Interesting 2007 and Opportunities for 2008
Submitted by David Hobbs on 4 January 2008 - 10:39am
The following seemed noteworthy and interesting enough in 2007 to highlight (although most were not new in 2007):
- APIs and Mashups.Ever since the Google Maps API came out, web APIs appeared to have a lot of promise. This year this really seemed to take off, with more sites publishing APIs (see Programmable Web's list, although Programmable Web also notes that almost 50% of mashups are using Google Maps) and richer tools for using/mashing them (see Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly).
- Microformats. What a great idea: instead of waiting for a grand unified theory of the semantic web to totally transform websites, just make small changes to your existing markup to describe common, high-value information like locations and contact information. References: the book, microformats.org, wikipedia page on semantic web, the firefox Operator and Piggy Bank extensions, Can your website be your API?,and Bill Gates talking about microformats.
- Drupal. Drupal drives this site, and I have been especially impressed by its clean architecture for adding new features/modules and by the strong community supporting it (hence the clean as well as powerful out-of-the-box experience). I wasn't as impressed when I briefly played with Drupal a year or two ago, so I sense that Drupal really now has a critical mass behind it. References: my post about my first month using Drupal, the Drupal development book, and drupal.org.
- Sophisticated analytics for the masses. Although tools like Omniture SiteCatalyst are still more sophisticated and customizable, Google Analytics is really amazing, especially for a free tool: very nice user interface, sensible defaults, campaign tracking, user-defined dashboards, good reverse DNS lookup, and fast. See the Analytics Talk blog for more on Google Analytics.
I also see a lot of opportunities for improvement in 2008:
- More sophisticated offshoring models. The naive view of offshoring goes something like this: if someone costs $X per hour in your country and $X/3 per hour in another country, then it would seem to obvious to give the work to the offshore resource. Sometimes this works. Highly repeatable tasks are the most obvious (for example call centers). Also, it often works when you can hand off a specifications document and then wait for the implementation, although this Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) on the outsourcing problems of the 787 points out interesting issues there too: like your outsources suppliers outsourcing to their own suppliers, quality control/process issues, and taking for granted expertise/background built inside Boeing when handing off to suppliers. If the task isn't highly repeatable or very tightly specified, then the overhead of communications/management is very high. I would also expect that places that are currently considered "offshore" will be developing innovative products themselves (see this blog post: State of Innovation in India).
- Improvements in single sign on and passwords. If I go to Amazon and then B&H now, I have to log on twice. Worse, if I go to very small sites I have to create a separate username/password (it's one thing to trust Amazon with my password, but why should I trust a very small site with that information?). I plan on adding OpenID for accounts on to this site, and I would encourage others to add it to theirs (many platforms such as Drupal now support this). OpenID allows the user to decide who they trust to keep/authorize their account information (notably password) and you chose what information to give to different sites. Once you log in once, you don't need to provide your password again when you go to a site using OpenID. Hopefully at least smaller sites will start adopting OpenID, but it would be great if this was adopted by larger players as well. I'm still hoping for a replacement of passwords entirely, perhaps by graphical methods, (how archaic is remembering a bunch of passwords, or, worse, if you force users to use "strong" passwords and change them a lot, then they'll just write them down?), but at least reducing the number of accounts you have would help.
- Mashup building for the masses. Although APIs and mashups have taken a big stride forward, I hope to see some standardization in APIs and enhanced mashup editors that allow less technical people to create their own interesting (not only with maps!) mashups. See my Enabling the Interaction Publisher post.