Thursday, June 30, 2005

Cringely on Web 2.0 -- and Greasemonkey

PBS | I, Cringely . June 30, 2005 - Accessories Make the Nerd
Web 2.0 will be staffed by two different kinds of entrepreneurs -- those who provide staunch web services exposed through APIs (Amazon, eBay, Google, and a bunch more), and those who glue those services together and make some sort of useful abstraction service.

As an example, look at Greasemonkey, a FireFox plug-in that allows dynamic client-side manipulation of web pages. In other words, you write a little JavaScript app that gets applied to every page you want it to on YOUR browser. With Greasemonkey you can add a delete button to Gmail (there isn't one now), add a link on every Amazon book page that looks up that book in your local library and tells you if it's on the shelf or not. In other words, with Greasemonkey you can manipulate anyone's web page to do anything you want (even collect info from other web pages and aggregate it). Now that's powerful.

And it brings us back to Grokster and the Supreme Court. Grokster wanted to be seen as a common carrier like the telephone company. Just because telephones can be used to plan and sometimes carry out crimes doesn't make the phone company a criminal accessory. But Grokster, the Court decided, was built more with the intention of illegally sharing music than the phone company was built to aid kidnappers. So Grokster IS a criminal accessory in the eyes of the court.

What will happen, of course, is that Web 2.0 will turn the next Grokster into several separate organizations offering different services that use a common API syntax to create a Grokster equivalent. Each of these parts will look more like the phone company and less like Grokster until the Supreme Court won't recognize them as the accessories they happen to be.

Crime never goes away, it just evolves.
He's in good form today. There are many subtexts in this essay.

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