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Jonathan Roberts [opinions]

A new front? [web] [applications]

Google's new “My Maps” is one of the coolest new web technologies I've come across in a long time – I love it! But this, combined with an off-hand remark in a blog, got me thinking: where are all the free web apps?

This is only going to be a short (very short) post because it's the holidays, which I'm enjoying(!), but I wanted to leave you with some thinking to do during your time off. Google, the champion of free software in the off-line world, with projects like Summer of Code, are not even coming under any pressure to release the source code for their on-line applications: G-Mail, Google Apps and Calendar are just three examples.

There are some fantastic examples of free web applications like Wordpress, Drupal and Mediawiki; there are even some signs of real innovation coming from Red Hat's Mugshot website which, with its off-line client, is trying to further integration between our desktops and our on-line social “networking” persona. None of these, however, are targeting the same functionality as Google's suite of apps which to me is vital functionality: I can't afford to run my own mail server, even if I could there aren't any free software web mail systems that can match G-Mail, or Yahoo Mail or Windows Live Mail.

Maybe it's time to try and apply a bit of pressure to these companies? Maybe it's time we started pointing some of the spotlight at the on-line world?


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