Jabber is geting more and more attention these days – as most freemail providers provide it also as a chat protocol and integration into different web software advances I tend to think that it might become THE internet protocol. Why is that? Well it allows communication between desktop applications and server applications. It also allows communication between servers – and it allows also complex messaging – and its not full of spam. So I could think that we will eventually see some kinf of Jabber mail as the new mail standard in the future – which also allows attachments or voice – with still a simple kind of adressing. It will NOT replace http for sure – not as a replacement as a web browsing protocol – but maybe still for things like exchange of small personalized information bits. Jabber is extandable and is not a highly specialized protocol – so it can be used for many different purposes and it also is based uppon XML – which again makes it more flexible.
I think it is not really a better special protocol for things like serving web pages if you think like you used to think. But if you look at the problems of the web- like authentication and how people needed to set up solutions like OpenID to solve at least some of the problems – now lets think that a browser like Firefox can authenticate via Jabber – this would also be a unique and open identifier – only problem is that browser speak http and ftp – and generally talk to sites anonymously and unencrypted. Another intersting things are RSS feeds and calendars – right now we are used to fetch those meta data via http mostly -but this means we fetch anonymous data, unless we would integrate http authentication into http – but http authentication is not really comfortable.
So generally Jabber could act as THE authenticator protocol – but it could also be the protocol to get new meta data that we care about – either some client requests new meta data or he gets a message with the new data or changed data. I guess currently most RSS feed readers act the way that they repeatedly fetch one RSS file and then show the changes to the RSS feed aggregator? Also think aboout that Jabber also could fetch simple diffs of data – and as the client software might maintain the full info it could insert new data into the existing – this would also help mobile devices to fetch data in less time. And it would also mean that the user would get personalised data without that the user would have to log into web sites via a mobile device. He rather would subscribe to a site via jabber.
And there is another thing that is related and I think could become true: I think that the alway on metaphor will become less important in the near future. Why? Because it might often be better to be able to fetch large amounts of data via a wireless lan when you are near a wireless hub than to always be available and download data through 3G or any other “fast” new network. I do not think the new phone standards will get anything near wired or WLAN standards when it comes to speed – both technologies move forward but phone standards will never be faster than WLAN standards. And on the other hand devices get faster processors and larger disks. So what I guess will happen is that your device will be able to contain something like a complete wikipedia – and that no one really would be so stupid to browse wikipedia only via a mobile device online – rather he browses it offline with no connection to the outside – or at least very limited connection – and the connections should be encrypted and indivualized – so that each device only gets what it is missing and only when it can fetch large amounts of data cheap. So instead of the computer that we got used to use more as a terminal to the real data on the internet the computer will more likely be used more directly – the mobile devices AND the desktops. And thats why I also think the Offline Desktop will rather become more important than less important. This is also a matter of security. What a user should want is that the computer reduces the need to connect to the internet and to visit random websites with unknown content or status. And it is generally a better idea to just have what you need in a controlled enviroment instead of having to import random data from endless sources. Funnily on desktops there is more computer power invested to search data that is stored randomly and also internet content from email, web or chat than to store data in a meaningful way. So I download a PDF in a random location (I have to make a choice) – but then I have to use a desktop search engine to find it again. Thats like I would put letters I get in random folders in my office and then I would have to search every folder every time. Ok computer power helps in finding such documents – but wouldn’t it be better if the data you fetch is already organized and you would not depend on the logic of a search engine to find it again? Thing is that the category you think of with the document might not even be either in the name of the document or inside the document itself.
But again the free software desktops are much too conservative to think of such a solution. So ok Apple do this – and free software desktops will follow five years later. 😦 Free software desktops rather think about more blingbling instead of helping the user and be ahead this time. I think this is also due to the fact that generally free desktops have no grand vision. Coders are more worried about deadlines ore fixing stuff – or doing something cool. What I just described would require people who want to do it and to put different resources together . I think it is not a huge task – in fact I think it could be done rather easily with some tweaks – like on GNOMEs epiphany on download neither download a document autoamtically nor ask for a location – but instead start an import wizard that suggest categories and allows you to add categories and texts. Then to retrieve this document you would do this by date, filetype, category or tag – you should also be able to gather different documents under one lable – so you could have graphics, PDFs and ODFs saved separately but retrieve them in one view with only a few words or clicks. The old folder content view is not able to help us any more with more and more data – but its wrong that instead of fixing the data storage metaphor – to create more and more apps that maintain their own databases of the files you have – so like you can have on GNOME beagle, tracker and f-spot all indexing your hard disk for three different databases – thats stupidity not intelligence. In open source we should have all the possibility to share technology intelligently and also if we develop – to also think about different apps. On GNOME at least my impression is that many projects go a path of their own because the core desktop was devalued intentionally and also the support for potentially core apps did not get any support from the core of GNOME developers.
I think a new desktop vision should primarily focus on what people need to work with computers today – and how the computer could help them in doing this easier. But lets forget for a while how computer work today. So maybe this would mean to write many parts from scratch – like to kill all file dialogues, because they are mostly unnecessary unless if you want to export data.