Firefox 3 adds fuel to the death of the desktop

I've been playing around with the beta releases of Firefox 3, which have been available for a few months. Mozilla, the open source foundation that creates the browser, has spelt out the improvements they have made. While most users will only notice subtle differences, such as the much quicker speed at which web applications such as Google Mail work, the greater impact of Firefox 3 is the new capabilities it provides web developers.

Firefox 3 lets web applications, such as Google Docs and Facebook, request that resources be cached to allow the application to be used while offline. Firefox 3 also allows web applications to detect whether or not there's an active Internet connection, as well as to detect when the connection goes up and down. These added capabilities mean that it will be possible for users to continue writing their emails and working with the web applications while they are on the train and away from internet connectivity, for example.

Fundamentally what these new resources mean is that Firefox 3 will provide a way for all the applications that were once written as desktop applications to be written as web applications that can be used offline (as a desktop application would be) as well as be used online. Surmising from my previous post, in the same way Windows moved the base platform from the command prompt to the graphical user interface, it looks more and more likely that we are going to see the platform move again to the web.

The convergence of social communication

For how much longer are people going to use separate and disparate social networks, email accounts, instant messenger services and even things like mobile phones - all run by separate providers, each with its own 'friends list' and none compatible with the other?

As it so happens, we are starting to see some convergence:
  • GrandCentral already allows you to view and listen to your phone's voicemail from a web page. The technology is promising and has been bought by Google for integration with Google Docs, which includes Google Mail.
  • Google Mail and Yahoo Mail already offer a 'lite' chat mechanism from within their web pages, allowing you to chat with your friends who also have Google/Yahoo accounts.
  • Facebook now has a mechanism for instigating instant messenger like chats.
  • AOL is buying Bebo so that the Bebo social network can be merged with AOL's Instant Messengering (aka AIM) service.
This trend raises some interesting questions, such as 'is convergence useful?' and 'what would a completely converged communication mechanism look/sound/function like?'.