User-Generated Applications: Programming for Dummies?

ning_diy_build_your_own.jpgOm Malik in the latest Business 2.0 magazine talks about user-generated applications. The concept is: “what if you could build new applications or Web sites using existing building blocks, without writing one line of code”. Om then talks about current players working in this space: “Some of them, such as Palo Alto-based Ning, are targeting consumers, while others, such as Coghead, of Redwood City, Calif., and Teqlo, of nearby Santa Clara, are going after corporate markets. Smallthought Systems, of Vancouver, British Columbia, is focusing its Dabble DB software on users who like to do things their own way.”

The reasons for that trend are well explained: “Rolling your own applications wasn’t seen as cost-effective until recently, because of the high cost of hardware, which required expert programmers to get your money’s worth out of it. And closed or incompatible platforms made it tough to integrate software on the fly. But the price of hardware and bandwidth has dropped precipitously, while Apache, Linux, MySQL, PHP, and other open-source products are bringing the sanity of standards to the Web. Newer technologies such as Ajax have also been a catalyst, making it possible to mimic a desktop experience within a browser. Putting all these breakthroughs together, these startups are building development environments that let the user cobble together software packages as easily as snapping together Lego bricks.”

What it means:in my opinion, this is not very different than object-oriented programming simplified. With all the APIs being developed and launched around the Web, it seems like a matter of time before someone creates a “factory” to build Web sites and applications using mashing-up techniques. This will democratize the Web even more and create a very dense software-like fabric. If your company owns an important piece of the Web (such as content or technology), you’ll want to be part of that fabric.

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