Rich application engines and user innovation

Last week Brendan Eich and Dare Obasanjo were batting around the topics of openness, rich Internet applications, and user innovation. The statement that found its way into my stream was this one from Brendan:

I assert that there is something wrong with web-like “rich” formats that aren’t hyperlink-able or indexable by search-engines.

Me too. Linking and indexing, which are enabled by open standards, are in turn key enablers of user innovation. To the extent that Flash can be web-like, or that WPF/E can, we surely want them to be.

But to Dare’s point, that’s not the endgame. Rich Internet apps should also expand what linking and indexing mean, suggest new standards, and create opportunities for new kinds of user innovation.

I see one such opportunity in the realm of audio and video. I’ve been wrangling both this weekend for an upcoming talk, and it’s a huge chore. The kinds of standard affordances that we take for granted on the textual web — select, copy, reorganize, link, paste — are missing in action on the audio-visual web. The lack of such affordances in our current crop of (mostly) proprietary media players suggests that open source and open standards can help move things along. But nobody in the open world or in the proprietary world has really figured out what those affordances need to be in the first place. So I guess we’ll keep on running parallel R&D efforts until we do.

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