Archive for 11th June 2007

How the iPhone Will Save Web Standards

Today, Apple has announced the beta release of Safari for Windows - the browser that will be shipped with every iPhone.

safari

This is great on multiple levels:

  1. Developers can finally run tests against the Safari browser without having a Mac (usually these tests simply didn’t happen). This was the reason many sites broke on Macs.
  2. Safari has a strong track record from Mac enthusiasts, which is a mostly separate crowd from Firefox enthusiasts. Thus, this may help further increase adoption of non-IE browsers.
  3. Applications can be tested against the iPhone without an actual iPhone in hand.

That last point is crucial. Right now, everything targets IE, and this is a pain for web development because IE bastardized web standards such as HTML and JavaScript. This meant anything you programmed had a chance to break in IE even if it worked in every other browser on the planet. 

The iPhone may be the best thing to have happened to the Internet since Firefox was born.

If the iPhone becomes the new target platform, standards become truly relevant. Why? Because for the first time in history, hordes of regular Joe consumers will have web access in the palm of their hand, and no company wants their website to completely break when viewed through the iPhone. This is especially true as more and more people begin to consume information strictly through their handheld devices and stop visiting web sites that don’t work on their phones. As a personal example, even though I read lots of news sources when on a desktop, on my Blackberry, I only read a select few sources that are built to handle mobile browsers.

The point is: web publishers can no longer choose to target IE. And as many analysts predict, with or without Apple, the mobile web will match or over take desktop web usage in the near future. Just take a look over at Japan to see what I mean.

So as a developer, I would like to thank the iPhone for making my life better. :)

Second Life – Cash Cow or Pipe Dream 2.0?

I found an article devoted to discussing the slow (but existent) virtual store economy in Second Life.

Second Life gains its appeal from its virtual economies and businesses. Since its meager days, Second Life has continued to draw attention from the mainstream media. Most people know Second Life from the virtual land grab that is taking place. Even the article I linked above talks about spending “millions” to “develop” a piece of virtual land. While it is unclear if they meant virtual millions, the current exchange rate would still put that past 10 thousand dollars.

It is possible to make money selling characters on World of Warcraft. It is possible to make money selling items in Lineage II. But to hear someone (in this case, a company) investing several thousand dollars into a game is insane. If their goal is product exposure to a highly targeted demographic, they may have an argument, but they are interested in e-sales of regular products.

When I shop on Amazon, I can compare prices, lookup other retailers using Google, and see pictures and reviews from hundreds of sources. And I feel safer knowing my credit card is being securely transferred. This is a good consumer experience, which is why Internet sales have been skyrocketing in recent years.

But what about in Second Life? None of that is guaranteed. On the merchant’s side, you have all of the overhead in creating an online store front, plus the need to have “trained staff” on-site and ready to make sales… via chat. What a waste of resources. The barriers to entry are higher than a regular website, the audience is smaller, and the experience is confined to a game.

I’ve never fully understood why Second Life gets so much press. It currently has just over 4 million accounts, but nobody (except Linden Research, Inc., the creators) is able to verify how many of those come from repeat users. Meanwhile, World of Warcraft has over 8 million unique users. When is the last time you saw them in the mainstream press?

I wanted to close this by dismissing the value of “limited” resources in Second Life. This stuff is obvious to people like you and I, but there are clearly a few million people who think otherwise:

  1. In real-life real estate, there is only a certain amount of land. Even then, land is not always a guaranteed bet.
  2. Domain names on the Internet are unlimited. However, all English dictionary words are registered for the .com extension – these are clearly limited by the English languish itself. However, all other extensions (.biz, .name, .info, etc.) languish in popularity. The only way domains LOSE value is if the Internet ceases to exist (or they were over valued to begin with).
  3. Real estate in Second Life disappears if the company goes bankrupt. You will not get a refund on your purchase.