rich internet applications

HTML5 Definition Complete, W3C Moves to Interoperability Testing and Performance

HTML5_Logo_128The W3C announced today that the HTML5 definition is complete, and on schedule to be finalized in 2014. This is excellent news for the future of the open Web, that is, all of us. If you were involved in discussions about mobile development strategies at our recent conference you’ll want to check out all the details at http://dev.w3.org/html5/decision-policy/html5-2014-plan.

Moving right along, the HTML Working Group also published the first draft of HTML 5.1 so you can see a little further down the road for planning purposes. See http://www.w3.org/TR/2012/WD-html51-20121217/.

From the W3C newsletter…

W3C published today the complete definition of the “HTML5″ and “Canvas 2D” specifications. Though not yet W3C standards, these specifications are now feature complete, meaning businesses and developers have a stable target for implementation and planning. “As of today, businesses know what they can rely on for HTML5 in the coming years, and what their customers will demand,” said Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO. HTML5 is the cornerstone of the Open Web Platform, a full programming environment for cross-platform applications with access to device capabilities; video and animations; graphics; style, typography, and other tools for digital publishing; extensive network capabilities; and more.

To reduce browser fragmentation and extend implementations to the full range of tools that consume and produce HTML, W3C now embarks on the stage of W3C standardization devoted to interoperability and testing. W3C is on schedule to finalize the HTML5 standard in 2014. In parallel, the W3C community will continue its work on next generation HTML features, including extensions to complement built-in HTML5 accessibility, responsive images, and adaptive streaming.

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Box.net Offers Proof of Its New Enterprise Strategy

box_logo.gifBox.net announced today that it has integrated its cloud-based document storage and sharing solution with Salesforce.com. Current Box.net customers that want to integrate with Salesforce CRM can contact Box.net directly to activate the service. Salesforce.com customers may now download Box.net from the Salesforce.com AppExchange.

Box.net services will now be available in the Lead, Account, Contact, and Opportunity tabs of Salesforce CRM. In addition, the Box.net native interface and full range of services will be accessible via a dedicted tab on the Salesforce CRM interface. Users can upload new files to Box.net, edit existing files, digitally sign electronic documents, and e-mail or e-fax files. Large enterprise users will be given unlimited Box.net storage. The Box.net video embedded below briefly demonstrates the new Salesforce CRM integration.

While Box.net started as a consumer focused business, today’s announcement marks the first tangible manifestation of its emerging enterprise strategy. Box.net intends to be a cloud-based  document repository that can be accessed through a broad range of enterprise applications.

The content-as-a-service model envisioned by Box.net will gain traction in the coming months. I believe that a centralized content repository, located on-premise or in the cloud, is a key piece of any enterprise’s infrastructure. Moreover, content services — functionality that enables users to create, store, edit, and share content — should be accessible from any enterprise application, including composite applications such as portals or mashups created for specific roles (e.g. sales and/or marketing employees, channel partners, customers). Users should not be required to interact with content only through dedicated tools such as office productivity suites and Content Management Systems (CMS).

Other content authoring and CMS software vendors are beginning to consider, understand, and (in some cases) embrace this deployment model. Box.net is one of the first proprietary software vendors to instantiate it. Adoption statistics of their new Salesforce CRM integration should eventually provide a good reading as to whether or not enterprise customers are also ready to embrace the content-as-a-service model.

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Of Twits

I came across an interesting scene the other day on Larry King. Ashton Kutcher was basking in his success to be the first person to have 1,000,000 followers on Twitter, beating CNN by just minutes. My first thought was "Why Ashton Kutcher?" My second was "Why not?" As an aside, should we now call Ashton King Twit? 
 
Anyway, it got me thinking about Twitter and how I communicate electronically. I have been a rabid user of text messaging for several years. It has become the primary mode of communication with my college age sons (except when we are in the room together), who have all but abandoned email, even IM. Phone based text messaging even allows my wife and I to constantly keep in touch while I travel without requiring both of us to be talking synchronously (another way of saying being tied up at the same time). Asynchronous communication in the form of emails, text messages, tweets, IM, etc. have freed people up from maintaining a real-time state with their conversation partners. Maybe asynchronous messaging has helped me stay married for so long. Also, messaging has become invaluable for work, allowing me to multitask and keep things moving with coworkers asynchronously.
 
Now I am using Twitter, ramping up, getting to know it better. One thing I really like about Twitter is that it is device and software independent unlike cell phone messaging which I must do from my phone. I can twitter from my computer, phone, or IPod Touch. If you haven’t added your phone to your Twitter account, do it now (more info at http://help.twitter.com/forums/10711/entries/14014).
 
By the way, I looked up Twitter and Twit on a couple online dictionaries. The noun Twit means "an insignificant person" or "an excited state". The verb means to "taunt". The verb Twitter means "to talk lightly and rapidly" just like a small bird twitters. I don’t think Mr. Kutcher is an insignificant person, or his accomplishment unworthy of attention, but he does tend to talk excitedly and to taunt ("You’ve been Punked!"). Why not Ashton Kutcher indeed! </>

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Tell Us About Your Favorite Web 2.0 Tool

There sure is a lot of news about Web 2.0 these days. It can be hard to take it all in, and there seems to be new tools every day! So how to make sense of it all.

One way to learn more about these tools is to attend the session I will be hosting at the Gilbane San Francisco Conference (http://gilbanesf.com) in June called "My Favorite Web 2.0 Tool". It will be organized in the fast paced "Lightning Round" style, with 10 speakers covering 10 topics in 60 minutes (yes, that is about 5 minutes each). This unique presentation format allows for presentation of many ideas at once, encourages audience participation, and tends to be fairly hilarious.
 
Got something to say about Web 2.0 tools? I would love to hear from people interested in participating in this lightning round. Send me a one paragraph description of why your favorite Web 2.0 tool should be included in this session (send to dale@gilbane.com). We’re open to a broad definition of Web 2.0 tools too. We are looking for innovative ideas, game changers, or even just entertaining or fun apps!
 
We would love to hear from you!. The slots will fill up fast so don’t wait if you hope to participate.
 
See you in San Francisco!

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Now That’s Customer Experience: Part Duex

I received a number of emails after my blog on Iron Mountain’s Friendly Advice Machine, including some from non-John Cleese fans who still thought it was a fun experience. I even know of some colleagues who have visited the site multiple times ;-)
Still, I thought it would be interesting to get the real statistics on visits and impact from the company themselves. Iron Mountain’s Karen McPhillips, VP Marketing, answered my call for an interview. Here are some interesting excerpts:


  • Aimed at IT managers, a marketing research team developed the campaign by creating a literal “buyer persona” resulting from over 100 interviews with existing and target prospects. This was not a “closed door brainstorming” session. The team identified and aggregated a long list of common process and technology IT-based pain points to drive targeted messaging with a healthy dose of humor.

  • By end-October, the first month of release, the site received 19,000 hits and exceeded viewing expectations by 20%. Audience segmentation revealed 60% U.S.-based views and 16% Eastern Europe-based views.

  • The previous Cleese-based campaign featured the comedian as Dr. Harold Twain Weck, Director of the Institute for Backup Trauma. By the end of its run, the site had received more than one million hits from IT professionals alone.

  • The company markets the campaign globally, but it is available only in English. Given the difficulties of true context-driven translations, especially for “Cleese humor,” this seems prudent. McPhillips reports no complaints on the decision from the company’s major global markets, including France and Germany.


The company expects an 18-24 month shelf-life for the campaign.

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The User Experience and the Importance of Rich Media

As the consumption of Web content becomes more highly scrutinized by business managers measuring the effectiveness of corporate information portals and online retailers analyzing conversion rates for their marketing campaigns, the importance of rich media as a fundamental enabler of the ideal user experience has reached the critical point both for enterprises choosing WCM solutions and vendors selling them. Over the past year, companies have begun prioritizing in their selection criteria the ease with which business users can create highly-usable Web sites containing multiple rich content types. Because design agencies are repositories of expertise in site usability, it is not surprising that the market has seen a dramatic rise in their influence on enterprise selection processes. Web design firms now influence 15-20% of all enterprise-wide WCM solution purchases in the U.S. and 25-30% in Europe (including systems integrators with usability domain expertise).
What does this mean for enterprises? First, it means that they can use design agencies as leverage points to ensure that vendors with the most usable solutions win their business. Secondly, it means that WCM solutions themselves are improving rapidly in terms of usability. Software vendors know that no longer can corporate IT departments prioritize low-level feature-functionality over interface design, and therefore enhancements to user interfaces are far outstripping those to extended feature-function lists. Lastly, the increased use of analytics packages to measure the performance of WCM systems against pre-defined goals means that the ROI for these systems is becoming both more quantifiable and – very likely – more positive.

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What does Web 2.0 Mean for WCM?

“Web 2.0″ is a term that gets bandied about far too often with far too little associated meaning. Essentially, Web 2.0 refers to multi-directional interactivity between one or more humans and one or more Web applications (with their associated back-ends) — period. The term often pops up in descriptions of any of the following: social computing, blogs, wikis, folksonomies, Web services, RSS feeds, online applications, collaboration, mash-ups and the Web as a platform. Don’t let the diversity of topics given as examples of Web 2.0 distract you from the fact that the key operative term is multi-directional communication. What does this mean for WCM?
For the end user, it means that Web applications such as online banking, which now rely heavily on technologies like Flash and AJAX, provide better customer service by building-in higher levels of interactivity between the user and the data within a browser session and by encouraging more efficient communication between the browser and the host. Whereas before, every user request meant a round-trip to the server, now far more data is sent at once to the browser, often in the form of an object with which the browser can interact. The user then manipulates the data multiple times – transferring funds between accounts, paying a bill, and updating an address, for example – and upon logging out, transactions are sent to the server all at once for processing. Because technologies like Flash and AJAX provide for easier inclusion of rich media in the user interface, the combined effect of these Web 2.0 technologies is reduced development time for programmers, a more satisfying user experience for consumers, server processing efficiency for the host, and bandwidth savings for everyone. Another significant advantage of Web 2.0 technologies for WCM is the tendency to be so highly based on well-defined standards that functional components of Web applications are often interchangeable. When built on Web 2.0 technologies, the “address update” function in the Web banking example above would likely be usable by the bank’s credit card Web application as well. This component swapability is the underlying principle behind enterprise mash-ups, a developer-oriented topic for an upcoming blog entry.

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WCM Trends for 2007: Monetization of Content

As consumer behavioral patterns across verticals (including retail, media and entertainment, and financial services) increasingly shift toward online channels, Web content must become increasingly monetizable. Factors which improve the monetizability of content relate primarily to rich user experiences, which require Web applications to combine behavioral analytics with the cross-platform, targeted delivery of digital media of all types (audio, video, streaming content, Flash, myriad image types), all available customer data, and content from Web services-based sources (maps, shipping information, weather reports, stock quotes, news). Not only must successful Web applications seamlessly wrap these components together behind the scenes, they must supply an interactive presentation layer that is aesthetically pleasing and easy-to-use. The primacy of the trend toward monetizable content will fuel other trends in the WCM space, among them, the heightened importance of:
* Design agencies as WCM solution providers. Vendors to watch: Blast Radius, Avenue A | Razorfish, Molecular.
* Analytics functionality within the WCM application to support multi-channel marketing campaigns. Vendors to watch: Interwoven, CrownPeak.
* The ability to incorporate rich media at the content creation stage. Vendors to watch: Adobe, ClearStory Systems, EMC/Documentum.
* Support for integrated search and advertising/merchandising. Vendors to watch: Endeca, FAST, Google.
* The emergence of WCM applications as primary brand managers. This is a channel strategy decision and is not vendor-oriented in nature.

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What’s Wrong with Web 2.0

In a word, “expectations”. There is nothing wrong with the moniker itself, but when used as if it were a thing-in-itself, as something concrete, it inevitably becomes misleading. This is not something to solely blame on marketing hype – people crave simple labels, marketers are just accommodating us. We need to take a little responsibility for asking what such labels really mean. When forced to reduce Web 2.0 to something real, you end up with AJAX. There is also nothing wrong with AJAX or its components. The problem is overestimating what it can do for us.
Bill Thompson’s post “Web 2.0 and Tim O’Reilly as Marshal Tito” yesterday on The Register’s Developer site, is perhaps a little overstated, but is useful reading for VCs and IT strategists. Here’s a sample:
“Web 2.0 marks the dictatorship of the presentation layer, a triumph of appearance over architecture that any good computer scientist should immediately dismiss as unsustainable. … Ajax is touted as the answer for developers who want to offer users a richer client experience without having to go the trouble of writing a real application, but if the long term goal is to turn the network from a series of tubes connecting clients and servers into a distributed computing environment then we cannot rely on Javascript and XML since they do not offer the stability, scalability or effective resource discovery that we need.”

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