Monday, September 17, 2007

DHTML News Today: JQuery UI 1.0, ActiveGrid/Dojo

Two interesting DHTML library announcements on the same day:

  • JQuery UI 1.0 has finally been released! JQuery is best known as a phenomenally efficient way to update and manipulate DOMs from JavaScript. It is unbelievable how much JavaScript code one line of JQuery can replace. JQuery has numerous user interface plugins, the most important of which have been upgraded and delivered as the new JQuery UI library. My new project has an extensive amount of UI intensive features like drag-and-drop, resize, and DOM manipulation, and I went through several JavaScript libraries until Carnet Williams at ChipIn told me about JQuery's interface plugins. I have been incredibly pleased with JQuery UI, in particular its tight codebase and its very clean way of separating the DOM from JavaScript DOM enhancements.

  • My old company ActiveGrid has announced it has acquired the TurboAJAX Group and is going to support the Dojo toolkit. I think that this is great news, Dojo has a ton of great widgets and features, but it can be hard to learn and extend. Having a company officially support Dojo is an important step in increasing its adoption.

    It's great to see the DHTML JavaScript market maturing. The better the libraries get, the more great web apps we all get to use!
  • Sunday, September 16, 2007

    Inverting the Portal with Widgets

    When My Yahoo! first came out, many people spent hours and hours building tabs of customized content. For the first time, you could easily select from a wide array of content and bring it to your own home page.

    Very quickly, portal servers made it into the enterprise, offering the capability for various groups in a company to deliver deliver portlets that could be rolled up into a pages for customers or for employees to customize what data they saw on their homepage. A lot of enterprises adopted portal servers but found that portlets were obtuse to create and that portal servers inordinately expensive for the security and management features they provided.

    When Google first introduced what is known as iGoogle, it was at first very similar to My Yahoo! Google came up with their own obtuse way of creating gadgets (their word for widgets) and an ecosystem of gadgets materialized for the iGoogle homepage. When Google introduced "Google Gadgets for Your Homepage," users could take widgets hosted at Google and add them to their blogs, wikis - anywhere on the web. All of a sudden, Google Gadgets took off into the stratosphere!

    Using the widget model to decouple the content frames from the portal metaphor offers all of the benefits of a portal with the flexibility of distributed content. Distributed portal sites like iGoogle and NetVibes are in the vanguard, with SaaS companies like Salesforce quickly moving to this new model. Inside enterprises, the ability to deliver interactive content to both the existing portal infrastructure or in a wiki or blog is an extremely efficient method if sharing information across groups.

    Portals are an excellent aggregation and discovery point for widgets. As the iGoogle experience counter intuitively shows, portals become even more useful when their content can be run outside of the portal!

    Monday, September 10, 2007

    "Open Source" License for User Generated Content

    The best thing about the popular open source licenses is that they are all very well known, so you can just state Apache or GPL or MPL and people understand exactly what they can and can't do with the code, and what they can and can't do with their extensions to the code. In order to be effective, a license should be:

  • Credible - Written and supported by a credible organization without a commercial agenda.
  • Understandable - The ins and outs of the license should be understood by non-IP lawyers.
  • Well known - The end user should recognize the license and understand how it works or at least know someone who can explain it to them.

    Recently I have been evaluating licenses for user generated content for a new project. I was disappointed to see that most sites with user generated content have arcane, legalistic terms and conditions and that there is no consistency from site to site. The problem when you don't use a well known license is that you end up having to make convoluted explanations and your users are still confused no matter what. Check out paragraph 9 of Yahoo's Terms of Service to learn what rights you have to any photos you have uploaded to Flickr or this article where Google clarifies its terms and conditions for your Google Docs documents.

    Since the Creative Commons is a repository for authors and artists to share their work, I checked out their license to see if it was relevant. The creative commons license is cafeteria-style and is perfectly suited for user generated content! I have long been a big fan of commercial friendly licenses and have released a lot of my early code into the public domain, with the Java license when I was at j.rad, and with the Apache license when I was at ActiveGrid. Therefore, my inclination is to go with the Creative Commons Attribution (by) license, which allows commercial use of works with attribution. In open source terms, it is most like MPL+Attribution.

    I am pleased that the open source principles that software engineers know have made it into the content world, and that we will be able to use a credible, understandable, and well known license for content in our new project!
  • Monetizing Content in the Age of the Atomized Web

    One of the adages of the .com was that "content is king." Whoever owned the content got the eyeballs, and therefore the ad revenue for those eyeballs. The atomization of the web has turned this on its head, since content is now syndicated through feeds and widgets. Your page impressions go down if people are reading your content in Google Reader and seeing the weather report as a little box on their iGoogle homepage. Content is no longer king, your feed reader is king!

    So is content dead? How can a content provider still achieve page impressions in the age of the atomized web? How can an advertiser reach its target market when banner and keyword ads are seen less frequently? Following are four emerging advertising technologies that marketers can add to their online marketing mix to take advantage of the atomization of the web.

  • Feed Ads - Embedding contextual advertising items into your feeds is a great way to add advertising to your syndicated content. Feedburner was the market leader in this category, and Google's $100M acquisition of Feedburner shows that even Google recognizes that embedding advertising in feeds is important. So syndicate your content and embed the ads in the syndication, it is the same as a user going around your website and seeing banner ads, they are just in their feed reader instead of your website.

  • Feed Teasers - A method that works if you have really interesting content is showing only the first paragraph of content and making users click to see the full content which can include traditional online ads such as banner ads. This is the model that newspapers use, where the first page has a few paragraphs and no ads, and people can continue reading inside the paper where there are ads. The downside is that users have to be super interested to click through, so it is a pretty high bar to entice users into your site.

  • Sponsored Widgets - A big part of advertising is getting your brand out there, and sponsoring a widget is much more effective than a banner ad in the age of the atomized web. Visa recently sponsored a slew of widgets with Forbes content. TripAdvisor built a popular Facebook widget that people can add to their profiles to show what cities they have been to. Now Visa has its brand on people's various iGoogle homepages and blogs and TripAdvisor has its brand on a multitude of Facebook profiles (121,000 as of today).

  • Widget Ads - Customers are amenable to using widgets with personalized promotions or content delivery when there is a trust relationship with a company. Examples include Southwest Airline's Ding widget and Aperio's Salesforce iGoogle Gadgets. People add these widgets to their iGoogle desktops or actual desktops and the companies now have a direct channel to them every day. The trick here is to make a widget that actual does something useful for the customer!

    With Feed Ads, Feed Teasers, Sponsored Widgets, and Widget Ads, there are plenty of creative opportunities for content producers to deliver ads in an atomized web. Long live the content!