Intriguing Technologies #1


This week I’ve actually started to dig out and spend a little time looking at some new technology. It’s been a little bit of all over the map, so with no particular theme, here’s some things that are grabbing my attention (aside from being excited about the new iPhone coming soon):

  • Google Friend Connect – Friend Connect allows you to easily embed social gadgets into any web site you can edit. You can then authenticate to those gadgets using your ID from Google, AIM, Plaxo, or any OpenID (including Yahoo!), and interact with the friends list from those social networks. The promise is that it makes it easy to turn any web site into a socially enabled site, utilizing your existing connections. Gadgets are built using Google’s Open Social spec.
    When they first released it worked with Facebook, but then Facebook blocked Friend Connect. Both sides say they’re working on ways to get it re-enabled. My take is that it could turn out to be really useful, particularly if it works with Facebook authentication and friends. It might be worth exploring with Google whether we could get them to include InCommon as a source of authentication, though InCommon doesn’t have friend info. I’ve got a test page up with some of the sample gadgets here.
  • Grooveshark – a new twist to online music. Grooveshark allows people to search for songs, build playlists, and stream songs for free, and then if you want to buy an mp3 of a song you can pay for it and download it via a peer-to-peer protocol. They take care of sending payments to the record company for the purchase, and the peer you download from also gets a cut of the price. I mentioned on Twitter that I was enjoying listening to tunes on Grooveshark and then I got a note back through Facebook (my twitter posts update Facebook status) from Ben Westerman-Clark at Grooveshark saying that some people had joined up as a result of my post. We started a conversation about how Grooveshark might be something we could publicize as a legal music source at the UW. I think it’s a great idea (though the execution is still a little rough around the edges), but I do wonder if the major-label industry will let it be, especially given the ridiculous trouble they’re giving Michael Robertson about his mp3tunes service.
    Grooveshark have also, btw, started the totally cool service, where you can search for a song on Grooveshark and it gives you back a short url you can use to link to the stream of that song. Here, for example is a link to Miss You by the Stones – .
  • Sproutcore – a javascript framework for building richly interactive web applications without using any plugins like Flash or Silverlight. I’ve just worked my way through the tutorial and it looks reasonably put together, using the popular model-view-controller programming abstractions and handling most of the heavy lifting for you. Sproutcore is apparently the framework that Apple has used to build the apps in its new MobileMe service (their forthcoming online service that replaces .Mac), so you can bet that apps built with Sproutcore will work just fine on modern browsers including the iPhone.
  • Fluid – a groovy little Mac app that was responsible for introducing me to the concept of the Site Specific Browser. Fluid takes a web site and turns it into a (psuedo) desktop app – you can put it in the dock with its own icon, give it its own menu bar, etc. A nice way of keeping those sites you use all the time separate from the ever-multiplying set of browser tabs. Might be a good thing for things like administrative applications. Here’s a snap of the fluid-ized UW Directory.fluiduwdir.png

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