Did Steve Jobs Just Kill The Web?

Did Steve Jobs just kill the World Wide Web?

Maybe. Kind of.

You could make the argument that he didn’t because he was too late. At least you could if you were Wired Magazine. Back in August, Wired published a very interesting piece  titled The Web Is Dead. Love Live the Internet which argued that the Web is past its prime, due to a combination of two factors.

First, they said, Web traffic is increasingly coalescing around a handful of sites. Most notably, Facebook has essentially created a parallel Web, in which a huge amount of information is organized and accessed all through one site. When you go on Facebook, you’re no longer just seeing your friends’ statuses. You’re playing games and watching videos and reading news and any number of other things. All the benefits of the Web, without leaving the comfort of Facebook.

The other factor Wired cited was the growth of apps on mobile devices (and now tablets). On my computer, when I go to Twitter, on my computer, I go to twitter.com. On the web. On my iPhone, I use their app. Same content, without going on the web. A large number of my favorite apps are the same way — Amazon, TUAW, dictionary.com, Living Social, etc. I’m getting the web content, without ever going on the web. While the last point talked about how sites like Facebook are killing the Web, on my computer, I’m still getting there by going to Facebook.com. On my iPhone, I don’t even do that.

Which brings us to the Mac App Store.  The iOS version of the App Store has been very successful, and thus has given people expectations for how an App Store should work. And the Mac App Store is playing into those expectations. When I logged in for the first time, there was Angry Birds prominently displayed, just the way it should be in an App Store. And there’s a free Twitter client. One of the complaints I read the first day was that there was no Facebook app.

Really, why should there be? The app would be designed to run on your desktop or laptop, which is capable of running a full-featured browser, letting you access Facebook in a way that lets you do more than you can in the iOS Facebook app. Arguably, there’s no need for a Mac Facebook app.

But because of the success of the iOS app store, there’s an ingrained expectation that there should be one. And if one were created, theoretically, it would be the optimum version of Facebook — a version of Facebook freed of the mobile-device limitations of previous apps and of the browser-compatibility limitations previously on desktops and laptops. And then not only would there be the option of leaving the web, there would be a reason to.

And this isn’t true just for Facebook. A year from now, will I end up editing my blog from the Mac WordPress app because it’s better than WordPress.com? And will I be getting my weather from the Weather Channel app? What web sites will I stop visiting because there are better ways of accessing their content?

There’s a bit of irony here — for the last few years, the trend has been that everything is moving toward the web, and that web applications will replace desktop applications; that I’ll be doing my word processing through the web instead of using a native application.

If the best analyses are to be believed, two years from now, I’ll be reading Facebook in an app while I’m doing spreadsheets on the web, streaming movies on to my laptop while controlling my computer through the TV. I’ll also be washing my clothes in the stove and cooking dinner in the bathtub.

Just so long as my Garmin GPS music player is compatible with my flying car.


Various and Sundry, Part Something

Things going on in my life lately that aren’t worth entire posts:

— I have a few buy-one-get-one-free tickets to Saturday’s Face2Face Improv show for people that have not been to see us before, and would like to. That said, I won’t be in the show, which might actually be a plus in some people’s book. I will be in a show Friday at Kenny Mango’s Coffee Shop in Madison. I will not be in tomorrow night’s show at Sam & Greg’s, but should be back next Tuesday.

— After writing that post a few weeks back about Apple’s recent successes, etc., I decided that I should be an Apple stockholder again, so now I am. And, yes, I’ve already lost money. Wheee!

— I forget if I blogged about the contest that was being held as a collaboration between NASA and craft site Etsy to create space-themed art projects, but the finalists have been posted in the three categories, and include an awesome space-Western shirt designed by my friend Melissa Meek, so you should go vote for her.

— The book I co-wrote with astronauts Owen Garriott and Joe Kerwin,  Homesteading Space: The Skylab Story,has been selected for a paperback edition. It won’t be available for another year, however, so don’t let that stop you from buying the slightly-more-expensive-but-better-quality hardcover edition in the meantime. But, hey, I’ll be a paperback writer, paperback writer.

— I wrote a post earlier this year about wanting to participate in The Jonah Project, in which people with differing viewpoints read The Unlikely Disciple and then discuss it. Well, I found my nemesis, applied for the project, got selected, and, finally, after a very lengthy delay, received the books, and finished reading it. I’m participating in the project with my good friend Joe Gurner, and the resulting discussions have been very interesting. Joe and I had a general idea where the other stood on a lot of issues (to wit, as far from the other as possible), but I think this may be the first time we’ve actually really discussed a lot of those things, and it’s been fascinating. I’m blessed (can I say that? lucky?) to have a friend with whom I can have such an enjoyable conversation about such loaded topics.

— After our unsuccessful attempt to watch the space shuttle launch, I took Heather’s sons out this weekend to launch model rockets, as an attempt to capture some of the excitement the scrub didn’t inspire. Needless to say, I was utterly unable to put anything in the air. Sigh. Rather embarrassing to be such a poor space pitchman to a sympathetic audience. They were really good sports about it, however, and we’ll probably try again soon.

— ADDENDUM: Welcome to the world, Baxter Hughes. Hope you enjoy it! You’ve got a good tour guide to start you out, kid.

Here’s To The Crazy Ones

I was talking recently with Heather, who now owns a MacBook, an Apple TV, a Mac Mini and multiple iPhones, and uses a MacBook Pro at work.

Heather was relatively anti-Mac when we started working together. Now, there are people who own Apple products because of her.

She half-joked that there should be some sort of referral program. Apple, she argued, should cut me in for a piece of the action on purchases made directly or indirectly because of me. That would, indeed, be cool.

But, I explained, even without a literal cut of the profits, I still benefit.

As a former Apple stockholder, I benefited financially from the company’s growth. As an Apple user, I benefit from the incredible amount of R&D and technology acquisition the company can afford as its profits increase.

Simultaneously the most and least important result — least because there’s no material benefit, most because the intangible benefit is huge — is the benefit I receive as someone who has been using the Mac for more than 80 percent of the time it’s been around.

We won.

I was a Mac user when you were mocked for being a Mac user. I used Apple, as hard as this is to imagine, before Apple was cool. I used the Mac when Apple was a niche player, when software and peripherals were hard to come by, when seeing an Apple logo in a store was a rare thing.

Today you see it in gas stations.

We won.

I still have the Wired magazine “Pray” cover. Now Apple is the second-largest company in the world by market capitalization. Not second-largest computer company. Second-largest company.

Computer-wise, granted, it’s still true that most computers aren’t Macs. But counting Apple’s new tablet computer, Apple is now the leading seller of personal computers.

We won.

And for those of us were faithful during the Michael Spindler years, that’s worth more than any referral fee ever could be.

This isn’t meant to be gloating. It’s not meant to be an “I told you so.” A lot of the criticisms during those early years were valid. The Mac was expensive and had limited compatibility and a handful of peripherals. But for all those flaws, the faithful among us saw the potential.

It’s a good feeling that we’ve finally stuck around long enough for enough of that potential to be realized that other people can appreciate it, too.


Links And Stuff

>>> I just came across a new review of our book, Homesteading Space, online.

It opens with a foreword by NASA rocket engineer and inspirational author Homer Hickam, and it closes with Skylab III Commander Alan Bean’s previously unreleased in-flight diary. Sandwiched between are more than 450 pages of sometimes gripping, always interesting, narrative on the history of Skylab and its missions written by a veteran NASA editor-journalist and two Skylab scientist-astronauts.

Consequently, the Skylab participants, through these talented authors, share with readers a fantastically rich, vicarious experience, one not unlike what good fiction might generate. But Homesteading Space is factual in every detail.

For all the astronauts’ serious efforts to maximize the success ofthe Skylab missions, there was a lighter, playful side seldom revealed in official records but unabashedly exposed in Homesteading Space.

— Dr. Rick W. Sturdevant, Deputy Director of History, HQ Air Force Space Command

The review actually makes me want to go back and read the book again. (And only partially because it alludes stories from the book that I honestly don’t remember — “Really? That’s in there? I need to re-read it!”)

My personal favorite part is near the beginning: “Although design and development of Skylab subsystems necessarily receive attention, the focus remains consistently on the actions, experiences, and feelings of the astronauts who occupied the station and their relationship with crews on the ground.” Because, ultimately, that’s what we were trying to do — tell the human story of Skylab. Seeing someone else recognize that makes me feel like the book was a success.

>>> I liked my co-worker Heather’s blog post about making the switch to Apple enough that I have to link to it, and only partially because I’m the hero of the story.

>>> Since writing my “bucket list” post last week, I’ve created a standing “The List” tab on the blog where I can keep up with ideas of things to do, track progress in working toward them, and cross them off when they’re done. And, too, if anyone has any suggestions, or wants to join in on anything, they can let me know. Since setting the page up, I’ve made mild progress on the skydiving item, have applied for my passport, and may have found a way to use it. (And along the lines of blog updates, I’ve also gone in and actually written stuff for the About tab beyond just, I’m David and this is my blog.)

>>> They show up in my Twitter feed in the sidebar, but, nonetheless, I wanted to post a reminder about my formspring.me page where you can ask me anonymous questions and read my answers. It’s kind of fun. And, of course, my 365project page is still out there as well.

>>> This is inappropriate and I shouldn’t link to it and you shouldn’t follow the link and I’m not responsible if you do, and, yet, you know, I kinda want one of these, even if I would never wear it in public. Along those lines, I’ll also link to this.

For Great Justice!

I’m writing this post from the jury waiting room at the Madison County Courthouse, where I’m doing my civic duty. By blogging, apparently.

This is my second time being called for jury duty. Or, rather, my second time reporting for jury duty.

Back in ye olde days in Indianola, I got called pretty frequently, but always got excused ahead of time. It was a win-win situation, I suppose — my boss didn’t want me to be gone, since we had such a small staff, and odds are I wasn’t going to be able to serve anyway, since I covered police and courts and thus new all the players and many of the cases, so it saved them having to eliminate me.

That said, I kind of would have liked to serve. Covering courts, it would have been interesting to experience it from the other side, to find out what it was like to be behind-the-scenes as a juror. (And if one of us had ever been selected as a grand juror — I can only imagine. We would have found a way to serve if that had happened. To have every record, every official, every room of every public agency open to us? Yeah, wow, I can only imagine.)

So it was kind of exciting three years ago when I got called for jury duty in Madison County for the first time, and having no reason that I couldn’t report.

And it was, indeed, an interesting experience, albeit not in the way I had hoped. I learned a lot about being a juror, but without actually serving on a jury. Really, it was not unlike the wonderful learning experiences of my two trips to see shuttle flights scrubbed. It’s very much a part of the reality of the experience, but not the reality I had hoped for.

But the Circuit Clerk did a great job of explaining the importance of the “nothing” that I did. Court doesn’t move forward without jurors. Pleas are entered, settlements are reached, largely when cases are about to go before a jury. And that doesn’t happen unless there are potential jurors. So by sitting in the jury waiting room, I’m very much helping resolve cases.

So yesterday and today, I’ve been dispensing justice … by blogging, Twittering, reading, texting, Facebooking, etc. Again, not what I’d hoped for, but isn’t it nice to know, as you’re reading this blog entry, that while I was writing it, I was bringing criminals to justice?

Thus far, I have been called in for the jury selection for one case, but, after going through the voire dire, was rejected, either because of my ex-wife or my ex-fiancee, I’m not sure which. But definitely not my fault. (Yes, I know fiancee needs an accent mark, but I don’t know how to make one on this computer, even though it’s easy on what I’m used to. I’m here doing my civic duty, and they thank us with Windows machines. Still, MUCH better than nothing, so I’m grateful.)

Jurors have been called for jury selection for other cases, but I haven’t been selected to even be part of those selections. They’re expecting another round this afternoon, so we’ll see.

Sad Chimes They Say So Much

Sad Chimes Rest Home
Arguably, I really should own this t-shirt, but I don’t really need it $26 bucks worth. (If someone wanted to spend money on me really frivolously … well, there’d still be better ways. But it is cool.)

Technically, of the three computers on the shirt, I only currently have in my possession the front one (but I have at least three computers with that basic form factor). I used to have the bubble iMac, but it’s one of the rare computers I’ve owned that found its way into other hands.

In addition to those three and my current machines, however, there’s an old PowerMac Performa, a rare all-in-one education G3 and a variety of useless laptops.

I’m begining to realize, however, it may well be time for the Mac retirement home to shut down, and its occupants to move on. So, whether he likes it or not, a variety of antique machines will be eventually heading to my friend Joe Gurner.

Relics Different

(Cross-posted elsewhere. Sorry, Heather.)

OK, I need help and or advice. I have, over the years, collected a handful of old computers that, really, you know, I just don’t need. An old Mac Plus. An early PowerMac Performa. A stripped-down Lombard G3. Etc. I really hate the idea of just putting them in my trash can, but I really don’t know what to do with them. Anybody want them, or know what I can do with them?


There come times when one must decide that one is sufficiently committed to the future that one is willing to move on from the past, even if the past is in the form of empty Apple computer boxes.