Trusting In The Cloud: The Fallout When Web 2.0 Apps Disappear

I Want Sandy is a small but useful “personal email assistant”—a proactive time management and reminder system that was built to work for you and intelligently help you manage your time. It’s offered for free and it’s one of many time management-type web 2.0 solutions available. Yesterday, its creator Rael Dornfest announced that he would be shuttering the site entirely in two weeks, as Twitter had hired him and purchased the intellectual property to the site. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Get Satisfaction forum post he made, essentially decrying that he’s left his user base out in the cold. And people aren’t happy.

There are so many web 2.0 applications out there that building a following and reaching a point where it makes any financial sense at all to keep the site open and available and to keep actively developing the site is a difficult challenge. It’s not helped at all by the fact that a site can grow beyond a regular simple hosting account to requiring an entire dedicated server, or even two or more in a load-balanced configuration. This problem is compounded when sometimes that growth milestone can be hit without the dollars backing it up. And yet, this decision wasn’t a financial one.

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Posted in: Rants

Lunascape Multi-Rendering-Engine Browser Review: Verdict—Three Trick Pony

lunascape Lunascape is a new browser that allows you to switch rendering engines on-the-fly. Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Google Chrome/Apple Safari all use different rendering engines and JavaScript engines to display your pretty web pages to you. This is the root cause of browser incompatibility issues—different engines interpret things (like web “standards”) differently and so you see pages display differently. This is the bane of a lot of developers, as we have to fight the many, many quirks that abound when we use certain parts of the DOM or certain JavaScript or CSS tricks. For a lot more on these issues, QuirksMode is a great resource.

Lunascape presents an interesting product, though one that’s only in the Alpha stage, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of things evolve from them. As a developer, I have Firefox, Internet Explorer and Google Chrome all installed and at the ready. It’s pretty simple, though a bit annoying, to boot up IE to make sure a page renders properly, even though we develop under Firefox.  (There are FF extensions that make this a simple right-click affair, however.) Lunascape simplifies the process a bit by allowing you to switch a tab’s rendering engine just with a right-click. And it works, for sure.

But I begin to question the utility of a browser that lets me switch rendering engines, but provides me with very few debugging tools or console access. We develop under Firefox because of things like the Web Developer extension and Firebug. These superb debugging tools let us delve into the DOM and help us identify our many AJAX transgressions. Without these tools, though, the workflow isn’t improved enough to justify a switch from just running the browsers separately.

Now, Lunascape currently supports IE extensions, so perhaps Firefox extension support is on the horizon… but this seems like something that could be very difficult to accomplish, given that XUL (which powers Firefox and the window chrome surrounding it) is a part of Gecko that exists a bit existentially to the site being rendered: Though, if Lunascape itself is XUL-powered, then that would help considerably.

Even still, the appeal just isn’t there for me. Lunascape clearly is betting on its three-trick-pony concept, but that only appeals to developers who know what a rendering engine is. Firefox is a considerably better browsing option for regular end users, so they’re left needing to improve the value proposition for developers and to give us a reason to switch. And they haven’t done that yet. One way they could start is by offering advanced debugging tools, better if they’re rendering engine-specific. Another might be to allow for regression testing in IE: Allowing us to render in older IE engines, like how IETester works.

For now, I plan on leaving this in the Alpha bin it came in and working with FF 3, Chrome/Safari and IE, side-by-side.

See also: TechCrunch & Lifehacker‘s coverage. (The latter, whose screenshot we borrowed.)

Posted in: Development, Reviews