One of the more frustrating things about using business applications is they invariably impose some form of workflow that is baked into software. Vendors have long argued that these workflows are essentially amalgamations of best practices that the vendor has painstakingly aggregated while researching and developing the application.
Video conferencing is one of those killer applications that a lot of people get initially excited about, but wind up seldom using. The reason for this ranges from everything from a lack of interoperability standards to the fact that setting up an appointment to walking down the hall to a another room to use a video conferencing system is more trouble than it’s worth, especially when the setting up of that video conferencing session usually requires an administrator or someone from IT to actually set up.
It used to be that integrating data across different applications required an unnatural act involving complicated pieces of middleware. In recent times, accomplishing that act has become easier thanks to lighter-weight middleware based on standard Web services and RESTful APIs. But even still, accomplishing that task still requires the skills of a developer. In contrast, the next revolution in data integration is going to be characterized by business users integrating data across applications on their own at will.
Microsoft has just announced the availability of the Microsoft Translator Hub for commercial use, including access to the Microsoft Translator API. Microsoft Translator Hub is built on Windows Azure, and provides tools for businesses to “build, improve, and deploy customized automatic language translation systems.”
A recent PC World article titled “As Facebook Service Goes, So Goes the Internet” scratched the surface of some inherent dangers of our increasingly interconnected Internet. By its very nature, the current generation of the internet is interconnected: “Web 2.0 is a loosely defined intersection of web application features that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web.” The PC World article traced some problems that mere inclusion of a simple sharing interface can cause. When Facebook suffered a bad day, the top twenty news sites experienced load times of 12.5 seconds (compared to the usual 5-7 seconds). Top retail sites load times slowed to 5.7 seconds from the typical 2.2. seconds. All of this dragging because of a poorly performing “Like” button at a Facebook data center? This could have much larger implications for companies that are inherently reliant on data from external sources (e.g. websites pulling third-party data via APIs).
Last month saw the first-ever “Small Business Saturday” (at least according to American Express, the initiative’s sponsor). Small business get plenty of attention in terms of their finances, but what about their web application needs? The Small Business Web is “a directory of web apps to help small business bloom and grow.” The site was founded about two years ago by FreshBooks (invoicing), MailChimp (email marketing), BatchBlue (customer relationship management), Outright (accounting), and Shoeboxed (receipt management). It now lists dozens of applications across several more categories.
Transloadit offers media upload, modification, and storage as a service for developers who need that functionality (or, as Transloadit’s homepage puts it, “geeks who run web or mobile applications”) but don’t want to worry about it themselves. There aren’t too many moving parts to it, but they’re ones a lot of applications make use of. The Transloadit API’s main functions include: file upload, image resizing, video file encoding, image thumbnail creations, and file storage on Amazon S3.
File sharing service drop.io last week struck a deal with Facebook in which the larger company will acquire “most of drop.io’s technology and assets.” Founder Sam Lessin, a friend and former schoolmate of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, will go work for Facebook in product management. As of the announcement, users ceased being able to create new “drops” (the service’s term for file uploads) for free. Existing premium users will have access to their accounts through December 15th, after which time all accounts will be terminated and all stored content will be deleted. Not all of drop.io’s products are being wound-down quite as quickly, and at least some of the developer APIs will be remaining up for longer than the main service.
The number of services offering real-time APIs is slowly but surely expanding and it looks like we’re going to have to add quite a few more. Since the start of the year a new type of service has started to appear–client push services, which help developers include real-time updates in their web apps.
Got an idea for a new website? It’s easier than ever to build a first-class application by offloading some of the harder stuff to other services. Read on and discover that your new site is already halfway built.