One of the intriguing dynamics about being an industry analyst and blogger is that many AR people and executives don’t understand some the dynamics involved. Understandable if frustrating, given the fact the industry analyst business is now fairly mature and has some clear lines of engagement. According to some perfectly reasonable definitions RedMonk is not an industry analyst firm, which is fine by me.
You see we do things differently, so its to be expected that we look kind of funny. Its a core RedMonk belief, enforced by 6 years or experience, that the internet provides the best platform ever designed for peer-review. The internet is not just a publishing mechanism. Its so much more than that. We don’t think people actually need to work at our firm to engage in research with us. Why do we enjoy the unconference format so much? Because we’re all in this together: learning, thinking, debating. At RedMonk we know that not only do we not have all the answers, but that by opening up we become smarter. Which is where it can be a bit frustrating. Many vendors are deeply uneasy about commenting on a blog in public (either because it says something positive “leave it alone” or something negative “how can we fix this privately with a minimum of fuss”). IBM for example, for all its written blog policy, rarely comments on Monkchips, even when articles are widely read, and or passed around behind the firewall. RedMonk blogs are at their best though when fixes, complaints, agreements and so on are written into the blog (research as social object) itself. Participation makes the Internet better. It makes us all smarter.
At this point I would just like to change gear, to commend Adobe generally, and Senior Vice President David Mendels specifically, for understanding the read/write dynamic. David is a dedicated commenter, if not a prolific blogger. He has recently decided to leave Adobe, which will be a loss to the company (not that it doesn’t have a deep and wide technical management bench). David deserves massive credit for helping to open up the company’s platforms, setting it on a new course. Think Flex (open sourcing the SDK), PDF (From Open Format to Open Standard), Tamarin, Open Screen Project and so on. David is a deep thinker and it has been a privilege working with someone that takes RedMonk’s passion about openness in such good heart. I remember our first meeting over dinner when everyone else was ashen-faced as we went at it hammer and tongs about whether or not PDF was an open standard. I was getting kicked by people under the table, but David was engaging, in both senses of the word.
A few weeks back in San Francisco we ran an unconference, which Stephen summed up well here. I wrote up one of the sessions in a piece entitled Rich Internet Applications: “This Conversation Is Bullshit”. So imagine how pleased how I was when David, one of the progenitors of the term Rich Internet Applications, instead of getting all defensive, opened up and put a solid thesis forward. I am going to publish it here again in full. Read it. Think about it. This is a guy totally invested in RIA, with a responsibility to shareholders and customers, and he uses a blog to put forward a simple but powerful thesis which might be summed up simply: RIA, Its How We Live Now. Never mind all the technology implementation details – what matters is a better web experience. I am egotistical enough to think RedMonk helped David come to this pragmatic view. And I find it interesting that a guy who is currently easing himself away from his corporate duties is still helping to set the record straight.
I was one of the people involved in coining the phrase “RIA” at Macromedia in the early 2000s (along with a core group of Jeremy Allaire, Kevin Lynch, and Adam Berry if I recall. I am not not sure who first hit on the final coinage, it was the product of a series of discussions.).
Here is the thing: it had a very clear meaning *at the time* and was a clear contrast to the prevailing mass of applications on the web. Now that the entire web has evolved dramatically, the contrast is largely gone and the phrase is not less meaningful, but certainly less useful.
At the time, we were in a world of page based web apps. Applications that were using the page request model of the browser to deliver very limited interactivity and client side functionality, and led to frustrating repeated refreshes of the page to do anything. The iconic example we and many used at the time was the Broadmore hotel reservation site. As a Web 1.0 app, it was a long series of HTML pages just to complete a hotel reservation, and it suffered from all the problems of the day (eg, if one made an error and tried to go back, you lost all the info you had entered in the previous pages and had to start over.)
What we saw them do was create a single screen application with rich interactivity on the client, but still all of the benefits of being a web based application (nothing to install, back end connectivity for inventory and other data using XML, use of client side media/animation to guide the user, reachable through any browser, etc.) We really looked at this as the best of web applications and the best of desktop applications: rich connectivity, platform independence, no install, lightweight as well as rich client side logic and interactivity, ability to integrate rich media and communications. But we dropped the baggage of the page based metaphor that basically required a page refresh for everything and got beyond the layout/graphics/media constraints of HTML.
So I think the definition made quite a lot of sense, and it was I think a very valuable coinage to capture an emerging class of application that was radically better than the mainstream at the time.
Now, at that time, much of what I described as RIA could *theoretically* be done with DHTML (now called AJAX) but the reality is that it was not yet sufficiently browser independent and there was little uptake of it after the first burst (and abuse) of DHTML in the late 90s.
Right on David. As if to further confirm my thesis James Ward, a buddy of mine, also posted on my blog to clarify his position with respect to human to service interactions.
What is the takeaway for company execs? Comment on blogs. It won’t hurt you. Its important to join the conversation. There are other ways to gain clarity, or obtain a correction, than account control. You can engage and it will help all of our research agendas.
Adobe and IBM are both clients.