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It is better
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John Sumser

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That Blog Thing III

(September 30, 2003) - A quick look back.

The first moments of the web's appearance were manifested by the user-to-user network delivery of a copy of XMosaic, the first iteration of a web browser. One of the employees of the organization we ran raced into our offices, breathless. "Look at this! We can have a home page on the Internet. Let's get started." If memory serves, that was the third or fourth copy of the browser in the United States. The home page looked funny on the little Apple Laptop ... screens were black and white, for the most part, in those days. After 30 seconds of deep reflection, we said "Stop wasting your time on this crap and get back to work."

It wasn't too much later that interbiznet began its life as one of the first 50 or so sites. The initial reaction was the thing. The only solace we take is the fact that we sat with many of the so-called luminaries of the web at the time and their reactions were similar to ours.

Over the early years, we piled endless Powerpoints® through endless executive offices trying to explain the utility of the web to blankly staring audiences. When there was a glimmer of understanding, it was generally from tech-savvy executives running client-server implementations. They said, to a person, "Oh, we're already doing that."

They simply didn't understand that the shift involved a major change in the politics of the user. Instead, they thought that the web was a way to do what they were already doing.

The big risk, when technology shifts, is that you miss it because it looks too simple or that your blinders are on so tight that you can not see beyond the possibilities you already imagine. Moore's Law, which suggests that data density doubles every 18 months, while the price falls by 50%, rules the evolution of computing technology. The easiest way to explain the current impact of the principle is to point out what everyone knows. The Dell Computer Systems being advertised on CNN for $899 are typically 3 times more powerful and one-third the price of the system on your desktop. Every time that the computing supply gets out of whack (and ready for a major breakthrough) home computers exceed the capabilities of the tools in the office. We're there again.

In the first Generation, it was the shift from dumb terminals to desktop capacity, including the explosion of desktop publishing. The second generation was client server and the final elimination of the secretary. The third generation was the web. We're teetering on the brink of the fourth generation (Gen4). Like all of the others, it looks subtle at first and is easy to dismiss, particularly if you are in a universe dominated by a web view of the universe. On the web, people "go" to databases for transactions. They "go" to have 'personalized' experiences. They go.

We're still having a hard time getting the articulation of Gen4 simple enough. It seems, though, that Gen4 is about interactions between users. My database talks to your database.

The early adopters, flush with the business-to-business implications of XML, think it's a way to consolidate centralized databases. You'd expect that.

We think the real, near-term revolution involves the use of XML at the desktop. It's working in the Weblog world already (and most of these moves forward start in publishing). The best way to understand, for now, the implications of Gen4 is to imagine that a web page can offer multiple elements of a database's functionality. In Weblogs, each news item can be individually syndicated and monitored because of its XML tagging. We're beginning to consider a world in which the value comes, not from having the largest resumé database, but from knowing where the resumés are. It comes from delivering value to a user's desktop through interactions with her desktop database.

Excerpt from the 2002 Electronic Recruiting Index.

John Sumser

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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