Inventing the Future

“Who would've thought…it figures”

John Sundman, friend, founder of Wetmachine and my colleague at Curl, wrote some reflections on what went wrong at the two Rich Internet Application startups he worked for. (One was Curl.) I think his comments are spot-on. Here are some concurring reminisces, and one additional hindsight: we engineers were wrong not realize the deep structural flaw in our position.

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My Thoughts Exactly

DOA RIAs: Curl, OpenLaszlo and Web 2.0 Noir

Over on his ZDnet column Universal Desktop Ryan Stewart, who describes himself as a Rich Internet Application mountaineer, makes his annual predictions about where the Web is going. Prediction number seven caught my eye:

7. The days of smaller RIA technologies are numbered. I hate to say it but I think technologies like OpenLaszlo and Curl will continue to gain traction in some niches but won’t see widespread adoption. Those companies will still bring revenue but Microsoft and Adobe are pushing too hard and putting too many features into their runtimes for the smaller companies to keep up.

I hate to say it but I think he’s right1.

Watching RIA trends play out is a bit like watching a Film Noir movie (DOA comes to mind), where the good guys don’t win and the bad guys prosper– but not because of any particular genius on their part, merely because of inexorable fate.

I observe this particular web-noir movie from the perspective of an extra actually on the screen. I play a guy cut down by a stray bullet for the crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. For I was manager of information architecture at Curl from April 2000 until being laid off along with most of the engineering staff in April 2002, and I was the sole doc guy on the OpenLaszlo project from April 2003 until being laid off November 2007 as Laszlo Systems gave a quarter of its staff the axe.

Below the fold, a few brief observations on the Web 2.0 drowning pool. Said observations are undoubtedly greatly corrupted by time and rationalization, so take them with whatever quantity of salt you like. I’m just recording them for my own record.

(1)Note: although Stewart now works for Adobe, he’s always been fair-minded about competing technologies. I don’t see him as a shill.

UPDATE: edited a few sentences for clarity & one new comment at the end, in response to private reactions to this entry.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Croquet and OpenLaszlo: Plans for World Domination

Howard Stearns’s post, below, about How Croquet will Take Over the Universe (Bwah-hah-hah) got me thinking about OpenLaszlo and our own plans to take over the, um, er, well, our plans for success.

Laszlo Systems, Inc, signs my paycheck, but 90% of what I do for that check is related to OpenLaszlo, the “Rich Internet Application” platform that is given away for free. Just as Howard suggests, Laszlo Systems makes its money by selling applications and services on top of the platform, not from selling the platform itself. Laszlo Mail is the first such product, and others are under development. The OpenLaszlo platform, which Laszlo Systems Inc subsidizes to the tune of several full-time developers and one full-time documentation guy, generates exactly zero dollars for the company.

Laszlo Systems, Inc, is a startup in which I have a relative pantload of stock options. So I want Laszlo Systems, Inc, to succeed, which means that Laszlo has to convince deep-pocketed customers to buy Laszlo applications. In order for Laszlo applications to be acceptable to potential customers, the customers must be convinced that the underlying technology is sound and that it will be around for the long haul. That implies that OpenLaszlo must be seen to be thriving. There must exist a rich ecology of corporations that have a financial interest in keeping OpenLaszlo healthy.

Trust is the substrate upon which the open source ecology can grow. The best way to ensure that trust, of course, it to make OpenLaszlo really, truly open; to make it abundantly clear to potential developers that Laszlo Systems is not self-dealing, not trying to control the platform for its own benefit.

Laszlo is the fourth startup I’ve worked at. I ain’t rich yet, and I ain’t getting any younger. So I want *this* to be the one we get right. Wetmachiners Howard, Gary and I all worked for, and got virtually incinerated by, Curl, which, like Laszlo and Croquet, developed a potentially web-transforming technology. Alas for us, Curl screwed the pooch, as they say; it pissed away all the opportunity that that technology could have given them (us) by messing up this fundamental process that Howard wrote about.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Laszlo is Hiring

The company I work for, Laszlo Systems, has an opening for a software engineer to work on our Rich Internet Application (open source) platform.

I’ve been at Laszlo for two years and I like it a lot. Not only that, and call me a crack-head dreamer if you want to (go ahead! call me that!), but I really think Laszlo is going to transform the web. If you’re a hot-shot programmer you might want to check this out.

My boss has the details on the job.

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