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Dumbed Down WWW

Posted by evanx on February 24, 2007 at 11:26 PM PST

The "Google Operating System" blog entry "Google Docs & Spreadsheets vs Microsoft Office" quotes a Writely post as follows.

"One of the reasons the web is so nice is that the page UI is simple... a few things at a time, a very easy metaphor, etc. It passes the 'mom' test - I can usually just tell my mom to go to a site, and she usually can figure it out. I can't remember the last time I could do that with a desktop app. So, even though the windows desktop is 'richer', it's not necessarily better."

My translation of that is, "Let's dumb down this whole computer software thing because people don't know how to use computers."

My mom is 60 year old granny who has been working on a Linux desktop, using OpenOffice, Thunderbird and Firefox every day for years. Prior to that she used a Win95 computer for email and browsing BBC's Food website, when she was housekeeper and cook in the UK, for Richard Branson's parents, actually :)

OK, she didn't setup her Linux desktop herself - my brother did it for her. Well, I don't service my car myself, does that mean i shouldn't be driving a car?! Well in that case, if i was limited to riding a donkey, I'd name it Ajax ;)

So that blog tries to imply that the browser is the web, as in collaboration, contextual search and what-not. Shame, maybe they haven't heard of Webservices, which can be consumed by Java RIAs, which can be launched from the browser using WebStart?

It's time to start thinking beyond the "browser is the web" paradigm, because the web can be so much more than the browser! In future, our favourite opensource desktop apps like OpenOffice, Firefox and Thunderbird, might get web-enabled and transformed into caching, stateless web clients, eg. using Amazon S3 for storage, and mashing up a bunch of other webservices.

But some people believe the web should be so much less than the desktop, dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. When their vested interest is around web ads, can we expect otherwise?

By the time they figure out that ultimately people want more than that, and are better at using computers than they than give them credit for, maybe they'll be classic victims of the Innovator's Dilemma.

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