Friday, January 13, 2006

Predications 2006: The Desktop and the Web

This is the second post in my “Predictions 2006” series. The aim is to make some predictions, based on trends, about the future of libraries, archives, Web technologies, electronic records management, digital preservation, etc. I make these predictions with a mix of reflection and spontaneity.

In today’s installment I explore the ways in which local desktop applications and the Web are slowly intertwining, thus shrinking the gap that exists between local desktop applications and the World Wide Web, which I believe will lead to a greater, more personalized and more relevant desktop/Web experience.

In 2005, I encountered several web tools and software that had me buzzing with excitement, chief among them was Mozilla’s Firefox browser and its myriad of extensions. Near the end of 2005 I downloaded Google’s Blogger for Word (and made mention of it here and here) in addition to Google’s Blogger Web Comments. Taken together, I noticed how these tools and application were changing the desktop landscape.

For those not familiar with the items I mentioned, here’s a brief summary:

Firefox: If you haven’t heard about Firefox, well, er…Firefox is an amazing Web browser, made even more amazing by a vast amount of extensions that literally extend the browser’s power. Popular extensions include ForecastFox, a weather forecast extension, Sage, a RSS reader, and Blogger Web Comments (which I’ll discuss shortly). What I like about these particular extensions is that, while I am browsing, they are busy working, pulling information that I want—be it weather information, stock quotes, or who’s blogging about my blog—and displaying them when I want.

Blogger for Word: A plug-in, so to speak, for Microsoft Word, developed by Google, that enables bloggers to write and submit their posts to Blogger while still in Word. By no means an earth-shaking tools, Blogger for Word nonetheless revealed to me the shrinking space between my desktop application and the Web.

Blogger Web Comments: A nifty Firefox extension that fetches blog-based information related to any webpage you visit. In visiting The DIGITAL Archive blog site with Blogger Web Comments enabled, for example, I discovered (ahh, the joy of discovery) that two blogs had mentioned my blog in their postings. So, naturally, I visited their blogs, found them interesting, and added them to my list of sites to visit. Like other Firefox extensions, Blogger Web Comments was busy fetching information while I was browsing; and when I needed the info, it gave it to me.

I’m not sure if there is a proper technical term for these kinds of tools. I call them Firefox extensions, plug-ins, and Web apps, among other names. Even Yahoo has entered the field with its selection of Yahoo! Widgets, slick-looking desktop tools (like Apple’s Dashboard Widgets) that fetch information and display them on your desktop, like weather updates, stock quotes, etc. Whatever the case, these tools are joining our local desktop with the Web in a manner not seen before.

I believe local desktop applications and the World Wide Web will come together and collaborate in new and more advanced ways in the coming year. The space between them is clearly shrinking. I see the every day tools we work with, such as Microsoft Office, and our Web destinations of choice, such as Google and, working together (ok, maybe not Microsoft and Google, but you get the picture).

We users will easily set up mechanisms within desktop applications that allow us to set search queries, security parameters, and then launch intelligent “boomerangs” or agents that will swoop to web resources and re-combine data and return to us, providing us with relevant information.

Today it’s weather forecasts and stock quotes on our desktops; tomorrow it could be a window in Microsoft Word opening and alerting us to the latest news and views on the topic of our research paper.

1 comment:

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about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.