Web services close down all the time. TechCrunch, among the sources I subscribe to, is the most zealous at documenting such shutdowns. It usually uses the term Deadpool.

But it just passed up on the opportunity for headlines such as “Windows Live Spaces to the Deadpool.” Instead, Jason Kincaid’s post has the title Windows Live Outsources Blogging, Migrating 30 Million Users To WordPress.com. Now, this seems to be less abrupt than many closedowns.

Users will be migrated through a process that preserves all of their content, and will automatically redirect visitors who head to their existing Microsoft Live Spaces sites… Microsoft is going to be killing off the existing Spaces product in six months.

So it’s killing off without a deadpool? I’m not sure why it takes TechCrunch most of the article to use a word of death. It’s not usually that delicate, or squeamish.

Anyway, this is big for WordPress.com, where Paul Kim welcomes the new arrivals.

Two cowboys ride off into the sunset. The younger of the two was brought in to do a specific job for a limited time, while the older has been around for what seems like forever.

I refer respectively to Google Gears and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. We’ll start with the latter, the browser that would not die, but that seems to have got a lot closer to extinction this year.

The IE6 story is well told, mainly in comic strip form, by Brad Colbow at Smashing Magazine. (By the way, I like Smashing enough to suggest that you sign up for its newsletter and for a chance to win some of the cool giveaways.)

So, on to the story of the Mountain View Kid: Google Gears. Gears’ most striking feature is that it allows you to access the web without an internet connection. It is of course necessary that the browser and the sites you’re using are Gears-enabled.

So why can the Kid? Because offline access to the web belongs in web standards. So Google has shifted effort away from Gears itself and “towards bringing all of the Gears capabilities into web standards like HTML5″ (quoting from the Gears API blog).

Reaction to the Gears news seems to have been positive. To some, it looks good because standards are good (and I think they are usually better than the alternative). To others, the news about Gears looks good because Gears itself wasn’t (and my own limited use of Gears did yield some rather weird results).

MG at TechCrunch thinks that Gears deserves to die because it is guilty of being a plugin, and plugins fragment the web. While I see what he means, I don’t think all plugins are equally guilty. For example, without Gears, I need an internet connection to access the web, but I’m used to that. Flash is far more guilty: without it, much of the web is unusable.

In sum, I’m glad that each of these two cowboys is taking a last ride. To mix metaphors, the web will be a less tangled place without them.

Thanks to German Vidal for making the photo available under Creative Commons.

So, what isn’t (just) search? The last week or two has given us great insight into this question.

  • Yahoo is not a search company. Good call by CEO Carol Bartz. I’m glad to see that the stock has gone up: I bought some a few months ago, on the basis that things couldn’t get much worse without provoking a takeover.
  • Wolfram Alpha is not a search engine. It’s “a computational knowledge engine,” and so can do some things better than Google or other search engines.
  • Bing is, according to one of its URLs and to the video currently there, a decision engine. I agree with Erick at TechCrunch that Bing isn’t the best name. It makes me think of the singer, and of the song “I’m dreaming of a blue screen of death“.

For the record, I’m not a search engine either. I am married with children.

Oxite Doesn’t Excite

December 9, 2008

Oxite is an open source, standards compliant, and highly extensible content management platform, Microsoft’s Jeff Sandquist posted yesterday. So is this Microsoft taking on Google/Blogger, Automattic/WordPress, Six Apart/Movable Typepad, Acquia/Drupal, and so on?

No it isn’t. Jeff and his colleagues “are hopeful that this lightweight sample allows folks to get rolling with ASP.NET MVC and understand the importance of web standards.” That’s worthy stuff, but it does make clear that Oxite isn’t an attempt to compete with Blogger, or with anything. Rather, it’s a sample application.

So, using Firefox 3.0, I tried to install Google’s Chrome browser. I was told that I needed to install Windows XP Service Pack 2 first. I admit that I should have done this a while ago on this seldom-used desktop.

So, off I went to download SP2. I was told that, in order to download it, I would need to use Internet Explorer (or allow automatic updates). So off I went to Windows Update. But to use that site, I have to be using a current version of Internet Explorer. Yes, that does seem like a joke to me, but apparently Microsoft mean it.

So off I went to Internet Explorer Get It Now. You’re probably ahead of me here. IE7 and IE8beta each require… SP2.

I think I’ll wait to get my hands on the newish laptop downstairs before kicking the Chrome tires.

Here’s an interesting juxtaposition of stories from Techmeme. The WSJ story is one of many today about Zune 2.5. The link to WSJ takes you only to a couple of paragraphs and an invitation to subscribe, so you’re probably better off with a link to a real article (e.g., at Engadget).

However, none of the stories about Zune 2.5 I’ve scanned say much about DRM. I believe that the Zuniverse is ridden with the stuff.

That brings us to the second story in the above screenshot. The title is yet another exaggerated rumour of music’s death. But the post itself is an excellent account of what Microsoft will do, on August 31, to people who bought from MSN Music.

On that day, Microsoft will turn off the servers that they maintain for the sole purpose of validating that the songs that people have already “purchased” through MSN Music are still theirs to play. Those people (hereafter “the victims”) will not notice the change right away. The victims will only notice it when they purchase a new computer, or when they upgrade the operating system on their current computer, or when the hard drive in their computer dies and needs to be rebuilt/reinstalled. At that point — transferring the music files they have “purchased” to another drive or a new computer — the Microsoft music player running on the victim’s PC (like iTunes, but all Microsoft-y instead of Apple-y) will make a call to Microsoft’s validation servers to verify that the music files were legitimately purchased. This call will fail, since the servers are not responding, since Microsoft has intentionally turned them off. The Microsoft music player will then conclude, incorrectly but steadfastly, that the music files were downloaded illegally and that the victim is a filthy pirate, and it will refuse to play them.

What can we learn from the juxtaposition of the two Techmeme stories? If we are music buyers, we should avoid DRM like the plague, especially when it comes from Microsoft. If we are writing about Zune, or about pretty much anything to do with digital music, we should tell our readers about the DRM implications.

Or we should at least ask our readers to comment on the DRM implications. So, can someone enlighten us about Zune and DRM?

The biggest tech story of the year so far is the acquisition of Yahoo by Microsoft, and the biggest current tech story is that the deal didn’t happen.

Let’s review, from a few different perspectives, starting with Yahoo itself. CEO Jerry Yang poses the question Ok, so now what?.

With Microsoft’s withdrawal, we’ll be better able to focus our energy on growing our industry leadership and maximizing value for stockholders. We’ll continue to execute on our plan — making your Internet experience as personal, relevant, open and social as possible, serving advertisers so well they insist on working with us, and opening up Yahoo! in a way that developers dream of.

Meanwhile, one of the leads at Yahoo News is: Yahoo shares fall 17 pct after Microsoft withdraws bid. The story tells that Yahoo shares fell to $23.73 in early trading, while Microsoft’s rose 2.3 percent to $29.30. Yahoo is up slightly to $24 right now, which is $9 less than Microsoft’s last offer.

I found via Fred Wilson, a poll on where Yahoo will close today . Yesterday, his prediction was $26, and mine was $18. I’ll actually be happy if he is still closer than me at the end of the day. But I fear that a further slide is only a shareholder lawsuit or two away.

There’s another poll related to the non-deal over at TechCrunch: Does Ballmer Need to Go? Currently “too soon to tell” has a comfortable lead, with “yes” and “no” tied for second place. Those are the only three candidates: I couldn’t find “Ballmer should go, but not for Microhoo-related reasons.”

So the deal, even thought it didn’t happen, continues to create distractions for both Microsoft and Yahoo. Google is the winner.

To put it in a few other ways:

  • Ballmer backs off, writes to Yang that “clearly a deal in not to be.”
  • Yahoo can stop worrying about Microsoft, and start worrying about shareholder lawsuits. As Om puts it:

    They said no to $31-a-share bid. (Apparently, Microsoft raised it to $33 a share… ) If the stock skids to say $21 a share, the shareholders are going to be might pissed… In other words, at a time when Yahoo, its management and its board of directors need to be focused on rebooting the company, they are going to be distracted by these nagging problems.

  • Of course, if Y! stock falls that low, Microsoft might be back.

I was wrong. I thought that the deal would happen, because it seemed by far the best that Y! shareholders were going to do. I still don’t how Y! stock does anything but plummet next week, and I don’t see how it gets up to Microsoft’s offer price in the forseeable future.

You didn’t misread the title, and April Fool’s day is indeed 13 days behind us. The good news for Microsoft is that it has some customers who are passionately attached to Windows, some eager for the new version, and, I think it’s safe to assume, some who fall into the intersection of the two sets.

One of my sources for this, and the place I saw the word passion used to describe attitude toward Windows, is an article by AP’s Jessica Mintz. She refers to the Save XP web petition organized by InfoWorld journalist Galen Gruman.

While XP arouses passion, Windows 7 arouses eagerness. This is because it is expected to address the criticism that Windows is too monolithic. Gartner Group’s recent version of this criticism gathered a lot of print and pixels. Matt Asay’s (perhaps partisan) pixels arranged themselves to suggest that Windows needs to become more like Linux in order to avoid such criticism.

So, let’s sum up (by the way, did you know that sum up comes from the Latin for over-simplify) about three generations of Windows. There’s the passion-inducing one (XP), the excessively-monolithic one (Vista), and the eagerly-awaited one (W7). If Microsoft listened to Meatloaf, they’d realize that two out of three ain’t bad. Trying to force Vista down throats that lack the need or hardware capacity for it, on the other hand, could turn out very badly.

Randall Stross, in Sunday’s New York Times, described the story of Windows Vista as “a tragedy in three acts.” The voices of the chorus reveal that all is not well in Vistaville. For example:

Jon… upgrades two XP machines to Vista. Then he discovers that his printer, regular scanner and film scanner lack Vista drivers. He has to stick with XP on one machine just so he can continue to use the peripherals.

Did Jon simply have bad luck? Apparently not. When another person, Steven, hears about Jon’s woes, he says drivers are missing in every category.

Then Randall unmasks the chorus members.

Jon A. Shirley, a Microsoft board member and former president and chief operating officer… Steven Sinofsky, the company’s senior vice president responsible for Windows.

You can probably tell that I like Randall’s dramatic framing of the Vista story. That’s why I extended it to refer to the chorus, and that’s why I’m going to take it yet further, and refer to five-act structure. I’ll leave you to read about the fourth act, falling action if you want.

Let’s think about the fifth and final act, dénouement. Wikipedia tells us that “tragedy ends with a catastrophe in which the protagonist is worse off than at the beginning of the narrative.” Again, I’ll provide an exercise for you dear reader: provide a

I note that tragedy is not the only type of five-act drama: “comedy ends with a dénouement (a conclusion) in which the protagonist is better off than at the story’s outset.” I wonder what conclusion to the drama of Vista could leave Microsoft better off? Maybe it can sell Windows! But who would buy it? That would surely require a deus ex machina.

redditpython.pngI’ve been rather slow to post this: two days is a long time in blogging. I was far quicker to post it to reddit, where it has done rather well. Yes, this is a rather gratuitous last paragraph, but I just wanted to include the cute reddit alien and yet another picture of a snake.

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