It’s no longer hard to imagine a world where Web apps are just as powerful and popular as—if not more than—desktop apps. As inviting as such a world may seem to many, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done before web apps can give native apps a run for their money. Mozilla, for one, is doing its bit. We’re not talking about the highly ambitious Firefox OS (formerly Boot to Gecko) here. Instead,we’re referring to something much more basic: Web app support.
If you’re a regular to Wikipedia you might have noticed the donation appeals from founder Jimmy Wales scattered around the page. These images tend to stick out a bit more than your average web ad because the service is not only famous for being free, but free from the usual advertising clutter found on most sites.
The goal of $16 million was an ambitious one, but we are happy to report we now have confirmation that the world’s collective encyclopedia has met its target and will live on for another year. According to Wales more than 500,000 donations were made during the drive with an average size of $22.
"This year is a little more incredible than most because this year we celebrate Wikipedia's tenth anniversary," Wales wrote. "It's so important that we kick the year off just like this: by fully funding the Wikimedia Foundation's budget to support Wikipedia and all the sister projects as we head into the next decade of our work together. This fundraiser had all the ingredients of what we love about Wikimedia projects: people come together, contribute what they have, and together we do something amazing," Wales wrote. He also pointed out that it's not too late to pitch in.
$16 million is a lot of cash but you have to admit, when you consider the bandwidth bill they must be paying each month it doesn’t sound like Wales or anyone at the Wikimedia foundation is squandering resources.
Last Saturday, an anonymous poster and supposed "WikiLeaks Insider" dropped a bombshell on the Cryptome.org site claiming that the whistleblower site would soon be abandoned.
"Within the last few hours we have learned that WikiLeaks (Assange) will commit no more time and effort into restore our website," the self-title Insider wrote.
He went on to say that Assange would be "launching a completely new site hosted in Iceland." It all sounded pretty plausible, that is until Assange spoke up on his Twitter account.
"WikiLeaks will NOT be abandoned. Don't listen to disinfo being spread! We'll issue clarifications soon. Should've done earlier," Assante tweeted.
If that wasn't enough, TheNextWeb.com claims to have received official word from a WikiLeaks spokesman reiterating Assange's comments.
"We just read your story and can basically only make one common: Do not feed the troll. There is no substance to this posting at all. We will issuing a press release soon I think in order to address this bulls**t campaign once and for all," the spokesman said.
WikiLeaks has always been a popular source for anonymous whistleblowers everywhere, but we just caught wind that the founders are setting forth plans to abandon the project. The site has been unable to accept new "leaks" since the arrest of Specialist Bradley Manning who revealed classified army documents several weeks ago, and it looks like this policy won't be changing anytime soon.
The anonymous insider claims that despite the impending death of WikiLeaks, they will eventually be "launching a completely new site hosted in Iceland". It will likely carry on the torch that WikiLeaks dropped, but given the high profile recent arrest, it's unlikely it will be able to cull the same level of juicy leaks going forward now that people know the consequences.
College textbooks are a funny thing. Used in institutions where creative, critical thinking in a technologically structured world is taught, they are as old school as you can get. Besides being expensive, they are static and typically written for general audiences. Macmillan thinks it has the answer to the textbook problem: the DynamicBook, which allows authors to keep material current, instructors to keep material relevant, and students to keep a few more dollars in their pockets.
Due out in August, DynamicBooks are basically wiki-textbooks. Authors can access them at any time to make changes or updates, so the material remains current. Instructors can access the text to make editorial changes, both adding and deleting material, so the textbook more closely ties into the course syllabus. Students get electronic access, via computer or Apple’s iPhone (with plans for iPad availability). And the cost of DynamicBooks will be “much cheaper” than traditional textbooks. For example, Macmillan says a psychology textbook that sells for $134.29 would be available as a DynamicBook for $48.76.
Other student features include being able to highlight text, make notes, create bookmarks, and search content. Students would also be able to share their notes with others in a “dynamic study group”. (Pretty much what most e-Textbooks offer.)
Macmillan isn’t being altruistic here. It hopes that DynamicBooks will kill the used textbook market, which publishers blame for forcing them to increase the costs of their offerings. And, if pricing is low enough, Macmillan hopes to circumvent pirating.
If you thought Google had the market cornered on enabling online stalking, think again. Microsoft has come out with yet another new service. This time it’s a new biographical search engine called EntityCube. It is a project out of Microsoft’s research labs that aims to give more people their own wiki-style page.
With a bit of Googling (or, rather Binging?) you do get you a lot of information about a person, but it requires culling results by hand. EntityCube just wants to centralize that. It also throws in a few intriguing features including a "Quanxi map" that tries to provide a visual overview of people's connections to one another. "Even if a search engine could find all the relevant Web pages about an entity, the user would need to sift through all the pages to get a complete view of the entity," says the Microsoft page describing the project.
While in the future this service cold be extended to a great many people, it’s currently most useful for those that already have some public profile. Perhaps people with only a small Wikipedia article or “stub” will benefit most from EntityCube for now. Check it out and let us know what you think.