This Week in Web App News

The Mac.AppStorm team has done a great job over the past weeks rounding up the best in Mac news, giving our readers a great way to catch up on what’s happening in the world of Mac apps without having to stay glued to dozens of rumor sites. There’s been enough interesting web app news this week, I thought we could do the same thing over here at Web.AppStorm.

So, here’s a quick summary of the past weeks’ biggest web app news for your reading pleasure. We likely won’t do these posts weekly, but if you find it informative and enjoyable, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments at the end of the post!

Dropbox: Your New eBook Library

O'Reilly is now an app. At least in your Dropbox folder.

There’s one distinct advantage to buying your eBooks from an eBookstore like Kindle: you can always login to your account and redownload your books, and they’re automatically organized in your reader app. If you purchase eBooks directly, though, you’ve got to keep up with the individual files, and you’ll have to find a way to organize, back them up, and sync them to your devices.

Dropbox is the obvious option for storing syncing your book files, and it seems like publishers have decided that too. O’Reilly publishers, one of the largest tech publishers, just launched a Sync eBooks with Dropbox option to accounts, so your purchased books can be automatically synced with Dropbox. The Pragmatic Bookshelf has had that feature for some time, and it’d be great to see that on more independent eBookstores. For now, with both of those, you can just buy eBooks, and start reading them almost immediately from any of your devices.

Dropbox Isn’t for Torrents

In other Dropbox news, you shouldn’t try to build a torrent downloading service using Dropbox’s API. A new app, Boxopus, had done just that, and was recently cut off from Dropbox’s API for breaking the Dropbox terms of service, according to the email they received from Dropbox. Of course, using Dropbox to store stolen goods isn’t likely the best idea, and while you can torrent Linux ISOs, we all know what torrents are mostly used for…

Anyone Can Create a Qwiki

Qwiki is now ready for everyone

Last year, one of the more impressive info apps to be released was Qwiki, a new way to present info and multimedia in an interactive format. It looked a real version of the system the ship captain in Wall-E used to find out about earth, only this one ran in your computer’s browser in 2011.

This week, the Qwiki creator has finally been opened to the public, so anyone can use their multimedia tech to make their own info presentation online. We’ll be looking at it more in-depth soon, but if you give it a try, we’d love to hear what you think about it. Plus, Qwiki is now integrated with Bing, which just might give people another reason to try out the 2nd most popular search engine.

Google Search Powered Spell-check

Your spell check, powered by the web. Scary, I know.

For many years, I’ve used Google Search as a backup spellcheck. When my spellcheck has no idea what I’m trying to type, I’ll search for it with Google, and 9 times out of 10, it’ll suggest the correct word I’m looking for. This past week, I just noticed that Chrome on Windows now offers Google Search powered spell-check. Just right-click on a misspelled word you’ve typed online, and there should be an option for “Ask Google for Suggestions”. Awesomeness. The only bad thing is that it doesn’t appear to be a Chrome for Mac feature yet…

Chrome for iOS. Really.

Chrome on an iPad 1

In other Chrome news, Chrome is now on iOS, so you can use the world’s most popular browser on your iPhone or iPad. While it can’t use Chrome’s V8 Javascript engine on iOS, it really does feel faster with web apps than Safari on iOS. I know, it should technically be slower, but it really ran WordPress,, Basecamp, and more much better on my iPad 1. Be sure to give it a try!

Backpack and Writeboard are no more

Goodbye, Writeboard!

37signals, one of the strongest leaders in the world of web apps, released their fully redesigned Basecamp earlier this year. It’s seriously good, good enough that our entire AppStorm team uses it to collaborate on articles and more. Apparently, it was good enough for 37signals to focus on it instead of some of their older apps.

They’ve now dropped both Backpack and their free Writeboard, keeping existing accounts accessible but closing down new signups. I found that disappointing, as I always liked both apps, and even used Writeboard to manage group writing projects in college. But, they are right once you think of it: the new Basecamp has many of Writeboard’s old features mixed in, and the final result is better than the two separate apps alone.

Google Takes on Apple. And Microsoft. And Amazon. Again.

Not exactly what we would have expected from Google...

Google was widely expected to release their own tablet this past week, but we got more than we ever expected. Using their Nexus brand, the search giant released a new 7″ tablet, the Nexus 7, as well as the small Nexus Q, a round media streaming device. The Nexus 7 directly takes on Amazon, with it being the same size and price as the Kindle Fire, but with much better specs and the much newer Android 4.1. It also puts Google directly in the tablet business, competing with Apple’s iPad and Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablets. Oddly, though, the Nexus 7 is made by Asus, even though Google recently bought out Motorola Mobility, who also incidentally makes Android tablets.

The Nexus Q, on the other hand, was a much more unexpected device. It’s a tiny online media streamer, a way to get digital content from the Google Play store and your Android devices on your TV. It’s basically Google’s answer to the Apple TV, but it’s an odd move when Google already has Google TV software they’re trying to get hardware partners to build into their TVs. At any rate, though, the Q is the latest way to get online content to your TV, and if you’re already using the Play store and Android devices, it might be what your living room needs instead of an Apple TV.

In a final blow to Amazon, Google is taking on Amazon’s incredibly popular S3 and EC2 services with Google Cloud Storage and the just announced Google Compute Engine. It obviously makes sense for Google to host others’ apps on their server farms, but Amazon can’t be happy to have Google taking on two of their more popular products in one week … a week in which Amazon’s EC2 suffered a major outage, no less.

And that’s all for today!

That should be enough web app news for now, but if you’ve heard any other interesting developments in the world of web apps, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Also, we’d love to know your thoughts about this article. Would you like to see more occasional news roundups about web apps? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!