Thursday, December 14th, 2006

Bill Gates on Web Apps

Category: Business, Microsoft, Usability

If you’ve read any tech news in the past 24 hours, you’ll now be familiar with the meeting Bill Gates held among influential bloggers, ahead of next year’s Mix conference. Aside from learning what’s on Bill’s Zune, we get to hear his views on the future of web apps, thanks to a question from Liz Gannes. She asked him which apps should live in the browser and which should not, one of the key questions in Ajax and one we have touched on in the past.

He replied that the distinction would come to be silly from a technical standpoint, but that the necessary movement toward web APIs does present challenges on the business side. “One of the things that’s actually held the industry back on this is, if you have an advertising business model, then you don’t want to expose your capabilities as a web service, because somebody would use that web service without plastering your ad up next to the thing.”

His solution wasn’t very specific: “It’s ideal if you get business models that don’t force someone to say ‘no, we won’t give you that service unless you display something right there on that home page.”

Then for the tease: “And, you know, [inside the browser and outside the browser are] moving towards each other, but there’s still a bit of a barrier there, and new technology, things we’re working on, really will change that.”

Posted by Michael Mahemoff at 8:07 am

2.6 rating from 34 votes


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Sounds like Bill forgot his cheat sheet on new Microsoft technologies to give a clearer answer on the split between browser based and client applications. Surely he should have said that for consumer and small business web applications APIs are unlikely as costs are subsidised by advertising, but that for most Microsoft server and business applications like Sharepoint, they already include very mature web APIs. And the “tease” mentioned is surely a reference to WPF Everywhere with XAML and C# apps direct in (any) browser – the very exciting prospect of an end-to-end development platform that Flash/FLEX could never offer!

Comment by Andy — December 14, 2006

I use to think Bill Gates was a visionary. Its been painfully obvious now for about 6 years he wasn’t ever a visionary, just someone who could exploit things/people/companies. Its his company and browser that is hindering the web more than any other single thing. (not supporting the canvas tag, flaky CSS support, etc., etc.)

Comment by Mark Haliday — December 14, 2006

“his company and browser that is hindering the web”… the pace of Web 2.0 development, which is a pretty blistering pace anyway, is hardly set back by CSS rendering bugs. Surely it’s the lack of tangible business models and the pace of change in web advertising.

Comment by Andy — December 14, 2006

“is hardly set back by CSS rendering bugs”
Which is why I put the “etc.”. I hate to have to go into all the details of why Internet Explorer is hindering developers, but here it goes.
1. Actually CSS rendering is a major issue, ask any designer or web developer that has to make sites work on IE, Firefox, Safari, etc. Chances are good its usually IE that has the most problems.
2. How about the AJAX caching issue mentioned here on Ajaxian?
3. No support of the Canvas tag, this one hinders me in particular
4. Non-compliance with their version of Javascript to the currentr standards
5. Complete lack of security in IE hurts. Sorry but allowing ActiveX controls to install themselves without user approval (now fixed) was completely unacceptable. Security is an ongoing problem with IE and its usually tied into ActiveX and usually very serious. Not to mention the numerous buffer overflow issues they have.
6. Lack of support for XHTML, heck for that matter lack of support for HTML 4.01. They support what they feel like – nothing more.

Comment by Mark Haliday — December 14, 2006

I know it is really fashionable to bash IE, but let’s not forgot that great contributions:
They introduced innerHTML, this is extremely powerful and useful solution for many problems.
They also were the first to introduce the xml http request object that is the foundation of Ajax. While the technique they used was propietary, there was not standard at the time, it had to be propeitary.
Also, the IE Ajax caching is not a serious issue. Caching GETs is foundational to the REST principle of HTTP. IE does have issues with being over aggresive with caching, but the workarounds are trivial.
On the otherhand, a couple of the major tragedies of IE, that I believe are just as significant setbacks to the web industry (that have less trivial solutions):
The Dom reference counting/memory leak bug. This not only leads to memory leaks, but the solutions to avoiding the leaks often lead to poorly structured JavaScript code. Using closures for event handling is much better code style, but leads to memory leaks.
The PNG bug. PNG is a great format, and is the only one (of JPEG, GIF and PNG) that supports that semi-transparency. It is a real shame that the web industry has not really been able to take advantage of this format for the most part. I really there is a JS fix for this, but it is quite a hack.

Comment by Kris Zyp — December 14, 2006

Ahah, the canvas tag. I’m suprised by the number of posts on Ajaxian that are regarding drawing and layout editing. This is central to “which apps should live in the browser and which should not”. Personal opinion, use a client app or plugin if it needs that rich a UI. (And I speak as a web developer.) Let XHTML stick to being semantic text based content and running great (forms and some multimedia based) social/collaborative apps. We are hardly at zenith regarding usability and data APIs, let alone trying to get web pages to render content they were perhaps never intended to do.

Comment by Andy — December 14, 2006

Bill who?
Just ignore him, he’s on the way out, thank god
The future of the web is in the hands of mozilla, opera, apple, yahoo and google. The rest can just wait and adapt.

Comment by scriptkiddie — December 14, 2006

@ scriptkiddie:
I wish that were true. However, Andy is right: this is all about WPF/E. We’re about a year away from MS’ overwhelming push for WPF/E. Once that starts, it’s going to be very, very hard for anyone — even Google — to save the openness of the web as we know it.
Supporting Openlaszlo may be one way to resist the onslaught.

Comment by John Hann — December 15, 2006

What do you expect from Bill with profit as the first priority? Browser is leading the behaviour of the online user and will create the marketing need in the future to be target by “marketers” – with Apps Web in mind. Market leader talks and you listen… you can choose to follow the trend or die out soon!

Comment by Brain — February 23, 2007

OK. Maybe Bill’words has some resons.

Comment by zzs85aa — December 14, 2009

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