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Everyone is Pushing Open and Ubiquitous Web Environments - But How Far?

July 16, 2015

Two events this week served to underline the fact that the world is rushing to more open web environments, but the big fight may be for the last 10 to 20 percent of "openness" among vendor solutions, even as the fight to flush out legacy technology continues.  Look to what Microsoft and Adobe are doing to figure out where open web platforms are going.

Microsoft is hardly the poster child for open standards and open environments, but it continues to show it can adapt and extend its platforms to play well with others.  At its Worldwide Partner Conference this week, Microsoft has made two announcements underlining how it knows it needs to be more open in order to be more... yes... ‘ubiquitous’ with its cloud first/mobile first strategy. 

Project GigJam, a new productivity service coming out of Microsoft's Ambient Computing division to quickly build apps, is the first bell-ringing that should open eyes.  People other than programmers or developers can use GigJam to build multi-person processes around task work, going beyond the existing frameworks of UC and threaded IM project-based services to build custom work flows for tasks.  

Managers and line workers can build their own custom apps via a simple point-and-click interface. Information can be shown to all participants in a task by circling it on screen and hiding it is done by simply crossing it out, with the ability to set simple access levels from "see" to "work with" data and information.  Each participant can get the own custom view on information shared and edited with the creator (manager) getting a log of actions people take that can be replayed forward and back.


Under the hood, GigJam is HTML and JavaScript with service calls using OAuth 1 and 2, able to fully leverage REST APIs, with Microsoft's Azure cloud handling the heavier lifting.   Microsoft's catch here is to make sure more people use Azure and stick with Windows, but its use of open tech is enabling it to deploy new services without having to invest a ton of money on proprietary code.

If that wasn't enough, Microsoft also rolled out a new open source SDK to integrate Facebook into Windows applications.  While it's not quite HTML5-ish, it does reveal the depths to which Microsoft is willing to go to play with others while using open source code.

Then there's ubiquitous-but-not-open Adobe Flash, a technology that has generated a surge of virtual torches and pitchforks due to numerous security holes.  Google Chrome and Firefox Mozilla both blocked older versions Flash to force users to upgrade to the latest and (hopefully) more secure version.  Facebook is now channeling Steven Jobs and calling for an end-date for Flash, citing security considerations. 

HTML5 is starting to replace Flash for video and gaming, but plenty of people want the process to accelerate.  Jobs wrote an essay in 2010 on why Apple was not supporting Flash, citing the proprietary nature of the code, reliability, security, performance, and battery life -- a very important point given the iPhone and iPad families. 

Prophetically, Jobs quoted Symantec for highlighting Adobe Flash as having one of the worst security records in 2009.   What was Apple's replacement choice? WebKit, an open source HTML5 rendering engine.

"New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too)," Jobs said in closing. "Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind."  

Controversial at the time, Jobs clearly looks like he knows what he was talking about replacing Flash with HTML5.

For more, be sure to check out DevCon5 , a conference for HTML5 and mobile app developers , happening July 20-22 at the Kimmel Center at NYU.  

Stay in touch with everything happening at the event  on Twitter.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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