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Posts from the ‘Web’ Category

6
Mar

Seeking Better Email

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As I was writing my column yesterday for Blogging Tips, something dawned on me. That as much as I love Gmail, there aren’t many alternatives out there.

I wondered aloud on Twitter why there were no viable competitors for Gmail and got a slew of good responses. One of the best came from user @lance_ who said that “It takes a lot of market clout or money to get past spam filters. There isn’t a huge market for b2b & consumers already got an address.” (fixed quote for tweet-speak).

Others seemed to feel that the market was saturated while others still were quick to remind me about Microsoft Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, neither of which really hold much of a candle to Gmail in terms of features. When you consider that Gmail, for free, offers nearly unlimited space, free IMAP access, threading, powerful search, good spam filtering and more, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail look like weaklings.

Gmail is pretty much the undisputed champion right now, at least in terms of features and power, and, sadly, there is no real competition on the horizon. Yahoo! and Microsoft seem to have rolled over and other companies, like Zenbe, would rather build off of Gmail than create something truly new.

The result is that Gmail has stagnated. What was revolutionary when it was first created has slowed to a crawl. Most of the “Labs” features are either mistakes that should never have been in Gmail, such as Signature Tweaks, Title Tweaks, etc. or outright catchup with other systems, such as Canned Responses.

Gmail, which is still in beta, hasn’t blossomed and though it seems to announce new features regularly, most seem outright trivial. So where’s the competition to keep the fire hot? Where is the upstart company with a bold new vision and a competing ideal? It isn’t there.

It’s time for some competition. Time for an upstart group of rebels to really attack this issue and see what they can do. Will it be easy? No. Is it impossible? Maybe. But the future of email may depend on it. Read moreRead more

4
Mar

Why OmniWeb Failed

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Update: See comments below for a response from Omni Group The OmniWeb Web browser is, for the most part, no more. Though the announcement last week highlighted the fact that it was now available for free, the buried lead is that they are stopping active development on the browser. Though they aren’t ruling out future updates, they aren’t promising any either and they didn’t open source the browser. With the browser wars the way they are, that’s as good as a death sentence.

However, most people that used OmniWeb seemed to like the browser. I tried it several times over the past few years, never quite getting to the point where I was willing to pay for it after the trial ended. Sadly though, the browser couldn’t build any real traction. Many Mac users were unaware it was available and, those that did, seemed to always go back to free browsers.

It was, and still is, a fairly innovative browser and one that works fairly well. Based on Webkit, it’s a fast browser with an intersting “tabs on the side” system that uses thumbnails of pages rather than a traditional tab bar. It also has a slew of built-in features, such as ad-blocking, workspaces and individual site preferences.

Yet, the browser is clearly being put into retirement. Where did it go wrong and how can other “deep in the pack” browsers, such as Flock and Opera, avoid a similar fate? Read moreRead more

27
Feb

Safari’s New Interface: A Shiny Mess

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Though the Web browser has grown in importance and changed drastically in function since the first version of Netscape Navigator ruled a fledgling Web, its interface has not changed that drastically.

Though tabbed browsing introduced an important new element, most browsers sport forward and back buttons along with stop/reload buttons, an address bar and, more recently, a search box. Most browsers today look enough like Netscape Navigator 0.91 that few would be lost if they traveled back in time.

But lately there has been an attempt to shake that up some. First came Google Chrome, introducing the idea of tabs on top, and now comes the new beta of Safari 4, which adds even more new interface changes.

Though I’m always a fan of innovation, there’s a lot about these interface changes that bug me and not just the new “bug report” button. I’m admittedly no interface designer, but there are a lot of things that I would definitely do differently… Read moreRead more

6
Feb

Twitter’s @Reply Stupidity

twitter-logo-1If you’re using Twitter’s “replies” feature, or the similar feature on many Twitter clients, you’re missing a lot of the responses you’re getting.

You see, Twitter has a pretty strange definition for what constitutes a reply. It is perfectly possible to type @username and not have Twitter realize that you’re talking to that person. If they’re checking on the Web site or a weak Twitter client, they might never see your message.

The “bug” is that Twitter only tracks replies if the message BEGINS with the @reply. So unless the “@” is the first character in the tweet and the username is the first one replied to, Twitter doesn’t see it as a reply.

This set up defies both the way we communicate as human beings and how people use Twitter. That, in turn, has led to some pretty inelegant solutions to get around the problem. Read moreRead more

4
Feb

Does Anyone Want My Comments?

wordpress-logoThere’s something of a war going on right now, a war for your blog’s comments. Sure, any blogging platform worth its salt will provide you with a decent commenting system, but there are others who promise you more. Services like Disqus (which is used right now on this site) and Intense Debate say that they can add features, make commenting easier and encourage your community.

Now I am the first to admit that blog commenting right now sucks. When a company like CoComment, which does a mediocre job at best, can earn a living just by tracking and seeking updates on the comments you post across the Web, there is a serious problem. Users have a lot of reasons to prefer centralized commenting tools as having two or three commenting accounts beats checking dozens of sites for updates.

But what about bloggers? What do we get out of the deal? Though I’ve kept Disqus here on IS for some time, on PT I’ve been bouncing around from comment solution to comment solution trying to figure out what is best for my blog. I’ve tried nearly every service out there and the only conclusion I’ve reached is that no one, repeat no one, really wants my comments.

That is, at least not bad enough to create a truly compelling service… Read moreRead more

23
Jan

Google: Stop Acquiring Companies I Like

google-logo-3Dear Google,

I love you guys, I really do. Your search is top notch, your Gmail/Google Apps is a killer product and even you Google Reader is the best RSS reader I’ve found, online or off. You guys have a knack for producing exciting, reliable products that change the way we use information.

However, I do have one tiny favor to ask you. One small, minuscule request. Can you please stop buying up companies of products that I use? If so, that would be great. Because I’m really getting tired of you screwing up the things that were going along great without you.

If you have any questions about this request, I politely direct you to the article below. It will answer many of your queries and give my reasons for thinking that the Web would be better off if you kept your pocketbook a little closer to your chest. Read moreRead more

30
Dec

5 Ways to Improve Twitter

twitter-logoTwitter (my account) is pretty useful. Though I was skeptical at first, I have to admit that, after having used the service for some time, I see the merit in it. Though you have to be careful to not let Tweeting consume your entire work day (unless you’re on someone else’s dime and never get caught) it can be a great place to ask questions, join conversations, meet new people and generally have a new means of opt-in contact.

But this isn’t to say that Twitter is perfect. Even if we forgive the outages and other technical issues, there are more than a few flaws on this service, issues that sites such as Pownce attempted to exploit, although unsuccessfully.

The truth is that Twitter, by itself, is almost useless. Without the API and applications such as Tweetdeck, I doubt anyone would gain much from it. Even when it is at its best, it is merely an alternative means of socializing and communicating, a steep second place to IM, Email and social networking.

Its advantages are its immediacy and breadth, being something you can use when a blog entry is too slow or an IM too personal. But how can Twitter keep its niche while adding features that its users might actually want. Well, here are my five best suggestions… Read moreRead more

17
Dec

Pizza Hut: Coupon Fail

pizza-hut-logoOne of these days I’m going to sit down and hammer out all of the reasons that I prefer online ordering of pizza to ordering over the phone. Shockingly enough, it doesn’t come down to laziness (I actually get carryout anyway) but rather order accuracy, speed and paper trail.

That being said, until recently, Dominos is the only pizza place that has had a decent online ordering system. The problem with that being that my local Dominos sucks, being run by the reject cast members of a bad stoner comedy and managed by the evil father from the Twisted Sister music videos (YAY for obscure references), I would almost rather shove pins under my fingernails than set foot inside of there.

When Pizza Hut finally decided to entire the 1990′s and add an online store to their site, I was thrilled. Though my local Pizza Hut is not run much better, at least it gave me a choice and some competition, especially for price.

Though it has been up for a while, I don’t order pizza that often and finally got the chance to give it a try last night. Off the bat, Pizza Hut did everything right. They enticed me with a good deal, lured me to register for the site and even got my information.

The only thing they botched was actually giving me the deal I had clicked on, causing me to leave the site in a huff of anger and a strange hunger for McDonalds.

What happened? Well, let me explain. Read moreRead more

10
Dec

Fixing Gmail: How the Best Can Be Better

Gmail is the best Webmail client in the World. I get that. However, winning that contest is a bit like being named the “Most Talented Baldwin”. The competition is thin, to put it generously.

Sure, some people swear by Yahoo!’s mail offering. It is pretty and it does deal with some of the issues I address below, but it also doesn’t load on slower connections, has a terrible search function and can’t import email (seriously, are you THAT stupid Yahoo?). Compound that with no IMAP access and a paid account that doesn’t equal Gmail’s free offering, you have a rather distant second at best.

Outside of a few startups that are doing promising things with Web-based email, such as Zenbe, Gmail stands alone. There is no one out there that really competes with Gmail in this area. They were the first to introduce the super-sized mailbox for free, they were the first to use tags not folders on Webmail (Opera did it first in their mail client), they were the first to give free IMAP access and they were the first to actually put one iota of thought into usability.

But can it be better? Damn right. Nothing in the world is immune from improvement, except perhaps Joan Jett, so what can one do to make Gmail just a little more awesome? Here’s my pick of five things that can push it to eleven. Read moreRead more

5
Dec

Opera Pulls Out the Stops

Well, it appears that Opera has been listening, much to my surprise. It was just a week ago that published my article about five steps to fix Opera, the culmination of many years of my frustration with the browser, and yesterday they release a new alpha of their 10.0 browser, which addressed many of my issues.

Apparently, they had been listening and working on many of the problems for quite some time, just very quietly (perhaps they were also hunting rabbits).

But is it everything that I had hoped for? Well, not quite. However, it shows a great deal of promise and has a lot to offer for us Opera outcasts that have been pushed to using Firefox, Safari or Chrome because of how incomplete the Opera offering has been.

So what’s new and how well does it work? Here’s my breakdown of the latest features and how well they perform. Read moreRead more