Archive for the ‘Web Apps’ Category

File Under: Web Apps

Last Call for Delicious Bookmarks

Attention Delicious bookmarking fans, time is running out to transition your bookmarks to the updated, launching-soon Delicious website.

Current Delicious users have until September 23, 2011 to transfer their data and accept the new terms of service. If you don’t move your data by then your bookmarks will disappear forever.

After years of languishing at Yahoo, Delicious, the original king of online bookmarking, was purchased by AVOS, a new company from YouTube creators Chad Hurley and Steven Chen.

The transfer of ownership means that existing users need to agree to the new terms of service before Delicious can relaunch. You can read over the new terms on the AVOS website. If you prefer not to be part of the new Delicious, but would still like to grab your bookmarks before they go poof, you can do so using Delicious’ export tools.

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File Under: Web Apps

Offline Gmail Returns, Sort of

The offline Gmail web app

Offline Gmail is back. Originally built around Google’s Gears plugin, the company announced earlier this year that it was pulling the Gears-based feature and rewriting it to use HTML5 and web standards. Now offline Gmail is back (along with offline support for Google Docs and Calendar) and no longer requires the Gears browser add-on.

Offline Gmail does, however, require the Google Chrome web browser. In fact, the offline version of Gmail is an entirely separate app you’ll need to install through the Chrome Web Store. The Web Store app is based on the Gmail web app for tablets and uses a widescreen layout that will look familiar to anyone using Gmail on an iPad or the new three-pane mail interface.

Unfortunately, the offline app for Gmail is just that, a separate web app. You won’t be able to use Gmail offline simply by clicking a button in the regular web interface. Rather you’ll need to install the offline Gmail app and switch over to that interface whenever you’re offline.

And that’s not the only downside to this release. Offline Gmail will only give you access to the last three to seven days’ worth of email (the exact amount will vary depending on how many messages you get each day). All of your starred messages will also be available, but beyond that you’re out of luck — there’s no way to, for example, download a specific tag or set of messages for offline use.

Things are even worse in the offline version of Google Docs which, for now, is limited to read-only access — not exactly helpful when you’re trying to finish that report sans wifi.

Google says these issues are temporary and that the offline support is a work in progress, but given the extremely limited functionality one wonders why they were released at all. Of course Google’s motto is release early, release often; clearly they’ve released early, hopefully the often will kick in soon.

In the mean time if you need offline access to your email, we suggest a traditional desktop client.

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File Under: Browsers, Mobile, Web Apps

Mozilla’s WebAPI Wants to Replace Native Apps With HTML5

Mozilla has launched an ambitious new project aimed at breaking down the proprietary app systems on today’s mobile devices. The project, dubbed WebAPI, is Mozilla’s effort to provide a consistent, cross-platform, web-based API for mobile app developers.

Using WebAPI, developers would write HTML5 applications rather than native apps for iOS, Android and other mobile platforms.

Mozilla isn’t just talking about WebAPI, it’s already hard at work. It plans to develop the APIs necessary to provide “a basic HTML5 phone experience” within six months. After that the APIs will be submitted to the W3C for standardization.

Among the APIs Mozilla wants to develop are a telephone and messaging API for calls and SMS, a contacts API, a camera API and half a dozen more.

If those APIs sound vaguely familiar it might be because the W3C’s Device APIs Working Group is covering similar ground.

So, why the new effort from Mozilla? Well, Mozilla’s WebAPI is a part of its larger Boot to Gecko Project, which aims to eventually develop an operating system that emphasizes standards-based web technologies. With that end goal in mind, WebAPI may end up somewhat different than what the W3C is trying to build.

It’s also possible that Mozilla simply doesn’t want to wait for the Device APIs Working Group. Mozilla wants WebAPI up and running in a mere six months, the W3C’s Device APIs Work Group is unlikely to move that fast. But “the idea is to collaborate with W3C and all players and together form a good solution, and not just dump it on them,” says Mozilla Technical Evangelist Robert Nyman in a comment on his post announcing WebAPI.

The dream of write-once, run-anywhere software is nothing new and, if history is any guide, Mozilla’s WebAPI efforts may well be doomed. The open source giant does have one thing going for it that most other efforts have not — the open web. Most write-once, run-anywhere attempts have come from companies like Adobe and were built around proprietary frameworks. WebAPI doesn’t suffer from vender lock-in the way some projects have. WebAPI’s main roadblock is convincing other mobile web browsers to support the APIs.

For WebAPI to appeal to developers, Mozilla will need Apple, Google and other mobile browser makers to implement the APIs so that WebAPI can compete with native applications. Before you dismiss that as an impossibility, bear in mind that Apple’s original vision for iOS app development was based around HTML applications, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a company more eager to embrace web apps than Google. Whether either company will devote any resources to implementing WebAPI remains to be seen. But if Mozilla can get WebAPI standardized by the W3C other browser makers would likely support it.

Mozilla’s plans for WebAPI are certainly ambitious, but the company is putting its money where its mouth is — Mozilla is currently hiring several full time engineers to work on WebAPI.

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File Under: Multimedia, Web Apps

Make Waves with WebGL Demo ‘Water’

WebGL Water Running in Chromium 14Web Developer Evan Wallace has released one of the more impressive WebGL demos we’ve seen.

Provided you’re using a capable browser (Firefox, Chrome or Safari), head on over to Wallace’s WebGL Water demo and be amazed.

If you stay abreast of the latest and greatest in web browsers you’ve probably heard of WebGL, an API for adding hardware-accelerated 3D rendering to the HTML5 Canvas tag. The WebGL API is based on OpenGL, a desktop graphics standard, which means WebGL will run on many different devices — your laptop, your phone, even your TV.

Firefox 6+, Google Chrome and the latest version of Apple’s Safari all support WebGL (in Safari you’ll need to enable WebGL under the developer tools menu). There’s also an experimental build of Opera with WebGL support.

If you’re stuck with Internet Explorer, Vimeo user Ivan Enderlin posted this video which shows Firefox rendering the WebGL Water demo.

WebGL water, by @evanwallace from Ivan Enderlin on Vimeo.

Also, be sure to check out rest of Wallace’s website for some other WebGL demos, games and experiments.

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File Under: JavaScript, Web Apps

Yes Virginia, That Is Linux Running on JavaScript

Linux running in a JavaScript-based emulator

JavaScript never seems to get any respect. It’s not a real programming language, detractors complain, it’s just some script language that runs in the web browser. We’re not sure what makes JavaScript less “real” to some, but thanks to today’s web browsers, JavaScript has become a very powerful language. Powerful enough to run Linux in your web browser.

French developer Fabrice Bellard has built a JavaScript-based x86 PC emulator capable of running Linux inside a web browser.

If you’d like to try it out, point Firefox 4 or Chrome 11 to the demo page. Keep in mind that this is just Linux, no X Window or other graphical interface, just the command line, a small C compiler and QEmacs, Bellard’s emacs clone. Still, it’s really Linux, really running in your web browser, really using JavaScript to emulate hardware.

For more info on how Bellard did it, as well as what the hardware emulator supports, see Bellard’s technical notes.

Because the hardware emulation is built around the Typed Array spec, Bellard’s Linux experiment only works in those browsers that support JavaScript typed arrays, namely Firefox 4+ and Chrome 11+ (though a bug in Chrome 12 prevents it from working in the latest version of Chrome ).

Bellard is probably best known for founding the FFMPEG project, but unlike that very useful project, Bellard says his JavaScript-based Linux experiment has no real goals. “I did it for fun,” writes Bellard, “just because newer Javascript Engines are fast enough to do complicated things.”

That said, Bellard does have a few possible uses in mind, including serving as a benchmark for JavaScript performance (how fast can your JavaScript engine boot Linux?), client-side processing and perhaps, with a few improvements, running old DOS games and other software in the browser.

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