Sunday, November 19, 2006

Web2.0? I think not

There's been a lot of hoopla lately about Web2.0, which supposedly will do away with operating system-specific programming, and bring in cross-platform programming environments such as Java and (shudder) .Net/Mono instead. In these environments you will access information not on your own machine with a program such as MS Word or OpenOffice.org, but through a Web-accessible Web browser, using a cross-platform program such as Google Docs to edit information stored on a 3rd-party server.

One reason why I don't think this will fly, at least not in non-corporate environments, where accountability of the "IT department" (which in a domestic situation is often either a relative, friend or your ISP) is low: At the moment, I don't have a net connexion to my Linux machine and I try to keep my Windows machines as free of cruft as possible, so I've been using Windows Telnet to access a remote UNIX system called Grex, to run Python whilst I follow the online tutorial I mentioned before. But Grex just went down, so I'm using its sister-site M-Net in the meantime. And M-Net's Python is only version 2.1.3, which means that (like all Python implementations before version 2.4) the language doesn't fully implement sets . If my Linux box were* up (or indeed, if I wanted to bother installing Python on my Windows machine for the few days I'm going to be without Linux) I could just install the right version, but as I don't have administrator access on M-Net (or indeed Grex) I'm stuck with what they've got.

I'll be as candid about this as I am about anything else (!): I can see its value for corporate environments (although it has to be said that, given the ability of the X Window System to run programs over the network - on both UNIX, Windows, and the little-known VMS, at least - to some extent it reinvents the wheel); but for home use I just don't want Web2.0 to succeed, if it means that fat clients will become rare, pricey items or just plain extinct.

*I freely admit, I'm a language fascist.

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