This Is Where We Are Going
Google’s Chrome OS announcement is the beacon that those in the know have been waiting for, to be
able to point at
it and say “hah—there! That’s what I meant”; as if the rest of the world has failed to understand up to
this point what we’ve been trying to explain all along:
This is where we are going. There are unstoppable forces in motion moving us to the ’Web. The momentum simply
cannot be dammed. Everything that can be ported to the ’Web, will be ported to the ’Web. Anything that can’t
be ported, will result in new standards so that it can be ported; even if doing so is stupid, it will still be done.
You have been used to a ’Web that has been defined by Internet Explorer. A slow, painfully inadequate, stagnant
browser (even in latest versions). The “OS integration” in IE is about how hard it is to remove it, and keep it
removed; not how seamless the experience is (it isn’t).
The fact is that this history has dampened people’s imagination when it comes to the ’Web. They are too used to
doing things according to Microsoft’s plan (to lag behind so much that developers are forced to use
Silverlight to do anything good).
The ’Web is not slow anymore. Did you see that
able to cook up things in web-browsers that you were not even able to imagine a web-browser being capable of doing.
Your closed mind will not stop us from cooking up the next generation of web-apps that
continue to stun.
And if it is not fast enough yet, it will be soon. We have seen a thousand-fold increase in speed over the last few
years. This will continue. To think that it won’t is yet again that softened idea of the ’Web that Microsoft has
perpetuated. Just because it isn’t fast enough now for something, doesn’t mean that absolutely nobody
is working on the speed issue at all, and the current state is what we have to stick with—just like those
years of IE dominance. IE is no longer dominant in mindshare and it’s certainly not doing anything to stop the
massive haemorrhaging of market share. Poland: 50% Firefox usage. 50%. For a web browser
that isn’t the default on the computer. That means that in essence half of an entire nation chose to change their
We can do OpenGL 3D in the browser too. Using
the GPU. Directly. You will one day see Quake ported to the browser, natively. Not yet, but soon. Those without the
imagination to push the browser will only try to hinder it.
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to
the one, and despise the other.
Matthew 6:24—King James Bible
Google’s Chrome OS does not try to hold up the status quo while they still have ‘back stock’ to sell. What the
OS cannot do, Google know that web-developers will fill in for them. Chrome OS forces us to solve
these integration problems that have held the ’Web back as an operating system. They will be solved,
don’t take the status quo to be the only thing that’s possible!
The browser OS is the new paradigm (not Chrome OS specifically). In the long term, it will eventually
overtake OS X and Windows. I understand that you laugh at that. You can’t see it because you are comparing
features instead of futures. Microsoft and Apple’s investment is in traditional browser-addendum operating
systems. Embracing the ’Web with their full passion would directly conflict with their ‘back stock’ that needs
to be sold first. It is why Apple will perpetuate the joke that is the App Store instead of giving web-apps the same
capabilities as native apps—they can’t control every website on the Internet. If you believe that it’s not
possible for all the native APIs to be exposed to the ’Web, then you must be reading this site in IE or something.
It’s an API. The clue is in the name. If you believe that to be unsafe then go watch Fox news and rejoice in your
App Store rejections.
Google however exist within the ’Web already. It is not an addendum to them. They assume the ’Web.
Creating Chrome OS does not conflict with their other projects, it only compliments them. Apple might be embracing
the standards with WebKit, but at some point the ’Web is going to get far too smart for their liking, and
maintaining WebKit will directly conflict with their ability to sell hardware / software. As noted, this has already
happened with the iPhone. Apple would rather abuse developers, than give them an open field to play in.
For example, Apple have invested heavily in the very monolithic iTunes. Apple cannot run iTunes on Chrome OS, they
can’t just write iTunes as a web-app†. Their investment does not fit this new paradigm. They will
fight—tooth-and-nail—to make sure that the iPod and iTunes continue to work the way they do and abhor Chrome OS
and the ’Web. With an entire Internet of innovation, Apple’s walled garden approved-only approach will
vehemently stick to the paradigm they chose. The ’Web however will find new ways of doing new things with music.
People will discover, use and spread music on the ’Web in ways that iTunes cannot find the UI for. Your music will
no longer be completely centralised. When your music is all stored on the ’Web, anywhere you want, anyway you want
then iTunes and iPod is going to feel like a very restrictive way of doing things. The notion of “syncing” is
going to be a nuisance.
(NB: The iTunes store is now rendered with WebKit, CSS and all; Apple could easily
move iTunes to the ’Web. They could have done that already, a long time ago. Why is it that a URL in a webpage has
to link to an application that has to be installed, when the content is perfectly viewable in the ’Web? Why
can’t I just link to an iPhone App and not have to expect the user to have to download a bloated app just to see
some text and images? Apple are treating the iTunes store just how Rupert Murdoch wants to treat his news
sites—closed, unless you are a paying customer.)
You cannot make the traditional desktop OS fit the ’Web. There is an inherit boundary between the two. Apple and
Microsoft are going to face the problem that they will eventually need to make a new OS, from scratch and
start the transition. They can make that as easy or as hard for themselves as they like. I am in the feeling that
they are going to make this hard for themselves because they are attached to the notion that the current paradigm
is their business, rather than part of their business. Everything Microsoft make is designed to
drive people to use Windows. Even the XBox—it integrates with Windows for the media streaming, developers have to
use Windows. Microsoft is Windows. If they can escape that, then they have some chance of success.
They even try to shove Win CE on ARM laptops, because they don’t have anything else.
Creating something that isn’t Windows is Microsoft’s single biggest challenge.
I do not say any of this because I think that the ’Web is better than native software, nor
desktop operating systems. Quite the opposite. The move to the ’Web is much, much, much more worse in many aspects
than any transition in computing before us (more on this soon). I say all of this because this is
where we are going and it is unavoidable. The ’Web affords us certain usability simplicities that have never been
solved in 25 years of modern desktop computing. Even if there are massive disadvantages to porting something to the
’Web, developers still do it because it gives them a platform where everybody can participate relatively easily,
data can be managed centrally by the developer and software updates are also central. It rubs out a lot of the
hurdles (platform support, installation and app management) that an end-user experiences which only inhibit the size
of the market the developer can target. With the ’Web, anybody with a computer and an Internet connection is
potentially a customer. Let us not forget what an incredible prospect that is. If you are on the Internet,
you can create your own business with a target audience of
It is the reason why we have created awful, unwieldy, unmanageable and insecure forum web-apps instead of just
sticking to Usenet. Why we have created webmail (and live without being able to properly click e-mail links),
instead of just sticking to a local e-mail app. For all the disadvantages, the ability to pull down any application
from any computer far outweighs the benefits of a superior local app (in most—but not all—instances).
Why would anybody write a video editing web-app or write a 3D game in the ’Web—it being such a ‘stupid and
inferior’ way compared to native toolkits? Because the new generation are growing up with the ’Web, and writing
web-apps is going to be the natural concept for them. I grew up in a time before the World Wide Web, so I was used
to a time when computers were not connected together like that, and all my applications were local. There existed no
concept of a web-app at that time. If I wanted to read my e-mail, I had to literally travel to school to do it.
Everybody has Hotmail or GMail now.
Since when has history chosen the technically superior solution over the lowest common denominator?
The move to the ’Web will change the following beyond recognition:
Success of Chrome OS will ensure that in the near future you will not own a single thing of your
digital existence. Hands up if you own a hard disk. Good, now hands up if you run your own mail
server from home. Point made. When it becomes technically difficult and time consuming to store
your own data locally, we won’t.
When your data is on someone else’s computer and you require their web-interface to access it
then everything you own can be taken away as quickly as one can say
- Software Versions & Updates
Chrome, the web-browser, has already bucked the trend and does not advertise its version number to the end
user. It is always the latest version, and the user doesn’t need to know—and nor should they. Version
numbers are for developers. The ’Web removes the need for nagging software updates, but at the same time
rewrites the rules on upgrade pricing. It’s not exactly easy to charge users to move over to a new
version of the same website (not least that programming all that is more effort than just continual
rollout). Which leads us on to:
- Purchases & Advertising
All new models of purchasing and advertising will come about. The
no-native-apps measure of Chrome OS will finally make Software as a Service take grip on the lower
end (i.e. not
SAP or SalesForce). This will
infuriate all of us old-timers who grew up with the concept of a 1000 year old method of paying
for things—that is, you pay for something, and it is yours. Though, those inventing new ways of
purchasing use of the ’Web will be the ones who succeed. All sorts of wacky, complicated systems
will come and go until somebody discovers a way to charge for web-apps and succeed no matter how
‘morally wrong’ us old timers consider it :P
Traditional advertising—shouting as loud as you can on the ’Web to be heard over everybody
else—will die out. It has shown only to work to a certain extent and more ‘smarter’,
‘intelligent’ advertising will come about based on basically
way into people’s computers and other people’s web-sites.
I’ve rarely met a child who gives a toss about who stores their data, and what they do with it,
as long as can use it. The generation before me are very careful about their
privacy, I meet many people new to computers who are exceptionally cautious about what information
they give out to what websites. My generation generally only cares to a certain extent, but
doesn’t want to be left out by what’s popular. The newer generation have literally an entirely
different perception of privacy than me. They don’t have any. They are so pressured
into using services and are happy to give information away to any old website if it gets them
emoticons or some such junk. Yes, they will grow up, maybe get wiser and more tuned into the
concept of their privacy, but they have grown up in a ’Web that has had free reign to collect
whatever information it wants, for whatever purpose, and in order to participate in the
web-services of tomorrow you will effectively have to sign away your life.
The next generation will live in a world where the Internet is not opt-in.
So who do you talk to to opt-out of being tracked by CCTV everywhere you go? That is exactly how
the Internet of tomorrow will be. Impossible to avoid if you want to function in society. I’m
not saying that that is a bad thing, I’m just saying that it’ll be yet another thing you have
no real control of.
Business 2.0 is about hype and owning people’s identity. Facebook has got people by the balls
and won’t let go. Its goal is clear—to make it impossible to function on the web without a
Facebook account. Other corporations are looking to
problem in a more open way.
Owning your own identity and managing it is going to be one of the big contention points in the
future. These proprietary, brand owned identities
each other for screen dominance won’t last forever.
I can now easily understand why old people are so crotchety.
The future isn’t what it used to be.