James Governor's Monkchips

Moves: Ajaxians join walmart, HTML app stores? Canonical CTO leaves to sync Web. Centralised vs decentralised, the Great Game Goes On

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Its not every day I get a post out of linkedin, but the service notified me of some really interesting career moves today – one of which could have significant implications for the entire mobile web app business.

Dion Almaer just joined walmart.com as VP, Mobile Architecture. His Ajaxian partner in crime Ben Galbraith is going along for the ride – as VP, Mobile Engineering. We can safely assume Dion and Ben won’t be advocating an IoS only strategy – these guys are all about developers, and all about Web technologies – that means HTML5 and Javascript. So what is walmart up to? I haven’t actually spoken to the guys yet, so I might as well throw out some baseless speculation. You see- at the moment its really not clear what comes after the Apple vs Android app store wars. The best web developers all agree HTML5 is the future, but many of them are building IoS apps. But how are developers going to charge for these apps?

In a post this week Mark Cathcart wrote about the FT’s new iPad app, which is actually a web application. I myself wrote about why publishers are trying this approach in The iPad: Nice Piece of Glass! Here comes HTML5. But Mark focuses on the discoverability and app store issues raised by HTML5 apps. Which of course chimes rather nicely with the idea walmart.com is going to invest in web apps. Of course it could be that Ben and Dion will just be helping Walmart with its shopping at walmart-led mobile site, but that seems – ahem- unlikely. Walmart is a retailer, after all, and sells a ton of books and music. It surely wants into the digital retail game. It can’t cede too much ground to Amazon and Apple. So we have to assume walmart.com mobile is about digital distribution. Could walmart be gearing up for a major play as an HTML5 application publisher? Doesn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility. And walmart- at least in the physical world, sets standards that entire supply chains follow. [I previusly wrote about Dion and Ben here]

What else did linkedin tell us? Only that Canonical’s CTO Matt Zimmerman is leaving to join a startup called Singly, which looks very interesting indeed. Singly is about “lockers”. What is a locker?

“A Locker pulls together all of my personal data – my tweets, my photos, my contacts and all my social relationships. It holds things like my email, call logs, and purchase history. It does a bunch of complicated things for me, so that developers don’t have to. It puts me at the center of the web, and allows me to choose where, when and with whom I share copies of my data.”

Sounds kindasorta like dropbox – that is, a Synchronised Web application. The technology stack is deeply webby and cool. Its peer to peer and distributed however, rather than relying on a central data center as so many of the current crop of web services do. With great centralisation comes great power, but not always great responsibility (to the end user). See my thoughts on Dropbox, corporate and personal privacy and ToS changes.

Read more: http://www.redmonk.com/jgovernor/2011/04/20/my-thoughts-on-dropbox-corporate-and-personal-privacy-and-tos-changes/#ixzz1PYAaUPjt
Singly plans to bring together the TeleHash wire protocol (JSON over UDP) with The Locker Project, singly’s open source node.js-based attempt to wrest back control from what I call the Permission-based Web. We should be the ones giving permission to access things, not Apple or Facebook or whoever. Stephen explains why the node.js serverside Java interpreter here. It enables cool stuff like this instagram real time update demo.

As we go through our lives we create vast amounts of data. Emails, phone calls, social network posts, photos, utility bills, health monitoring devices, text messages, browsing data, purchase receipts and more are all born out of the regular course of our actions. It’s more than just data. It represents our actions, interests, intentions, communications, relationships, locations, behaviors and creative and consumptive efforts.

Currently, our data is scattered everywhere. It lives in and is usually owned by the various networks into which it was created or exchanged. It’s aggregated by third party trackers and targeters looking to deliver advertising, content and services to you. Billions of dollars are exchanged, industries built upon and value created off of our data, and it serves as the basis and is the foundation for some of the largest power structures on the web, and in the world at large.

Meanwhile, the people who have benefited least from this ecosystem are the very people originating the data. Often times, in fact, these channels and organizations go out of their way to limit our ability to extract our data from the network and reuse our own content. Limitless opportunities for engaging personalized applications and web experiences, as well as more free and open communication are lost when this happens.

I assume its only a matter of time before Singly supports bitcoin, the new peer to peer virtual currency to allow for payments and all sorts of goodness (or nefariousness for that matter).

So we have two extremely interesting projects starting – one Walmart, the other just about as far from Walmart philosophy as you can get. These are two models of the web.

When I initally read Mark’s post about HTML app stores my first reaction was to glibly paraphrase a Jeff Attwood quote from his post

“We already have the world’s best public social networking tool right in front of us: it’s called the internet”.

Centralisation? We don’t need no steeking centralisation. 😉

“We already have the world’s best HTML(5) app store in front of us: it’s called the internet”.

Two very different ways of thinking about the web, thinking about freedom. I know which one I prefer, but I can’t argue with the slick beauty of the packaging of the likes of Apple and Dropbox. I choose Android over an iPhone, but the iPad rocks. Walled Gardens are lovely places – no question, but you’re probably not allowed to walk on the grass, let alone smoke it. Both views of freedom have their place.

So we have the Chrome app store, but nothing browser independent as yet. Lets see what walmart is up to. Me? I am just waiting for my locker…

bonus link: you might also enjoy Marshall Kirkpatrick’s post on Singly here.

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  1. […] is also starting recruit rock-star web tech talent with a particular focus on improving the mobile experience of their online […]

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