I was able to make things
- change the look and feel when the user interacted with them
- show and hide parts of a form to make it less daunting to use and
- to give a user interface more interaction logic than just page reloads.
The only trouble I had was that my cool code only worked inside a browser – and not all the people I wanted to show that had the right ones at the time or were online (this was 1997).
All fair points, and something to think about; however, these web technologies have one massive benefit – they are dead easy to learn.
Web development reloaded
Mac OS X Tiger 10.4 users can write Dashboard widgets – small applications that users can add to their operating system to talk to web services or alert them of incoming messages and mail (If you’re on Mac
OS X Panther 10.3.9 there’s a third-party tool you can use to run widgets as
well) . For Windows users there are Microsoft Gadgets which will become even more powerful in Windows Vista. For both Mac and and Windows there is Konfabulator which is now Yahoo! Widgets that allow for the same easy and quick development. The amount of Widgets in the Yahoo! gallery shows how many developers started to embrace the idea of using traditional web development technologies outside the browser.
Yahoo! now started to open up another one of their products for these developers: the Yahoo! Messenger. By downloading a simple SDK that comes with a complete documentation you can add an own plug-in to Yahoo! Messenger which displays below your contact list. There are two types of plug-ins:
- Personal Plug-Ins which display content within the Yahoo! Messenger windows and allow you to add any of the web content you have – your bookmarks, your photos, text content (RSS feeds) from different sources or even allow you to do searches or display content related to your contacts.
- Conversation Plug-Ins which help you to interact with your online contacts in other ways than the ones that come out-of-the-box.
You may ask now why you should bother adding a plug-in to your messenger when you could just display third party content and RSS feeds in a browser (I myself am a big netvibes.com fan). The answer is that it might be easier for you to use, when you have a lot of contacts in your Messenger anyways – for example how many times did you get a message and copied and pasted a URL in your browser? You could write a plug-in that allows your contacts to send you a URL that will be displayed in your messenger immediately without having to open another tab or window. It also makes it easier to write self-refreshing documents that pull new information every x minutes without having to reload a browser window – like some web services or modern webmail clients do – but without the slowing down your browser or flooding the error console of your browser. Personally, I tend to crash my browser a lot when developing, or have that many tabs open that I’d rather quickly check my messenger for changes in my flickr comments, new bookmarks on delicious or even my web site stats.
So, if it is that easy – what have you done?
If you now wonder why I am writing about this (no I do not get paid extra money for it) and what I have used the plug-in SDK for so far, I am proud to tell you that if you downloaded the new Messenger 8 from Yahoo! you have a bit of my work on your computer already: The Yahoo! Answers Plug-In that comes with the install was my first task when I joined in April.