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RE: Imagining a Web Beyond the Browser

From: Waddell, Cynthia <cynthia.waddell@ci.sj.ca.us>
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2000 10:28:03 -0800
Message-ID: <0A005268C8DED311A23E0008C75D1EFF475FD6@sj-exchange.ci.sj.ca.us>
To: "'Ashli Molinero'" <ashli@shrs.upmc.edu>, "'Scott Luebking'" <phoenixl@netcom.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
My contacts on both the East and West Coast also are getting static. 

Cynthia D. Waddell

Cynthia D. Waddell   
ADA Coordinator
City Manager Department
City of San Jose, CA USA
801 North First Street, Room 460
San Jose, CA  95110-1704
(408)971-0134 TTY
(408)277-3885 FAX

-----Original Message-----
From: Ashli Molinero [mailto:ashli@shrs.upmc.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2000 10:07 AM
To: 'Scott Luebking'; w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: RE: Imagining a Web Beyond the Browser

Is anyone else just getting static with this link?

-----Original Message-----
From: Scott Luebking [mailto:phoenixl@netcom.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 09, 2000 10:53 AM
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Subject: Imagining a Web Beyond the Browser

Imagining a Web Beyond the Browser
What's the difference between using a dot and going to a Web page? 

Mark Gimein 

Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, thinks it stifles
creativity. Jakob Nielsen, the reigning guru of Web usability, thinks
it's a disgrace. Bill Gates wishes it would just go away and become
"part of the operating system."

What we're talking about, of course, is the browser, the software that
serves as the personal computer's window onto the Internet. Some hate
the browser because it turns the Web into nothing more than "pages."
That metaphor works well for reading text, but less well for other
purposes. Like a book, the browser functions best when one is looking at
one page, and much worse if one wants to look at several at once. It
does little to help people exchange information (unless pasting Web
addresses into e-mail is your ideal information-management solution).
When it comes to building applications, adapting software to the "page"
makes for clunky design. In short, the browser just isn't much fun.

Hardly anybody believes the browser is on the verge of disappearing, but
new applications have been nibbling away at its edges. "Browser
companions" run alongside it, giving one-click access to frequently used
applications like stock-quote monitors. Still other applications, like
Real Media's Real-Player, come with their own dashboards, giving
audiophiles a way to bypass the browser entirely. Each begs users to
rely less on their browsers. But a desktop full of such disparate
programs seems no more appetizing a vision of our computing future.
Better, one thinks, to stick with the browser than rely on a mishmash of
programs that offer no carefully thought-out alternative.

That's what makes the ideas of DoDots, a Palo Alto startup, so
interesting. The company unveiled the prototype of a platform that
online companies can use to develop Internet applications that don't
feel like Web pages but like handy virtual appliances. DoDots hopes that
its partners will begin distributing the free applications, or "dots,"
in March.

DoDots was started by 27-year-old twin brothers John and George Kembel,
both graduates of a Stanford University program in product design.
George is chief executive officer; John (who has also worked as a
programmer for Intel) is chief technology officer.

Dots will offer convenience: They can easily be sent back and forth
between users and summoned with just a few clicks. In some cases,
they'll have the same kinds of functions that one now finds on Web
pages. Because dots are built out of the same basic
ingredient--hypertext markup language--as Web pages, DoDots' partners
can build dots from existing content and applications. DoDots' software,
in fact, uses code already present in a user's browser (which won't even
have to be turned on) to do most of the heavy lifting.

So what's the difference between using a dot and going to a Web page?
For starters, you won't have to hand over most of your computer screen.
Second, you won't have to put your other work aside and navigate to a
Website when all you need is an often-used appliance.

Most important, desktops will look dramatically different. Unlike Web
pages, each dot can be "packaged," with its own logo and look.
Demonstrating a prototype, George pulls up a stock-tracking dot created
with BigCharts, a Web-based stock analysis service. It looks like a
smaller version of BigCharts' Web page, festooned with its logo and
lime-green color scheme. But when George keys in a ticker symbol, he
doesn't go to a Web page. Instead, a new dot appears with the stock
price and other data. Another click and a third dot appears, this one
charting the stock's recent progress. Now the screen looks like a mini
version of a multipaned Bloomberg terminal. Any of the windows can be
quickly closed--or left open--without affecting the others. Soon, a day
trader will be able to keep a stock chart in a corner of his screen and
have it automatically updated every few seconds.

And new possibilities will emerge. For example, George predicts users
will be able to assemble playable packages of songs--"album dots"--that
can easily be stored on their hard drives. Music vendors will even be
able to create onscreen packaging--a virtual album cover--that makes
using the dot resemble the experience of playing a real CD or record
(Sergeant Pepper, after all, wouldn't be Sergeant Pepper without the
famous album cover). Creating applications that feel like consumer
products rather than "pages," George argues, will change the way users
interact with the Web.

Indeed. The big marketing battles of the Web today are fought over what
pages users visit. That won't be the case forever. It seems likely that
in the next few years the battles will be fought not simply over where
users go, but how they use the Web in the first place. The winners could
turn out to be companies that learn to use tools like DoDots to wean
their users away from the browser. Browsers being what they are, it
shouldn't be too hard.

Vol. 141, No. 4
February 21, 2000 
Received on Wednesday, 9 February 2000 13:29:46 UTC

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