Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




THE Platform

Speaking of platforms.... most people spend 95% of their time at the computer using an e-mail program or surfing the web. (anyone got real data on that?)

I would like to see an open standard for storing bookmarks, "history lists", folder trees, e-mail messages, metadata, etc., and then an environment that gives more developers more control over customizing / scripting the front end. I was excited about XUL and Moz 1.1 but it still seems <b>flaky</b> and I had trouble finding any documentation... although that may be changing. It's supposed to have the same specs on Win/Lin/Mac.

Take a look at Outlook Express 6.0... it's almost the same as Outlook Express 3.0. A very usable application but think of how much room there is for improvement. ( ! )

Anyway... I guess my point here is that someone should pay more attention to the fat e-mail / web clients as "platforms" as Joel described in his recent column.... focusing on a developer-friendly API.

Scott Fitchet
scott@figital.com
www.figital.com

Scott Fitchet
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Hmmm.

There are two bookmark standards. The way Mozilla does it, and the way IE does it :)

Outlook (not Express) is extensively scriptable. Ask any macro virus writer. :)

I think Outlook Express' UI hasn't changed because it is fine the way it is on the major details. What I'd like to see is that they fix the security holes and non-UI design flaws (the way it lets you open an attachment from a temp file, edit that file, then deletes that file after you save and exit comes to mind)

Outlook is a fat an e-mail client as any I've seen. And it is a platform:

http://www.microeye.com/images/ol2k2map.gif

Chris Altmann
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

hey Scott,

That is a great point, and leads to the whole idea that open standards can be platforms. Someone (can't remember who, too many clever people here) in another thread hit the nail on the head I think when saying something like 'open API's/interface are what matters, the source is an after thought'. Really that is all we want, that is a level playing field and we can rise or fall with it.

I too was very excited about xul, I even did a flash port of it at one point (http://www.debreuil.com/xul). You are right though that it was imperfect. It struck me as very smart and very needed, but sadly the work of a single genius, rather than a group of them. Totally hats off to that guy, but there are things it falls down on (nobody can know everything). For example, try to get a skin in Mozilla to have an icon only, text only, or text/icon option for the top buttons. Ok, that maybe easy now and I'll look like a dork when someone proves me wrong - I've postted enough here that you should all be used to that. But a year ago it was pretty hard.

The world really needs open standard, accepted, and widely used interfaces like that though. Especially for gui's but for all these commodity platforms like email too. The time has come.

Robin Debreuil
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

I agree that bookmarks should have a standard. They have come far enough to be recognized as such and deserve a RFC just like personal information has a vCard RFC:
http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2426.txt

I think bookmark/favorite lists are here to stay so long as the URI is around.

Ian Stallings
Tuesday, September 03, 2002

Great idea.
Something not entireliy different existed on the BeOS (a great OS that never had the chance, and that died last year), but for email messages.
BeOS had a database-oriented file system (or something like that, cannot bother to dig up the details), allowing for instance to attach any kind of tags to a file, allowing for detailed searches later. That, combined with the fact that it had a standarized file format for email messages, allowed for people to freely organize their email messages, and even swap email reading applications without any hassle. It is like if you could both use Outlook and Eudora for your email needs at the same time, using the same underlying data. Would it not be great?

Gabriel Lima
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

>It is like if you could both use Outlook and Eudora for your >email needs at the same time, using the same underlying >data. Would it not be great?

That would be great. And there is a standard text mailbox format on unix systems. In fact, like all great standards, there are a couple of standard text formats. Eudora uses one of these formats too, IIRC.

Chris Altmann
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Actually there is a would-be standard for bookmarks : XBEL (http://pyxml.sourceforge.net/topics/xbel/), which uses an XML format.

However I think is only used in Konqueror as of today.

Olivier Fontenelle
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

I think the real issue is abstracting all of the different data on your desktop, in addition to "files," so that it is distinct and no longer captive to specific applications and specific installations.  How many amazing new applications and tools can you imagine in a world where all of the bits and pieces of data are stored in a standard, open, portable data store?  Furthermore, this would make data more portable, easier to back up, and eaiser to manage over a very long horizon (i.e. my email archive going back 10 years).

But doing this would typically threaten the dominant vendor's dominance, so I wouldn't count on it happening from MS (or any other category leader) without external forces mandating it.

Brian Finkel
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Check out the new file system on the next version of WIndows: 

http://news.com.com/2009-1017-857509.html

Dan Sickles
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

> Outlook is a fat an e-mail client as any I've seen.

btw, I heard that, back in the day, Microsoft had two Outlook projects: "Ren" and "Stimpy". Stimpy was an email library, reusable by other apps. Ren was the fat email client built using Stimpy.  :-)

Zwarm Monkey
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Dan, the Microsoft pan sounds exactly like the BeOS file system with XML thrown in for extra buzzword punch. Everything old is new again.
There are a few hardy dedicated souls trying to build an Open Source version of BeOS. http://open-beos.sourceforge.net/proj.php

Doug Withau
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

With the exception that microsoft is a little more ambitious, and wants everything (filesystem, email storage, and the kitchen sink) to have a unified OLE DB interface usable through SQL, with queries possibly spanning _all_ data sources.

Eventually, if this works it will be extremely useful - even though it will pull the ground from beneath many "solution providers" and "integrators" feet.

But the file system part isn't much more than a BFS lookalike.

Ori Berger
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Wouldn't it have been more logical for Ren to be the library and Stimpy to be the thick client?

http://www.eggscentral.com/applications/23_22.html

Malachi Brown
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

There is probably nothing stopping other vendors from just using live data from OE / IE in their front end applications until something standard develops with XML.

I recently switched to MozillaMail 1.x for a few months and then switched back to Outlook Express... now when I do archive searches I have to switch programs if I want an all-inclusive search. :(

Scott Fitchet
Wednesday, September 04, 2002

Scott, can you elaborate on why you switched back?  I've used Netscape 4 Mail, Outlook & Outlook Express at work, and now using Moz Mail 1.1, and for me, Moz Mail is the best yet. I do miss Outlook's Calendaring, but it's arriving to Moz soon too.

Ori Berger
Friday, September 06, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home