One of the characteristics of Web3.0 (enough of the numerical increments already!) is the rise of the browser’s gradual replacement of the operating system.
What do I mean by this? Until recently the browser simply ‘reflected’ the design and functionality of the website it was pointed at. Increasingly, these websites are providing desktop-replacement activities (software-as-service applications from Salesforce.com; Writely; Google Docs; blogging software…). Reflecting on a busy day at the keyboard and I realise that most of my life is spent in multiple browser windows rather than in desktop applications or using the OS in an obvious way.
I could, conceivably, operate pretty well on a machine (any OS) with just Firefox and some local storage.
The issue that holds back the browser’s dominance is that it requires connectivity. Sounds trivial, but until we have ubiquitous (and I’m talking about while on the move, in the wilds and on clients’ locked-down LANs) the inability to work locally, off-line is a killer non-feature.
In the past the solution was heavy, complicated and resource-heavy “synchronising” applications: Lotus Notes (gorblessit), MS Exchange offline working, or other such systems. Groove made an attempt at an online/offline world, but all of these offerings were expensive, slow and resource heavy. They were also closed in nature, confining your activity to their realm.
The crop of new applications and services that use a local ‘cache’ to store “offline” activity, or indeed as an ongoing data store (eg Zotero) is growing.
This announcement from Socialtext will not only increase the attractiveness and usefulness of wikis, but will accelerate the browser’s ascendancy.