So there’s now a renewed energy around web, with a continuing shift from document delivery to application delivery. There was a hint that some of the inventiveness of new user interfaces was a reaction to a stalling in the evolution of XHTML standards. But Andy cautioned to remember the hype cycle (he didn’t say where we were on the curve), suggested that people should maybe have a business model, and that we shouldn’t throw out usability or standards.
In the Q&A time, the phrase microformats came up, which was a new phrase for me. Appears to be a mind set for putting together simple problem-specific formats to solve problems, as opposed to one honking big format to solve all problems. Sounds sane.
Simon Willison from Flickr/Yahoo! was up next and gave a introduction to the Flickr API. Apparently the API exists because the founders wouldn’t trust their photos to a start up, so didn’t expect anyone to trust Flickr without a way to access the data. It’s also easier than writing an all-singing export tool (let the users do it themselves) with the side effect of lots of innovative applications get built. In fact, the summary benefits of providing the API are: better software design, user trust and innovation elsewhere.
Flickr is built on PHP, MySQL with some C/C++ for certain performance areas and Java for longer running tasks.
Ben Metcalfe is the project leader for backstage.bbc.co.uk, and told us about the current offerings from the BBC. The deal is that you can get at travel XML (problems on the roads or trains), news and sport RSS, TV listings and, soon, weather data but all on strictly non-commercial usage. We then saw the first public demo off the BBC Programme Catalog (“IMDB for BBC”) which is a rich data set of who appeared in what when.
Tom Hume’s presentation on mobile was insightful as always. He came up with a nice description of picture messaging as gifting—like the Royal Mail’s “I saw this and thought of you” ad campaign. His comment that perhaps AJAX was a step backwards surely should have led to some chair throwing, but no-one took the bait.
“The state of the Art on the Flash Platform” was a presentation from Aral Balkan. He explained that there’s now plenty of open source Flash work going on, which I think came as a pleasant surprise to many in the audience. Although we know Flash mostly from funky comedy animations or annoying “skip intros”, Aral’s been working on a business application for Marvel Comics. I’ve written about Flash and Web 2.0 before, so won’t comment further here.