Wikipedia has become one of the largest crowdsourcing projects in the world since its debut about 8 years ago. It is also the fifth most popular website, garnering over 325 million visitors each month. Even with all this success, some are afraid for the future of the online encyclopedia. In recent years, volunteers have been leaving the site in huge numbers.
In the first three months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia experienced a net loss of over 49,000 editors. Compare that to the same period a year earlier when only 4,900 editors were lost. The Wikimedia foundation is aware of the losses, but believes the wiki will be able to continue.
As for the cause, there are two basic schools of thought. The first is that users are becoming weary of the hostile environment Wikipedia can be. Some may not want to engage in heated debates about content. Add to that the increasingly restrictive rules Wikipedia has had to set forth to combat vandalism and you may have a recipe for desertion. Others feel that there just isn’t that much work left to do. Many articles have already been written and rewritten, leaving little for the average editor to add.
Whatever the cause, we can only hope that knowledge continues to be aggregated in Wikipedia. Where do you come down? Is Wikipedia withering on the vine? Or has it just reached a level of maturity that requires less tending to?
This morning, Google gave the first public demonstration of the Chrome OS they announced earlier this year. We'll have a full recap of the presentation later today, but Google has also released a 3 minute video explaining the basics of their netbook-targeted operating system. The basics: Chrome OS is Chrome web browser, built on top of a Linux kernel, which only runs web apps (ie. primarily used when you're connected to the internet). And it's being designed with specific hardware specs in mind.
Google's lean, mean, browsing machine called Chrome is pretty darned zippy, but the search giant envisions a much faster Web. Enter SPDY, pronounced "SPeeDY," an early-state research project that is part of Google's effort to supercharge Web.
"SPDY is at its core an application-layer protocol for transporting content over Web," Google wrote in its Chromium blog. "It is designed specifically for minimizing latency through features such as multiplexed streams, request prioritization, and HTTP header compression."
Google is toying around with SPDY as a successor to HTTP. So far, it has only tested SPDY in lab conditions with some pretty impressive results. According to Google, it saw "significant improvement" when downloading the top 25 websites over simulated home network connections, with pages loading 55 percent faster.
"Thee is still a lot of work we need to do to evaluate the performance of SPDY in real-world conditions. However, we believe that we have reached th stage where our small team could benefit from the active participation, feedback, and assistance of the Web community," Google added.
What a wonderful world that open and closed platforms have created on the World Wide Web. I can have an untold number of features and applications inserted into my Web browser without having to lift much more than a finger to access them. I can take my favorite Web platforms and expand their usefulness by linking them to other Web-based services. I can even download a variant of my Web browser of choice that bridges the best of two worlds under one new roof: new innovations mixed with standard familiarity.
So, what happens when these architectures fight back?
It's a stupid thing to say on its face, because I don't believe that it's up to a particular program or application to breach your defenses and fight its way into your cyber-life. Most, if not all instances of malware, spoofing, and hijacking (to name a few) can be directly traced to user stupidity in some fashion. Either a person leaves the ol' back door unlocked, fails to frisk the guests as they enter the home, or actively invites a heap of trouble to come on over for a party.
Simplified examples, perhaps, but the underlying fact remains a constant: You are the gatekeeper for your PC. Unfortunately, as we begin to adopt an "everyone's allowed" mindset for Web integration, we're only making it easier for the bad guys to do what they do best. Unfriendly, if not downright hostile bits of malware can be pushed back with but a few simple changes in behavior--are you as security-focused as you should be in today's cross-platform world?
I feel as if we just crossed this path the other day. But that's okay. On the grand scale of "pony-themed games" to "extremely useful freeware applications," automatic application installers--or package mangers--tend to fall toward the latter end of the spectrum.
I wouldn't be broaching this topic so close to a previous, similar roundup were it not critically important for you to check out some of the apps that I've recently found. Although a few package managers might slip into the mix, the freeware programs I'm about to profile today... aren't really programs at all. At least, they aren't installation packages in the way you're typically used to seeing them.
Unlike package managers, which require you to install a separate application that contains some fancy list of other applications to download, some of the apps I'm investigating today remove this extra step from the equation. When stumbling into the official Web site of said programs, you're given the opportunity to customize a list of programs you want to install before you have to download anything. Once you're ready, the site creates a single executable that--if all goes well--downloads and spits the applications onto your hard drive without so much as an extra mouse click of your time.
Of course, that's the best-case scenario. There are still a number of helpful "application packages" that are a wee less automated but still worth looking into. I'll be exploring a host of automated installation offerings below, so click the link to get started! And if you need any further encouragement, one such tool cut my typical post-installation software installation time from around 30-45 minutes to a grand total of five--five hassle-free minutes, mind you.
The internet giant defines the new tool as the progeny of “Google Maps and a gigantic bin of building blocks.” At the moment, it is possible to create 3D building in around 50 cities across the globe, though the 3D buildings can be viewed from anywhere in the world. The user is free to choose any building in the cities currently covered by the tool.
The model has to be created using the existing aerial shots of the selected location and 3D shapes. The finished product can then be submitted for review to the Google 3D Warehouse (an online repository of 3D models). If chosen, it is added to Google Earth’s 3D building layer.
“One of the best ways to get a big project done — and done well — is to open it up to the world. As such, today we're announcing the launch of Google Building Maker, a fun and simple (and crazy addictive, it turns out) tool for creating buildings for Google Earth,” Google’s Mark Limber (Product Manager) and Matt Simpson (User Experience Designer) wrote in a blog post announcing the launch of Building maker.
This whole mobile thing is really catching on, as women, teens, and seniors 65 and older are finding out. According to Nielsen, web visitors using a mobile device shot up 34 percent year-over-year, catapulting from 42.5 million mobile surfers in July 2008 to just shy of 57 million in July 2009. And most of those visitors are from the three previously mentioned demographics.
In fact, year-over-year growth among teens aged 13-17 increased 45 percent, while seniors shot up by over 67 percent, Nielsen said. Those were the two most active demographics, and while male surfers still make up the majority of the mobile Web at 53 percent, visitors of the opposite sex outpaced their male counterparts in July.
"As with other forms of Internet technology, more men were early-adopters of the mobile Web and still make up a slightly larger presence today," commented Chris Quick, client services manager, mobile media. "Now that the technology is more mainstream, women are quickly embracing the benefits as 'connected customers,' tapping the convenience of Web access on mobile phones to network, browser the latest shopping deals, and get ideas for dinner, all while on the go."
An interesting side note: People.com (No. 1), MySpace.com (No. 5), and Facebook.com (No. 9) were among the top 10 mobile sites among women in July, while men were busy surfing Gizmodo.com (No. 1), Maxim.com (No. 2), and Wired.com (No. 10).
Aviary has made quite a name for itself creating browser-based tools. Hitherto, all its apps only catered to graphics artists, but that has changed now with the release of Myna, an online audio editor. It took around a year for Aviary to come up with this tool, which permits the mixing of up to 15 tracks not more than 5 minutes in length. Besides uploading or recording their own tracks, users can also choose from Aviary’s extensive library.
Aviary has pulled of a coup of sorts by partnering with APM Music. The move has made it possible for Aviary to offer the latter’s Quantum Tracks library, containing 3,000 professional loops, stems and beats, to Myna users. Adobe Flash is required in order to run the tool. You can use the tool for free as long as you are willing to make your creations available to other free members. If you are too possessive about your work to do that, you can buy an annual subscription for $25.
Aviary now plans to release a web-based video editor, according to its cofounder and head of product development Michael Galpert. "But to get the video right, we needed to get the audio, as well. As Flash, memory, and browsers improve, we try to be at the front of that technological curve,” Galpert told ReadWriteWeb.
The report (PDF) reveals that 95% of comments that appear on blogs, chat rooms and online forums fall into two broad categories: spam and malicious content. Cyber scoundrels now seem more focused on targeting Web 2.0 websites with user-generated content than ever before. Many of the most frequented internet properties are sites that tolerate user-generated content. And 61% of the top 100 sites either host malicious content or link to it, according to the report.
Spam and malicious content seem to go hand in hand, for Websense Security Labs found that 85.6 of spam mails in circulation during the first half of 2009 contained links to malicious sites.
Ahh, TechCrunch50 time. For those outside of the Valley, otherwise known as "The Know," this is the time of year when legions of startups (47) descend onto a common stage under the TechCrunch banner, all eager to pitch their next, greatest idea to a field of hungry judges and enthusiastic audience members.
Every time this happens--or every time any show similar to the TechCrunch50 goes down--I always look forward to the new batch of oddly named Web applications that I'll probably never hear about again, let alone actually use. For this, I have but one source to blame: open data. Just because there's an API or the free-flow of information outward from a single popular source doesn't mean that one always has to make a spin-off project. But if you build it, they will indeed come. The developers, that is, and they're always looking to cash in on the next big variation to an already successful idea.
I'm not exactly sure why this is the case with Web applications and why it's not always mirrored in open-source or freeware software development. What is it about a Web platform that makes it such an intriguing breeding ground for rip-offery? Is it really that easy to create a Web mashup of two social networks instead of pouring the same amount of effort into, say, a new instant messaging application?