Why The Web Platform Matters: It Enables Innovation

from the watch-this-space dept

While I've been talking up the importance of "the web platform" for years, some folks here were a bit confused about my recent post concerning the launch of Google's AppEngine. Some couldn't see how it was different than basic webhosting and asked for clarification on why this could be a big deal. So I wanted to dive a little deeper into why a web platform really is so important. Just as I was starting to write this up, I spotted Rich Skrenta's fantastic post on AppEngine where he says it's (finally) the web equivalent to Hypercard. That's the perfect analogy. Hypercard was a true enabling platform. It suddenly made it incredibly easy to create quick apps and be able to share them and make them useful. It bundled everything you needed in one system and made it all "just work." It turned app creation into something almost anyone could do with a little training -- and applications, ideas, companies and (eventually) industries grew out of that. The same thing can happen with a true web platform, but to an even greater level (and, I'll state here that it's too early to call AppEngine that true web platform, but it looks like it has the potential).

In a way, it's related to the other holy grail we've discussed in the past: situated software. This is more personal software. Basically, it's software that anyone can create for their special needs. It takes the programming out of the hands of the few and gives it to the many, which allows many new ideas to flow and totally unexpected and useful applications to come out in the end. When we first talked about situated software, we noted that it didn't need to scale -- but if it can also scale, then things get even more interesting. This isn't to say that AppEngine suddenly makes it easy to program. Not at all. But, it's heading in that direction. Purists will complain (of course they'll complain) that this will lead to a ton of crap, but that's the same argument made by journalists slamming bloggers. Of course it'll lead to a ton of crap, but it'll also lead to a ton of really interesting, fascinating and useful things that'll rise up out of that crap. It'll also lead to a lot of innovation and, potentially, totally unexpected and different ways to use the internet. And that should be exciting.
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Filed Under: application development, enabling platform, hypercard, innovation, web platform

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  1. identicon
    Nathan Ekstrom, 17 Apr 2008 @ 8:25am

    There are other web platforms out there

    I'm trying to understand why what Google did with AppEngine is revolutionary. It seems like Media Temple has already been doing it for a while with fewer restrictions, of course it isn't free. Then there is Sales Force and App Exchange, or Net Suite, or Bungee Connect. It just seems like the only reason that what they are doing with AppEngine is a big deal is because they are Google and not because they did anything new or particularly impressive.

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