Labs Night: Openness and Competition

28 Jun 2009

Last night, Joseph Smarr from Plaxo was our guest speaker and he talked about how the “web is going social”, and how the “social web is going open”. We discussed all the elements that make up the social web today: identity providers, social web providers and content aggregators, and how each of  them are leveraging open standards and protocols such as OpenID and OAuth to create better experiences for their users. Check out his slides here.

This talk was a nice prelude to some interesting discussion about the role that the browser can play in handling the user’s data and identity on their behalf. Very relevant to this was also the recent experimentation by Weave on identity in the browser, and Myk gave us a demo of the auto-sign-in features.

Labs Night is also a chance for everybody to talk about cool stuff they’ve been working on, so Brandon gave us an update on what’s new in Ubiquity 0.5. There’s some really neat stuff in there: Ubiquity is possibly one of the first pieces of software that perform truly internationalized natural language parsing (0.5 rolls out with support for Japanese and Danish). Do check out this blog post for a detailed discussion of the features in 0.5.

I followed with an update on some of the work I’ve been doing with Jetpack - namely providing the capability for “jetpacks” to record audio. The code to enable this is checked into the repository, but you’ll have to wait until a release later this month if you’re not feeling brave enough to build the extension from source to play around with it. I was especially interested to know the kinds of applications that might be possible with this capability, so you if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Myk also gave us a demo of the new streamlined way of subscribing to feeds using Snowl, check out this release announcement for more details on what’s new with the message reader you know you want to use!

Paul Tarjan from the Searchmonkey team at Yahoo! gave us some really cool demos demonstrating Searchmonkey Objects and YQL. I’m especially excited about YQL because it can make some of the back-end ubiquity code really simple and efficient. Incidentally, the Bing team was here at Mozilla just a couple of days ago and they also demoed some features similar to Searchmonkey Objects, albeit restricted to video and snippets of data for now.

Search is starting to feel exciting again, a sentiment similar to one we feel in the browser space today. There’s a lot of innovation in the area outside of the big daddy, and it is indeed heartening to see that major players in the web are beginning to recognize the importance of openness and competition :)

Labs Nights are monthly events, so we look forward to seeing you sometime in July to discuss more cool stuff that everyone’s been working on!