Next generation browsers: can IE catch up with Facebook?

MIT’s Technology Review recently carried a review of some of the new features trailed for Microsoft’s IE8 ,and for others in beta in Firefox. It looks like Microsoft are picking up on the trend for people to write their own add-on apps (in this case called Activities) which are well used in applications such as LinkedIn, Facebook and The review focusses on Activities, and doesn’t discuss other potential enhancements in 8. For example, says the review, Microsoft links a slew of Activities to its own email, blogging and news services. Of course, these pre-written Activities link to Microsoft’s own services (e.g. Hotmail) but the API is open, and anyone can write one and publish it.

Firefox 3 has been out in beta for a while now (anyone using it? Give us a comment on your experience). Its enhancements are in a different direction, enhancing bookmark management and providing a level of offline support. This might resonate in the enterprise, where the move from replicated collaborative services (such as Lotus Notes) to browser-based applications killed off the ability to easily take your application with you on your laptop.

Take a look!


Review: New Microsoft browser eases Web sharing, use of multiple services Technology Review, 19 Mar 2008
IE8 Beta on
Firefox 3 Beta 4 Release Notes from Mozilla, 10 Mar 2008, with links to download (in 40 languages)
Mozilla Developer News (look for links to the Firefox 3 programme)

Living on the Web gains enterprise momentum

I’ve been involved for several years with CSC’s Leading Edge Forum (LEF) on a theme which we initially called “Consumerisation of IT” and, more recently, “Living on the Web”. LEF’s been in the vanguard of this movement. Researcher Doug Neal identified the trend before most other commentators, and LEF has been actively supporting it through research, study tours, an ongoing working group, and a great deal of active sharing of knowledge and experience. Where most insight services are still identifying the trend, LEF has already multiple reports out and a workbook in active development.

What’s new is that the major analysts are now working on the trend, and mainstream press people have picked it up too. Gartner, after much scepticism about its value, now claim to have invented the term. Forrester’s Matt Brown and colleagues have just published a new report: Forrester’s term is “Technology Populism”. In the UK, The Guardian recently published a piece quoting a user in BP’s flagship programme: “Feels like I just got out of IT prison!”. In the US, members of the group have had various interactions with the media. The idea is out there!

BP’s experiment, embedded now and widely talked about, was to educate users in the bits that home IT doesn’t teach (like intellectual property protection, and other enterprise risks). All connectivity – even in the office – is via raw internet and VPN. Really sensitive information is totally fenced off from the Internet. Then BP provides participants with a budget to self-provision.

What may not be so well known is the number of other large enterprises which are adopting their own consumerisation formulas to increase the acceptability and adaptability of enterprise IT. And, perhaps counter-intuitively, these approaches have one thing in common. The auditors agree that it reduces enterprise risk. Abolishing largely discredited perimeter security saves costs, but it also focusses attention on protecting data effectively at source. And provisioning of access can be more granular too.

We’ve seen two key components to the consumerisation trend. First, enterprise business people are using a range of consumer-oriented and web-based services from to LinkedIn to Gmail to Skype to SecondLife, to get their jobs done. If their access is blocked at work, they’ll use their home kit. And that links to the second trend: users have high capability kit at home, and bring those expectations to the workplace with questions like “Why can’t I have desktop video?”. It’s no longer a case of home IT catching up with enterprise provision. The two have diverged, but home kit has higher capability in the overlap. And, remember: personal computing started in the home, with the Sinclair and BBC machines, not in the office. Full circle. People forget that.

Forrester have contributory research going back a number of years. A key part of it is analysis of changes in attitudes as today’s “technology natives” enter the workforce. It’s not just younger people. Have a look now many of your colleagues are using web based services. Take LinkedIn, for example. You may have excellent support for interpersonal networking within your enterprise boundary, but a colleague put it succinctly when he commented that he learns more from contacts outside his own organisation than inside. Hence LinkedIn or, perhaps, Facebook though Facebook seems to be losing its cool these days.

But the point of this post isn’t to (re-)rehearse the components, benefits and balances of consumerised approaches to enterprise IT. Just to point out that the idea is going mainstream, as the world at large catches up on what LEF has been saying for the best part of four years!

Embrace The Risks And Rewards Of Technology Populism (Forrester Research, 22 Feb 2008)
A Workbook for Putting Consumerization to Work (current LEF project, and links to previous work)
Why a worker says ‘it feels like I just got out of IT prison’ (The Guardian, 6 Mar 2008)
• This Google search returns press coverage of the BP initiative
To Deal With Consumerization, CIOs Should Ask ‘Why?’ Not Just Say ‘No’ (Gartner, 10 Mar 2008

External references are provided in good faith, but InformationSpan does not take responsibility for the content of linked third party sites. Insight service content generally requires a subscription. Most news services archive material after a short while; use the site’s search engine if a link doesn’t work.

BarCamp Brighton – second day

The second day of BarCamp was illuminated by several conversations about the future of Social Networks (is there one? will multiplicity kill them off? is Facebook past it or you ain’t seen nothin’yet? what about identity sharing with XFN and similar frameworks?).

I learned a bit more about Twitterbots. Twitter is one of those services which I know about but would, I think find overly intrusive into my working day. Partly that’s just me being older, I guess, but there’s a personality element to those sort of choices as well. There were a couple of people at least who are doing research into social network analysis: Aleks Krotowski of Linden and The Guardian’s tech team, and Beth Granter of Sussex Uni. I suggested a connection with Peter Gloor who’s a guru of this stuff at MIT’s Sloan School, who I met on a company IT Field Trip I organised to MIT last May.

Jeff Barr ran a session on Cloud Computing, for me an update on what Amazon Web Services has added to its portfolio since I first met Jeff on a Study Tour two and a half years ago. AWS lowers the entry barriers for startups, and enables enterprise IT to test things out or do big short-term projects without major capital investment on infrastructure.

So overall, what a great event! From the initial publicity, it could have seemed like a geekfest for students, but the great value was the whole spectrum – people with that kind of sharp insight, established hi-tech companies, start-ups and more – and the chance to absorb a much younger IT culture than the one I’ve spent the last twelve years in. And for free, thanks to the sponsors! If you get a chance, go to one!

Amazon Web Services
Peter Gloor at MIT’s Sloan School
SocialSim Aleks’s blog

BarCamp Brighton

A new experience: informal techfest at Sussex Uni under the heading of Barcamp. Completely informal, with the expectation that everyone will present a session. About 50 people: not all IT people. And when the assembled company ranges from luminaries like Jeff Barr of Amazon Web Services, from sponsors like Yahoo and SecondLife, from UK companies like BT, from university research … no keynotes, everyone, even the luminaries, just put up the notice for their talk like everyone else. You’re in for a fascinating and interesting time meeting people and learning things.

Jeff, who I’ve met before, didn’t talk about AWS. He talked about doing business in SecondLife, and the hurdles he’d had to get over to get Amazon to let him take an official interest. Some of these were issues picked up in my own session which I billed as a survival guide for a geek in enterprise IT. A group of about half a dozen of us talked about some of the fears (if you’re discounting a career in enterprise), frustrations (if you’re in there) and the upsides and benefits – for a geek, remember, not the financials. I’ve been at sessions on accessible javascript, basic image editing (with Photoshop or something like it), RDF, Social Network Portability (half the session, because I left to go to Jeff’s) and met people from Yahoo!, The Guardian, a local start-up called Ribot doing mobile design, a local authority, and more.

Uploaded is a version of my session. It will get edited to reflect the conversation we actually had! More tomorrow, and look out for tags on Flickr and so on.

How to survive in enterprise IT
BarCamp Brighton 2