Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What Does "Online Accounts" Do?

I've been running Oneiric (now 11.10) as my primary desktop since pre-alpha so I thought I had a good handle on it. Well, it turns out that I didn't.

This morning, I stumbled upon Online Accounts in the Me Menu. This appeared to be something that I have been asking for for some time now. Gnome 2 had the About Me dialog, which had the potential to offer all kinds of information about yourself to other applications, meaning that you potentially wouldn't have to enter your account information separately in your mail and chat clients. Unfortunately, security concerns meant that the About Me dialog was never used for that purpose.

Online Accounts came up promisingly. I happily entered my email addresses for Google (the only provider supported at this time), and left Mail, Calendar, Chat, Contacts, and Documents all turned on. I mostly live in the browser these days, but desktop integration sure is nice. I opened Empathy to check that IM was working and was prompted to enter my account details. Hmm. I Tried Thunderbird. No joy.

It turns out that Online Accounts just offers an API. There aren't any applications that actually use that API at this point. Yay! Another half feature from Ubuntu (well, officially it's GNOME's, but Ubuntu shipped it in 11.10). It gets more and more frustrating every year.

How may applications possibly connect in the future?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

140 characters and URL Shorteners -- Really?

  1. AOL
  2. Prodigy
  3. Myspace
  4. Twitter
  5. Facebook
  6. URL shortening services like bit.ly

What do all these things have in common? They control(ed) the platform, and companies and individuals gladly changed the way they did business or ran their lives . Some of them are gone, and I'm certain that in another ten years, the rest will be footnotes on the Internet.

URL shorteners are kind of unique in that list -- they exist to serve Twitter, mainly. They exist so that we can talk more in our 140 bytes. Unlike the real URL, they don't last as long as the page and they break. We need special browser extensions so that we know where we are clicking through to.

URL shorteners have become the masks for phishing and spam. How awful, just so that we can get our 140 characters.

I can't help but think that in ten years, we're all going to look back on this with a collective "WTF were we thinking?!?" Right now, the average connection speed for developed countries is right around 10 Mbps. Yet, we're limiting communication more than we were in the 90s. And we're stuffing the Internet full of temporary workarounds to this artificial limit. Youtube videos at TBs a day, though? No problem.

It's all rather silly. Let's get a communication platform that allows expression and permanent, discoverable links.

If Google+ gets a real API and federation, I'm willing to back that.

p.s. Diaspora is asking for donations. O_o
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