Everything old is old again
If history repeats itself, we can expect some standardization of Ajax user interfaces to happen in the same way we got Microsoft Windows. Somebody is going to write a compelling SDK that you can use to make powerful Ajax applications with common user interface elements that work together [[like] cut ’n’ paste [and] cool mashup features like synchronization and single-point identity management]. And whichever SDK wins the most developer mindshare will have the same kind of competitive stronghold as Microsoft had with their Windows API.
Joel’s post is an excellent history-informed prediction of the future of the software industry; if you haven’t read it, go and do so now, before you come back to read how I disagree with him.
Well, by and large, I actually don’t. He makes a very persuasive case about the dynamics. But the details of the upcoming scenario he sees are wrong, even as he seems to be getting the big picture right.
Firstly, Joel is biased. His strategy to avoid rewriting Fogbugz when Microsoft shifted technologies under his feet was to develop a limited compiler that translates down to other languages, enabling his product to support the new technology as well as platforms he hadn’t initially targetted. He has since touted that approach as a smart solution (and likely for his particular circumstances it was) on many occasions, of which this latest is just another one.
For most of the world, that won’t be the way to go about things.
But we have already fixed that problem.
Anyway, Joel is wrong about another, more important thing: a new SDK is not how this will happen.
The API of the post-Microsoft era is the wire format. Who will be the new Microsoft? Mu.
With that in mind, there is something I want to ask Joel:
You can’t really cut and paste objects from one Ajax app to another, for example, so I’m not sure how you get a picture from Gmail to Flickr. Come on guys, Cut and Paste was invented 25 years ago.
There is this new thing some people have been muttering about, that has something with “atom” in its name. Have you heard of it?