I hinted in my last post that one consumer company is showing signs of embracing the “just like the desktop” AJAX approach. That company is Yahoo!
First, read this review of Yahoo! email that was posted in the Wall St Journal, “Yahoo Email delivers that desktop feel most users expect”
Some choice quotes from the review:
My verdict: The new Yahoo Mail is far superior to Gmail. Yahoo more closely matches the desktop experience most serious email users have come to expect. Gmail, by contrast, is quirky and limited.
The new version is radically easier to use. For example, there’s a preview pane, just as in desktop programs, that allows you to view the contents of an email without opening it. You can open multiple emails at once. You can drop messages into folders you create. You can right-click on various items to see short menus of useful tasks, like “add sender to address book.” You can delete multiple messages at once by selecting them and clicking on a trash-can icon.
By contrast, Gmail has none of these new, fluid, desktop-like features. You can’t scroll through all of your messages’ headers without loading a new Web page. And there’s no preview pane, only a feature that shows a snippet of the content of an email. […]
But Gmail’s limitations go beyond this. On several key issues, Google’s engineers have decreed that familiar email practices are no longer useful, and have substituted approaches they prefer, arrogantly denying users any choice.
I haven’t played with the new Yahoo! mail myself, but I have seen several demos of oddpost (the email client that is the basis of Yahoo! mail) and it is truly a comparable experience to Microsoft Outlook. All of the conventions are observed, the layout is the same, it’s really a straight-forward port of the application to AJAX, with some webish features (like RSS integration) built in.
Data point 2: Yahoo! recently poached Bill Scott, the co-developer of the RICO framework, from Sabre Systems, to work as an ‘AJAX Evangelist”. RICO stands out among all the open-source AJAX frameworks out there in that 1)it’s origins are from a corporate IT environment, and 2)it’s strength is a collection of widgets that are direct analogs of the widgets you find in desktop applications (especially data grids).
Data point 3: Yahoo! recently formed a DHTML/Ajax Evangelist team whose mission is to ensure the propogation of all things rich & ajax throughout all of Yahoo! Some of the team members (besides Bill Scott) include Iain Lamb, co-founder of Oddpost and Douglas Crockford, creator of JSON.
The picture that emerges from these three data points is a company that is aggressively investing in the idea of DHTML applications that look and feel very similar to desktop applications. Very different from the google vision of developing applications that are “revolutionary” and “completely different from anything you’ve ever seen”. It’s a mature vision, a practical vision, and I think it has a lot of promise.