Friday, June 1, 2007

One Step Deeper

In my efforts to exploit Web 2.0 technology to add to my Marketing 2.0 toolkit, I’ve spent some time looking beyond widgets to actual web-enabled applications.

It’s my belief that the widgets of tomorrow are going to come from the webapps of today and the webapps of today just became a lot more interesting with this announcement: Google Gears churns toward Microsoft.

Here’s why this is interesting to me:

I recently read Scott Rosenberg’s book Dreaming In Code – typically a little beyond my geek level but it caught my attention and turned out to be a good read. It focuses on a development project code named 'Chandler' which due to the complexity is still a work in progress after 4 grueling years.

The vision behind 'Chandler' was to enable peer-to-peer access to calendaring, email and notes applications that could exist offline or online. One key decision made during this project is that they built it as a client side app as oppose to a pure webapp – with the thinking that web application technology was too far out to consider.

Unfortunately they're kicking themselves in the ass for that one because little did they know companies like Google, and 37signals, also highlighted in Rosenberg’s book would soon be rolling out webapps well before they could have imagined.

The downfall of these apps is that unlike their client side counterparts, consistent connectivity is needed to get stuff done. When I think about my computer use, I’d say no more than 10% of my time is spent offline. My challenge is that I can't use a semi-critical app if it’s limited to the web – I need to know that I can access what I create if I want to open it up in my safari tent in the Serengeti or the Piazza Navona in Rome. And that is what prevents me from transitioning from these heavy client side apps.

Well, that just changed with Google’s announcement. Okay, it didn't change yet – most of the apps I'm using today weren't built for the web but it's coming and I'm already excited by this vision. Just imagine being able to use all these great productivity apps that are Web 2.0 enabled (SharePoint, Wiki's, and Blogs to name a few), making for lightning fast download and seamless integration with web-based content delivery systems - but still available offline when I want them.

One of the most significant achievements of Web 2.0 is correcting the discrepancy that my content is still mostly created in applications that work best offline but my customers really only want to connect with me online. Sure, there has been lots of progress with the advent of Flash, WebEx, canned PPT presentations and PDF in the browser – but those applications weren’t made to take advantage of the interactive power of the web.

Marketing 2.0 (aka Social Media Marketing) isn’t about me talking to my customers, it’s about creating a conversation with my customers - and hopefully building a relationship. But I still have to create and package knowledge to begin that conversation – and those apps need to have offline as well as online capability. Before my customer and I can really connect the way we should be able to, we need apps that can be used to create and package that knowledge as well as facilitate and encourage interactivity. That means interactive online apps that can be taken offline - not offline apps that can be uploaded. Google just took an important step in that direction. I’m not junking all my client side apps for hyper-functional widgets just yet but I can see now - probably much like the Chandler team eventually did – that its much closer than I thought.

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