for the Mozilla foundation, and before that was involved with Eazel, a Linux desktop project. Pete Cashmore at Mashable wrote favourably about one of Flock’s recent initiatives: a private label version of its browser released in partnership with the photo-sharing site Photobucket.