Friday, April 25, 2008

Open Source Web Apps

So for no particularly good reason I decided to try switching from my desktop instant messenger client (pidgin, formerly gaim) to using the chat feature of gmail. I'm still going with the experiment, and have only been at it a day or so. I don't really see any particularly overwhelming advantage either way. Switching to web based applications is a trend I'm interested in though. But this has me wondering... what happens about open source programs when you shift to web based applications? For example, at some point I hacked a couple lines into my gaim source that randomly selected a new away message (from my set list) every half hour or something, when I was away. The only reason I could do that was because gaim was open source. Shifting to gmail chat... even if it is javascript and I can technically see the source (because, after all, my browser has to be able to see it), it (1) has been horribly obfuscated, (2) isn't in a place I can really modify it. When I download the gaim source, there it is on my local machine waiting for me to change it. But with web apps, even if I copy some javascript files offline and manage to un-obfuscate enough to make a change... then what? I can't reload it to gmail to have it work. And I'd be surprised if the script worked away from the google domains.

I'm not really sure I'm going anywhere with this, it was just a little thought that occurred to me. Maybe I'm misunderstanding web applications. I guess part of the idea with some of the widget standardization is that a widget written one place can be used in another place (like facebook versus igoogle (I don't know if that's currently how it works)). Is that some of the idea with opensocial?

Anyway... I guess the point is I've got lots to learn. Nothing new there.

[Update 8 May 2008: seems like this page is pretty relevant]

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