October 24, 2003

Mitch Kapor Tries to Change the World--Again

Shouldn't information technology help us deal with all our information? Mitch Kapor tries to change the world once again:

Trash Your Desktop: ...Code-named Chandler, after the mystery writer (because, Kapor says, what they're creating was something of a mystery even to them when the venture launched two years ago), the software promises to put all related e-mail messages, spreadsheets, appointment records, addresses, blog entries, word-processing documents, digital photos, and what-have-you in one place at one time: no more opening program after program looking for the items related to a specific topic. It takes the core functions of Microsoft Outlook, the Palm Desktop, and other personal information management programs and integrates them with the rest of your PC and the Internet. All the information you need to complete a given task or project is grouped on-screen, organized around the one function--e-mail--Kapor sees as the central conduit of our electronic lives.

Because Chandler presents information in its logical context--displaying all related items together--and not in the separate folders and application windows of the traditional desktop computer system, you can think of it as a new way into your computer. "It may be hubristic," says Kapor, "but we're trying to push the edge of the envelope in terms of innovation, and trying to pioneer a new type of interface"--one that he thinks is sorely needed. "Software is too difficult, too limiting, and pretty severely so, and it's a raw deal"...


Microsoft Outlook and Chandler will have common elements, such as a calendar, e-mail reader, and contacts list, but Chandler hopes to add a number of novel features as well:

  • An adaptive user interface that displays all the information relevant to what you are working on, no matter what form it is in--e-mail, word-processing document, digital photo, or Web page
  • The ability to run on Windows, Macintosh, and Linux systems (Outlook does not work on Linux, and not all features are available for Macs)
  • Built-in instant messaging
  • The ability to swap out the calendar, the e-mail reader, and other software components if someone writes programs you like better
  • Calendar and contact sharing that doesn't require a central server (and someone to maintain it)

Posted by DeLong at October 24, 2003 11:43 AM | TrackBack

Comments

But, Brad, does Mitch Kapor understand WHY the web took off. Before the web there was Lotus Notes which did the same sort of thing and, which some would argue, had better technology. While Notes made a lot of money for Ray Ozzie, Lotus and then IBM, it didn't change the world.

You cannot change the world by creating your own walled-off playground, ESPECIALLY if your app is supposed to be some sort of "we link to all the information out there and present it as YOU want" type app.

So, how open is this thing going to be? While it is not necessary that the source be open, will the protocols --- and that means ALL the protocols, not some-selected-set-while-we-hold-on-to-the-others-because-in-spite-of-what-we-say-we-aren't-really-confident-we-could-win-a-fair-fight-against-other-developers --- be open?

Because if they are not, well, just how stupid would you have to be to trust pretty much the entire information on your hard drive that you care about to some company with who knows what intentions, that may at any time decide they're no longer interested in supporting your OS or platform? What exactly do you plan to do then?

Posted by: Maynard Handley on October 24, 2003 12:55 PM

I thought of this first.

Posted by: Alan on October 24, 2003 01:40 PM

So, how open is this thing going to be? While it is not necessary that the source be open, will the protocols --- and that means ALL the protocols, not some-selected-set-while-we-hold-on-to-the-others-because-in-spite-of-what-we-say-we-aren't-really-confident-we-could-win-a-fair-fight-against-other-developers --- be open?

Given that Kapor is funding Chandler under the umbrella of the "Open Source Application Foundation", I think your question is answered. (For what it's worth, I'm not sure that they've decided on a license for it -- they can't use the GPL, as they want to make the code available for licensed integration into closed products -- but from day one Kapor has stated that it will be a free software product.)

Posted by: Steve on October 24, 2003 02:09 PM

www.shirky.com talks all about why the WWW worked and Lotus Notes didn't, along with all the rest of the ideas. The idea of Evolvable Systems.

Posted by: Tim McGovern on October 24, 2003 06:24 PM

Yes, some packets I reconstructed the other day came by via www.shirky.com, and they couldn't stop telling me how all about how that domain name wouldn't shut up.

Posted by: anonymouse on October 24, 2003 10:17 PM

"[...](For what it's worth, I'm not sure that they've decided on a license for it -- they can't use the GPL, as they want to make the code available for licensed integration into closed products -- but from day one Kapor has stated that it will be a free software product.)"

If they are the author, they can make a direct license to allow for closed products. And still license the software as GPL to the general public.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on October 25, 2003 01:04 AM

The other big question is how well the system will handle spam and other attacks. Integrating everything with e-mail requires really, really good handling of e-mail. Otherwise it would just integrate spam and attacks into your work.

Posted by: Barry on October 26, 2003 07:00 AM
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