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It’s that time of year again. Facebook dumped a bunch of changes on us unsuspecting users, then proceded to pre-announce even greater changes coming soon. Facebook has changed so much over the years, it’s almost hard to recognize the original site as the same service.
It seems lately that most major web apps have been bitten by the update fever bug. Gmail and the whole slew of Google Apps have recently gotten a massive redesign, Twitter looks more like a full app by the day, and even Microsoft keeps tweaking its aging internet properties. But Facebook is the one app that keeps firing on all cylinders, and it seems that you can hardly keep up with all the changes they throw at us.
It’s not all bad. I personally like the new style chat, and the live updates can be rather interesting. So what do you think? Are you excited to see more changes in the world’s most popular social network, or would you rather them leave it the same? Have you still not gotten used to the last changes by the time they updated it?
Then, of course, there is this:
It often seems that there’s a major divide of opinion over what makes an app look nice, what makes it look too plain or basic, and what’s over the top. The ’90′s and traditionally slow internet connections have conditioned us to automatically assume graphical apps will be slow and frustrating to use online. However, with broadband today, we’re seeing more and more advanced apps like Flow, LucidChart, and the new iCloud Web Apps that look as nice or even nicer than standard desktop apps.
On the other end of the spectrum, many web apps cling to a simpler, typography centric design. Google’s apps have so far stayed on the simple side, and even though Google+ threw more color and animations into the mix, the latest Google theme across apps has been for a more simplistic, text-centric look. Pinboard is my personal favorite bookmarking service, but when I was looking over my original review of it, I noticed that several people commented that the app looked old or outdated.
Then, there’s Flash powered websites. These monsters are slow to load even on modern broadband connections, and your computer’s fans are sure to kick in as it starts playing back the “site”. Most of us don’t want to be bombarded with sound, videos, and moving images when we just want to find a realtor’s phone number. Sites like this, if anything, make you want to run to the safety of Google and Pinboard’s text only designs.
So where do you stand? Are you excited to see more rich, native-styled web apps, or would you rather see text-centric designs stay popular? Should web apps look like they belong on the desktop, or should they stay different in their basic design?
Back in the day, we were doing good to share text on the internet. Early chat and email strained networks, and even sharing a full eBook seemed like an audacious plan back when Project Gutenberg was first founded. Fast forward to today, however, most of us share pictures and videos online all the time. In fact, we get frustrated if it takes too long to upload our 14 megapixel images in RAW format.
In fact, we’ve got a selection of ways to share video. You can upload videos to the venerable YouTube, which has so many videos right now you can find almost any video (or music) you want on it. Or, you could choose the more artsy Vimeo, which has become my personal choice for sharing videos or finding an inspiring, creative work. Another great option, if your video is very short, is to just drag and drop it to your Cloud.app icon, and upload it directly with one click. It’s not as social, but sure gets the job done quicker than YouTube.
Truth is, though, you’re likely to want to share videos where the people you care about will actually see them. That’s why Facebook Videos have gotten more popular since they were added to Facebook. You can just upload a video right inside your social network, and all of your friends (or frenemies) will automatically see it without you having to share anything else.
So, what’s your favorite way to upload and share videos? What’s the main thing you’d look for in a video sharing site?
Formatted text. It’s either the best thing to ever happen to the world of computing, or the worst, depending on who you ask. Plain text is the simplest; you can read it on any computer or app, and it looks the exact same. Throw in some markup, whether something simple like Markdown or more complex like HTML or XML, and it’s a bit harder to write and a lot harder to read, but still, very useful if you’re any bit techie.
Rich text is somewhat of a mess, though. As we all know, one of the biggest problems with switching to web apps for Office files is that Microsoft Office formatting doesn’t always carry over correctly. Even basic rich formatting in comment boxes and simpler apps like Evernote often doesn’t copy/paste between apps very nicely.
I’m a plain text fan myself, and that’s one of the big reasons I’ve switched to Simplenote for all of my notes needs. Whenever I need a bit more formatting, I’ll throw in Markdown formatting, convert it HTML for publishing online, and I’m ready to go. I find it very nice to have all of my notes in an accessible format that works everywhere, and can be useful even if Simplenote disappeared tomorrow.
So, we’d like to know: what’s your favorite way to write text? Do you prefer to just write in plain text, or do you want to add a bit of extra style with Markdown or Textile? Or would you rather have a full featured rich text editor? Why? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
When the iPad came out, many people worried that it would only be used for consuming content, and if people shifted to using tablets as their only computers, the internet would turn into little more than a glorified TV. Turns out, iPads are great for reading and watching videos, but they’re also great for formatting documents, creating short videos, writing notes and outlines, and even drumming out a new beat in Garage Band.
Web apps aren’t much different. For many people, using the internet is playing by default. In Thai, for example, the very word for using the internet, “เล่นเน็ต”, literally means “playing on the internet”. But as we all know, with Google Docs, WordPress, Lucidchart, the Aviary Apps, millions of project managers, and more, the internet can be a very productive place. Most of my work day is spent in a browser, writing or editing in WordPress, corresponding with readers and developers in Gmail, or helping out people with support tickets in Assistly. I’ve even done most of my college work directly in a browser, and when it’s time to quit for the day, chances are I’ll be chatting with friends in Facebook or reading in Instapaper. Of all that, only a little is consuming content, and for the most part, the internet is a productive place to create for me.
How about you? Is the browser your most productive tool, or is it primarily a place to goof off and relax for a bit? Do you ever have trouble with people thinking you’re playing if you tell them you work online?
“crayola paint brush pen” image via monocat on Flickr
This morning (or last night, depending on where you live), Amazon had severe network issues with their EC2 service, taking a good portion of popular web apps offline. I discovered something was wrong when I tried to upload a screenshot with Cloud App, and found that the service was down. A quick check on Twitter, which incidentally wasn’t down, showed that people were complaining that Reddit, Geckoboard, Instagram, Quora, and more were offline thanks to Amazon EC2′s outage. Then, on the other side of the globe in the US of A, I discovered my Facebook friends were complaining that Netflix was offline, robbing them of their evening entertainment.
While the whole population of the internet seemed in an uproar over EC2, I was personally more frustrated over my home internet going out last night, just as I was uploading the images needed to finish off an article. Internet access has become almost more crucial than electricity now; after all, if the power goes out, you can still work from your laptop or tablet with a cell internet connection. In fact, without internet access, I wouldn’t even have the jobs I have right now!
So what do you do when the internet or your favorite web service goes offline? Do you rely on the web enough for your work that it makes you lose billable hours, or can you keep working offline? Or is the internet being off in the evening when you’re ready to relax more of a problem? We’d love to see what you think!
When Dropbox was founded in 2007, many people assumed it would be a flop along with the dozens of other file sync and sharing apps that had cropped up since the internet bubble of the ’90′s. Today, however, more people than ever rely on cloud sync and sharing services to keep their digital lives in order. From making sure you can get to that important file from your smartphone to sending PSDs to your colleague on the other side of the globe, keeping your files synced in the cloud can be very useful.
Dropbox is far from the only syncing service that’s popular today. Some recent security concerns with the service have brought increased focus on SpiderOak, a privately encrypted file sync service. Then, services like Skydrive and Box.net continue to be popular with others. Additionally, computer backup services like Backblaze, Mozy, and Carbonite continue to gain popularity with people who want to make sure they never lose any files.
Syncing individual files and folders may become outdated, however. Apple promises to do more than just sync files with their upcoming iCloud service. Instead of syncing traditional folders, iCloud promises to keep the same data in your apps, automatically. On the other hand, high quality web apps like Google Docs, Lucidchart, and more let us create and store files directly in the cloud, without ever having files on our desktop to sync.
So how about you? Do you keep all of your documents in Dropbox, or do you backup regularly with Backblaze? Or are all of your files in online apps already?
Telephones are one of the biggest inventions people have tried to one-up, perhaps only seconded by email. Voice calls work fine for most purposes, and most of us increasingly rely on text messages to communicate. But the wheels of innovation roll on, and today, with video-enabled smartphones, tablets, and more, we’re closer to the Jetsons’ world of video phones than ever before.
Video chat seems to be the latest must-have feature to add to your social network or smartphone. We’ve had Skype video chat for years, though with slow internet speeds and slower processors, it wasn’t always such a pleasant experience. Nowadays, though, video chat can be amazingly smooth and clear. Apple’s Facetime makes video chat a quick button-tap away, and Google+ Hangouts proves that group video chat can be incredibly fun and useful. Even Facebook has joined the video calls game, integrating Skype video calls directly in your browser.
Even though video chat can be nice, though, it’s still not as nice as being together. And while you can call your mother without worrying about how your hair looks, you’ll always have to be presentable if you’re calling with video.
So, are you ready to join the Jetsons and make all of your calls with video, or are plain-old voice calls still enough for you? Or have you quit making phone calls altogether, using your smartphone as a text and social network tool instead?