Life Talks

My first reactions to The Future of Web Apps…

Wow. Yesterday’s Future of Web Apps summit was completely intense. I’d been worrying about talking for about a month, and puzzling away at what I wanted to say for even longer, which is pretty much why my site has been so quiet lately. But in the end it all came off – I got a lot of nice comments from people, and I’m pretty happy with its substance. I was so full of adrenalin by the end of the day that I was on a high for hours, and today I’ve experienced a weird kind of exhausted come-down. But it was worth it. I had a really good day.

The idea for the talk I gave (“Native to a Web of Data”) originated in conversations with Rael Dornfest after our work on the BBC PIPs project. He wanted me to write some kind of ‘User Interface Guidelines for Web 2.0″ talk for the Web 2.0 conference to focus on identifiers, addressability, ajax and the like – all the stuff that had come up in conversations and work that Matt Biddulph, Margaret Hanley, Gavin Bell and I had done together. But then I’d got stuck thinking around the area and couldn’t find an angle to attack it from, and I’d left it on the backburner. It was months later that Ryan asked if I’d like to talk at the summit, and I decided to take another stab at it, and I think it came out pretty well. I got a lot of positive comments from people at the event saying that it had crystallised a lot of the stuff that they’d already known but had trouble articulating. In retrospect, I think maybe all I did was write something that should give clued-up developers the argumentative support to convince people to let them do their jobs properly. But I’m pretty much happy with that.

The rest of the day was pretty awesome – the venue was extraordinary, and I really enjoyed seeing Cal and Joshua, and hearing what they were up to. I was also really really impressed by Ryan Carson’s piece on the financial sides of doing a small start-up. That pretty much rocked, and had really lovely typography. David Heinemeier Hanson’s piece on Ruby on Rails seemed pretty impressive too, and many people I rate are really keen on it as a framework (again Matt Biddulph). So that was good.

Even better for me was bumping into all kinds of neat people from around the industry who I don’t get to see enough of – people like Jamie Tetlow, Duncan Ponting, Matt Patterson, Paul Hammond, Becky Ford and all the BBC crew from R&Mi, Rod McLaren, Meg Pickard, some of the London Yahoos who I’ve got to know a bit and – a particular surprise – Ms. Jen who I haven’t seen since she generously offered to give me a lift from Los Angeles to San Francisco a few years ago. She’s in town at the moment, so everyone say hi. There were about a billion other cool people around, and all I can say is, don’t be a strange, chuck me an e-mail!

Anyay, I’m probably going to be putting up the slides on my site in the next day or so, but at the moment they’re all Keynote only and they look a bit rubbish in Powerpoint and stuff, so I should probably neaten them up a bit. In the meantime, I should probably again thank Simon Willison, Biddulph and Andy for their help along the way. I hope everyone’s well – and thanks again everyone for the kind words.

34 replies on “My first reactions to The Future of Web Apps…”

Thanks for the presentation yesterday, your’s, Cal’s and Joshua’s presentation were a cool trio and really wrapped up the whole ‘web thing’ in a way this dumbass could understand. It seems you Yahoo! guys really get the social aspect of the web.

I’d been looking forward to seeing/hearing you speak – by far the best presentation of the day…great ideas and insight…
I left with the feeling that with the other speakers (apart from Ryan Carson’s), I’d kind of heard it all before – kind of a fallout from blog absorption…
…but even though I follow your blog and seen some of the stuff you mentioned, from previous posts, I learnt a lot.
Someone mentioned you doing a book on irc (I think as a giggle), but what a bloody good idea…
Anyway, thanks – from my perspective, you saved the day, 😉

Congrats on the talk Tom, it was definitely one of the highlights for me. I wished I’d have kept a count of how many jokes each speaker made and seen if there was a correlation between the gags and how impressed I was with each speaker.
I too was surprised with how good Ryan’s talk with, I thought it might end up as a bit of an ad for DropSend, but he handed out some pretty honest insights that were pretty darn interesting.
The scariest moment for me was when I saw the Chatsum site come up in your slides, even if it was to poke a little fun at my rounded corners and gradients, you old naughty.

Great talk Tom

“…crystallised a lot of the stuff that they’d already known but had trouble articulating”

Absolutely, and pulled out some neat symmetries which hadn’t quite registered before but made me go “oh yes, that’s very nice”. Definitely the highlight of the day, thanks.
And I for one would be more than happy to see the slides posted as a keynote file.

I thought the way you articlated the idea behind web 2.0 was well thought out.
As a not particularly techincal designer, considering content on the web as being only as good as the sum of all it’s parts, connected & working well together, gave me some interesting ideas. Great talk!

I loved your presentation, it explained what was in my head for a long time. Thanks for getting it out, I can’t wait to get my hands on the slides… It was great fun with you on the dirty backchannel :p

Great presentation Tom, especially liked the URL structure love-in (which also has SEO benefits too, as well as user experience / guessability advantages). Good stuff. ; )

This might be the straw (ie. sounds fun) that broke the camels (ie. my) back. I need to find a way to start getting to summits and conferences. It’s really hard as an indie with no money to fund these things myself, and of course I never get invited either. Cos, flip, we’re gonna be stomping web2.0 stomps all over the tv/media space pretty damn soon. Bah!

So I went back to work on a buzz with all the stuff you’d said, of which a lot was backing up my own current thinking. I attended a meeting and offered – we need URLs that stay the same. We need to think about designing our URL structures with our information architecture right at the planning stages of our developments. Stop breaking the web. All that sort of stuff.
Anyhow, the perceived powers-that-be say that “we don’t want people to bookmark stuff, we want to force them down a certain path. It’s good to keep changing URLs. People should come to the homepage and we guide them from there” – We don’t want to share our data. People should not be able to categorise things their own way. We must dictate. APIs are not good And that basically you’re talking rubbish. Microsoft’s site gets it right apparently. Also – nobody uses flickr, or social software – there’s no future in them etc etc. Very negative attitude and perhaps an indication of not really using the web very much in a social, community, scenario. I just wish there was an equivalent conference for management of large companies and organisations. I guess it’s a whole ‘business benefits of the web’ type conf.
Still we can but influence by example (just like we did with the whole web standards/accessibility thing) and rather than explain what we hope to achieve, probably best to go ahead and do it so people can see the benefits. If I can take away one great thing from your talk (I can actually take many away) it is the whole idea of many interfaces using the same data – especially in relation to user identity (single sign on for the web?). I hope you continue to explore this idea more as it makes so much sense on a very basic level.
The whole summit was a real breath of fresh air to see so many people doing so many useful things and really thinking about the user experience of the majority.
Your talk was fantastic so thanks again!

Can I echo the request for the slides? (not sure about Keynote format though… can I view that on my PC?)
It won’t be a patch on seeing you present, but as I didn’t make it to the summit I’ll just have to beg for the crumbs 😉

Tom, nice talk! Please post slides a Keynote files too. Didn’t you see how many macs were there in the audience 😉 i for one – very much would prefer a Keynote file over a PDF or PowerPoint…
Thanks again for your great talk!

Sounds like it would of been good to have been there first hand.
Share some sympathy with Guy – at the moment it’s really difficult to get a big organisation, like a bank for example, to understand that giving the ability for a user to share data (which is obviously their’s and not the banks) is a good thing. It’s a new mindset, but it’ll come.

yes! there are several positions open for web developers. you can email the european talent acquisition manager, james gould – jgould [at]

Hi Tom.
You were the best. No doubt about it. Cal was great too. Joshua was very disappointing – he talked about the past of future apps. Thanks for the talk – waiting for those slides…

Nice one Tom. Your talk we pretty impressive and it was the one I took most from during the conference.
Both you, Cal, Josh and Ryan all got me thinking about tags and the convergence of information. Just written about a little idea I had about meeting/conference tagging to target that specific date in time, but still allowing for more tag comparisions. Thanks for the talk.

Is there a podcast feed available somewhere of the talks? Please tell me someone is recording the presentations.

Sadly, “The Future of Web Apps” leaves out Web Mobs. Teh one app that makes the Web really social. Web Mobs ( comes from Jabber Virtual Presence Project ( It lets you walk on the Web with your avatar and you can meet other people visiting the same pages at the same time. Plog authors meet their readers on the blog, sales assistants of online shops meet their customers and people meet by chance on any page. There are countless applications. What’s the application of seeing people on the real street? Countless, and it is almost the same. People meet on the places and streets of the Web and make the Web a social place.

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