Archive for January, 2010

The Rise Of The API

Mashups. That name seems to grate on me now, never liked it. Several years ago, 2005 maybe, web apps or even web functions became much more liberal with sharing information. We saw the pioneers like Flickr and Delicious open up their data to 3rd parties through APIs. The seminal event was probably Google Maps. Closed to 3rd parties in the beginning but pried open, the map data was too enticing. Before there was an API for Google Maps, I was one of the few to mash data on top of it. This gave rise to the term Mashups.

Fast forward to today, where providing an API is no longer an option, but a necessity. If you don’t provide one, your competitor definitely will.

One of the most successful and open APIs is Twitter’s. Spawning tens of thousands of 3rd party apps, cementing Twitter’s lead in the micro-blogging sector. Nobody can come close to them.

In this post, I want to go over two examples. The first example is what got me onto this train of thought, more below.

Shelfari vs. Goodreads
I’ve been using both sites for over a year, but Goodreads is now, frankly, kicking Shelfari’s ass. Though I think Shelfari is a superior website – I’ve invested so much time into Shelfari and am somewhat miffed that it is destined for oblivion.

Why?

You can probably guess by now, they have no frikkin’ API! FriendFeed, Cliqset, Ping.fm, etc. cannot interface with Shelfari (and Shelfari doesn’t integrate with anything else) so none of your content ends up in your Activity Stream. People don’t see what you are doing on the site, people never learn it exists, people don’t use it.

Gowalla vs. Foursquare
This one is a bit less obvious, but the lack of an API in Gowalla is killing it. Their blog states, on January 13th, the API is nearly complete. NEARLY COMPLETE! What, are they waiting for it to be perfect before rolling it out? Bad idea. Do you think Twitter waited until their API was golden before letting others use it?

On the other hand, Foursquare has had their API out since at least May 27, 2009, this is when the first message was posted to the discussion group. They even have an app gallery!

Now for some objective data, (kind of). Since I cross link a lot of my social accounts, I get a lot of spillover from Twitter. When an social app really starts taking off, I start to get an increasing number of requests. Request numbers for these sites:

  • Shelfari – ZERO. EVER.
  • Goodreads – 1 to 2 per day.
  • Gowalla – 2 to 4 per day.
  • Foursquare – 10+ per day.

If you’re aggregating data or building a social site and don’t have an API, you’re history.

Follow me on Twitter!

64-bit Firefox 3.7 Benchmarks

Since I don’t have all the time in the world, I haven’t been benchmarking the newer builds I’ve posted lately. In particular, I’ve never benchmarked the 64-bit Firefox 3.7a1 against the 32-bit nightly. A kind soul pointed out that my builds yielded no speed gains and are inferior to the official Mozilla nightlies. Having done numerous builds of 64-bit WebKit (pre-WWDC), and testing against the 32-bit WebKit and finding no gains, I didn’t doubt Firefox suffered the same fate.

But it seems faster. Everything seems faster. New iPhone OS releases always seem faster, new point releases of OS X seem faster, new stuff just seems faster. So I decided to spend most of my day trying to quantify this seemingly faster build.

Here’s what I got.

Dromaeo
Mozilla JavaScript performance test suite. I ran ALL tests, which takes about 30 mins, so I have one result per browser. The nightly wins by .5%!!

Mozilla JavaScript performance test suite.

Bigger Numbers Are Better

SunSpider
I ran this three times for each browser and took the average. The beetle build wins by 2%!!

SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark

Smaller Numbers Are Better

V8 Benchmark Suite – Version 5
Ran this three times and took the average. The beetle build wins by 5%!!

V8 Benchmark Suite - Version 5

Smaller Numbers Are Better

Peacekeeper
Some cheez generic browser benchmark site. Never heard of it. Ran the test three times and took the average. Firefox nightly wins by 3%!!

Peacekeeper

Bigger Numbers Are Better

Tab Loading
Here is where the seeming speed gets put to the test. Loaded a cross section of 25 sites in 25 tabs. Used the ol’ iPhone stopwatch, ran three times from a warm launch and took the average.

Tab Loading

Smaller Numbers Are Better

Well, look at that. The beetle build whomps Firefox by over 30%!!

Yes, the nightlies might be better. I’m pretty sure they’re more stable, I’m positive they’ll at least load Flash, and they’re probably even better optimized for your machine. My builds are optimized for myself, more tuned for 10.6.x and 64-bit so I’m going after the bleeding edge.

Oh yeah, here’s the Firefox nightly and the beetle build used in these tests.

Intel-Optimized Firefox 3.6 Final

It’s finally here! You can also find other builds of Firefox and Camino and occasionally other stuff on my downloads page.

Let me know how you like it!

Download the Intel-Optimized Firefox 3.6 Final

Hey Ballmer, FUD Doesn’t Work Anymore

I think we all know about this Microsoft business tactic, but if not, read up on FUD. In this little exercise, I’m going to go through a couple examples:

The Slatabletbook
Once the Apple rumor engine shifted into high gear around September, Microsoft announced the Courier. This is actually a cool concept so they do deserve some credit. Not surprisingly, the project was led by J. Allard, the only person doing anything worthwhile over there. This is just a reference design, who knows when it will ship and by whom.[1]

When CES rolled around and a Courier prototype wasn’t ready, Ballmer showed off the “HP Slate” which is to be available “sometime this year”. Hmm, wonder where they got the name “Slate“.

Capacitive Multi Touch
The iPhone’s had it for almost three years. Oh yeah, Windows Mobile 7 will have it in the second half of 2010, or was that February, or will WM 6.6 have it, or 6.5.3, or something else, yeah.

Media Streaming
Apple just bought Lala and is building a massive data center in North Carolina. Seems like media streams are just around the corner, gotta announce something. Yeah, the next Zune HD firmware update, expected sometime in spring, will have music streaming from “the cloud”.

Game Consoles
Wow, in 2009 Nintendo almost sold more Wiis than Microsoft and Sony, combined. Maybe that newfangled controller has potential. We’ve got one too, Project Natal, to be released “Holiday 2010”.

Search Engines (err, Decision Engines)
This doesn’t really fall under the FUD department, more into the “staged demo” depo. Bing is good, rivals and even beats Google in some categories. There is just one fatal flaw that was never announced: The Bing Indexer Sucks. Basically, it boils down to:

  1. The MSNBot is slow as it does a long process of semantic analysis
  2. Bing pretties up areas like Auto & Travel to hide their small indeces
  3. “Real-Time” results come from structured data provided by partners

This choice quote sums it up pretty well:

While Bing has a lot of great features, it continues to struggle with the same issue previous incarnations of the service have. The actual index size, and the corresponding relevant results that come with those searches for the less popular queries, pales in comparison to what Google and Yahoo offer.

As Steve Jobs says, Real Artists Ship. Microsoft seems to have its hands in almost every pie there is, sometimes this FUD is to thwart a project as in the case of the slate, but more often than not, it’s probably to determine if a particular market exists before investing heavily into it. Either way, announcing so much vaporware is turning MS into something of a laughing stock.

Announcing something a year out is just ludichrist. Technological change is accelerating at a rate close to Moore’s Law so indeed the Singularity Is Near.

Disclaimer: I’m an Apple fanboy, so am quite tainted.

[1] Apple never pre-announces anything unless their hand is forced. This is what we saw with the iPhone and this is why the rumored Apple device (RAD) will be announced in the same way. The RAD will include wireless technology that must be approved by the FCC.

TrueTwit Is The Devil

Update: Seems that TrueTwit has brought out their “premium” paid model where you aren’t forced to TT your potential followers. Sounds more like blackmail than a service.

Update 2: How are you supposed to validate if the fraking site is down? Screenshot at very bottom. FAIL.

There are many great services popping up in the Twitter ecosphere, but there is one that I fail to understand. This wouldn’t be a big deal if I could just ignore it, but it is forced upon me. There is also a viral mechanism in play that is causing this dreadful service to propagate and I can barely stand it anymore. I left a comment on their blog and sent a message to their Twitter account about this negative viral impact. The blog comment was deleted within 24 hours. The service I speak of is TrueTwit (no link for you!).

This is what the service does:

Stop wasting time with spammers on twitter. We will validate your followers so you don’t have to.

Use Case
A bit of head scratching later, I realized this service is catered to those that auto-follow. If you didn’t, you could weed out the spammers/bots yourself.

Flaws In This Model

  • Auto-Followers are most likely to be spammers/bots themselves.
  • Putting up barriers for followers is only going to turn people off.
  • If you don’t auto-follow, what difference does it make that a spammer is following you?

Negative Virality
This is where things really start to suck. According to the site, you can bypass all this CAPTCHA nonsense if you sign up with the service. What isn’t apparent is that when you sign up, you become one of them, now making your potential followers jump through hoops. And on it goes.

Much anecdotal evidence points to these facts:

  1. Using the service will greatly decrease your followers
  2. People aren’t always aware that they have been assimilated

I’ve attempted to discuss these problems with the service, but they are unwilling. I could be wrong about all this and this service could be the best thing since sliced bread, but I don’t see the light.

Please post a comment on your thoughts of this service. I’m very interested in what you have to say.


Follow clatko on Twitter.