Posted:November 2, 2006

Just in Time for Christmas: Vista in the Crosshairs

Or, Give your computer the bird.

Computers are frustrating. Creating documents, finding files, sharing information — why do everyday things still seem so tedious and counterintuitive?

Dave Kushner interviews Blake Ross and gets a preview of his new Parakey venture in the November issue of IEEE Spectrum. Ross, a 20-yr old wunderkind and one of the driving forces behind the Firefox browser, has teamed with Joe Hewitt of Firefox and Firebug fame to create an absolutely disruptive new approach to computing. Quoting from Kushner’s article:

Just as with Firefox, Ross began this project by asking himself one simple question: What's bad about today's software? The answer . . . resided in the gap between the desktop and the Web. . . . The problem, according to Ross, is there's no simple, cohesive tool to help people store and share their creations online. Currently, the steps involved depend on the medium. If you want to upload photos, for example, you have to dump your images into one folder, then transfer them to an image-sharing site such as Flickr. The process for moving videos to YouTube or a similar site is completely different. If you want to make a personal Web page within an online community, you have to join a social network, say, MySpace or Friendster. If you intend to rant about politics or movies, you launch a blog and link up to it from your other pages. The mess of the Web, in other words, leaves you trapped in one big tangle of actions, service providers, and applications. Ross's answer is . . . Parakey, "a Web operating system that can do everything an OS can do." Translation: it makes it really easy to store your stuff and share it with the world. Most or all of Parakey will be open source, under a license similar to Firefox's.

Thus, Parakey aims to bridge the divide between desktop operating systems and the Internet, using the browser as the common user interface. Parakey will give users the ability to easily host their own Web sites via their desktop. Even though Parakey works within the browser (all leading ones are to be supported), it actually runs on the local computer. This enables developers to do many things not allowable in a traditional Web site. By the use of easily assigned “keys”, the desktop owner can also easily and simply post or allow access to content of their choosing — from documents to photos to files — to become “public” to the distribution lists associated with these keys. Remote users get issued cookies so that their access to the local resources is seamless and without friction.

Similar to the models of the Firefox plugin or Web services, the basic Parakey platform can be easily extended. Ross and Hewitt have created a programming language, JUL (for ‘Just another User interface Language’), likely similar to the Mozilla XUL, for developers to write these components and extensions. Though the launch date for Parakey is being kept under wraps, all signals point to before January. The pre-launch company site allows interested parties to enter their email address to receive formal notification of the launch.

It is rather amazing that this article came out on the same day, yesterday, as John Milan’s blog post on on Richard McManus’s Read/Write Web blog. In that post, Milan posits Mozilla as another one of the gorillas (elephants) in the room and Adobe’s Apollo project as another “under the radar” approach to the desktop/Internet browser convergence.

All of this seems rather ironic as the world (Redmond) awaits the release of the long-delayed Windows update, Vista. Even the mighty do indeed live in interesting times.

Posted by AI3's author, Mike Bergman Posted on November 2, 2006 at 11:48 am in Adaptive Information, Open Source | Comments (3)
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