There were a lot of big conferences recently, including Microsoft’s® Mix conference, and South by Southwest (SXSW), a conference covering everything from interactive technology to movies and music. Although SXSW started primarily as a venue for musicians, it has expanded in recent years to cover a vast array of media and technologies.
Looking at everything that happened at SXSW and Mix, there was one topic that was surprisingly lacking: location-based technologies, including social media. Sure, everyone was using it, but no one was talking about it. The biggest discussions about it were in terms of which was bigger, foursquare or Gowalla.
Has location-based social media grown so fast that it is already passé to even talk about? Or is it still so new to so many people that nobody really knows what to say? We’d love to know what you think, so feel free to give your opinion in the comments section below.
Internet Explorer 9
Jumping back to Mix, the browser wars got another new weapon this week with Microsoft announcing a new version to the world’s most popular browser, lovingly titled Internet Explorer 9. Although final release date has yet to be announced, users can download a beta version to try out some of the new features. It is still early beta, so some features are not yet fully implemented, but it does give users a good idea on the look, feel and speed of the new browser. If you don’t feel comfortable downloading beta software then check out the official demos at the Microsoft website. Overall, Internet Explorer 9 has some great potential.
This positions IE9 to maintain its edge well into the future. Many of these technologies (embedded audio, h.264 video, etc) allow multimedia displays to function without needing to install specific plugins, like Adobe® Flash®, for example.
The only downside is that IE9 will not be compatible with Windows® XP, only with Windows Vista and Windows 7. This has been one issue preventing the use of IE8 and IE7, since neither was compatible with Windows 2000, and which caused Windows 2000 users to either live with IE6, or to find an alternative.
Even so, as Windows 7 grows, Internet Explorer 9 will also expand, which creates more opportunities for custom web developers and web development in general.
Windows Phone 7 Series
Another big announcement from Microsoft’s Mix, was more details about the new Windows mobile operating system: Windows Phone 7 Series. Despite having a horribly awkward name, the new Windows mobile OS looks simply amazing.
Even some of the iPhone™ and Android™ users around our office are struggling to hide their jealousy of some of the new features, and the interface of the new operating system. That’s not to say that the new Windows Phone 7 Series will likely unseat Android or the iPhone, but users will definitely get a top-of-the-line product if they choose a phone with the Windows 7 OS.
In addition to demos and presentations, Microsoft also released the software development kit (SDK) which allows us to begin custom application development for the Windows Phone 7 Series OS. Very exciting!
Some of the benefits to Windows Phone 7 include native support for many technologies that are not available on other platforms, including Silverlight™ and DivX™. Windows Phone 7 Series will also supposedly support Flash in the future, but not upon initial release. Even so, Silverlight allows the development of extremely complex applications, including gaming and interactive services, whereas DivX support (even if it is DivX 6) puts it light-years ahead of the iPhone in terms of media compatibility.
Other Notables: Internet Privacy
At Mix, SXSW and other press conferences this week, there was one topic that especially stood out: Internet privacy, including online data security and web-use tracking.
Danah Boyd, a Social Media Researcher at Microsoft Research New England, and a Fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, gave an amazing presentation on Internet privacy. The full text of the presentation can be found here. (http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/SXSW2010.html)
One of the most powerful moments in the presentation came towards the end, when she said:
“For the technologists in the room… When you moved from Web1.0 to Web2.0, you moved from thinking about designing and deploying software to creating living code. You learned to dance with your users, to evolve with them. Those of you who were successful learned the most complicated tango moves out there. This is the mindset you need to address privacy and publicity. You need to have a grounded understanding of what your users are looking for and engage them on the topics. When it comes to publicity, designing a new system is going to be a lot easier than evolving one that is already deployed. If you make something clearly public, users will work around it, using it for what they think makes the most sense. But if you give users a sense of privacy, a sense of intimacy, exposing them can be quite costly, both to you and to them. You may lose your reputation, but remember some people’s lives are on the line.”
“For the parents and educators in the room… Many of you are struggling to help young people navigate this new world of privacy and publicity, but many of you are confused yourself. The worst thing you can do is start a sentence with “back in my day.” Back in your day doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you care and that you too are trying to figure out how to make sense of an ever-changing environment. Rather than approaching teens and telling them how things should be, why they shouldn’t be putting material online, please consider the value of opening up a dialogue. You have a lot to learn from what teens are trying to do; you once had to make sense of public life too. The difference is that they are doing it in the new environment. Take what you know and then actively listen to teens. Through their struggles, you can see what is new and different.”
To us, this is a very powerful statement. It highlights the issues from a developer’s standpoint of making products that can effectively engage users but without going so far as to exploit them. It also focuses on helping those unfamiliar with the Internet to understand the full power, potential and pitfalls of having information online.
Not only does this apply to the potential misuse of personal information, which can embarrass or destroy private individuals, but it also highlights the importance for protecting corporate and employee data as well.
With modern day storage covering an estimated 500 Exabytes of data, so much data in fact that by next year we will be collecting it faster than we can build storage centers to store it all, it becomes particularly important to manage our digital footprint in the same way that we watch out for our physical security.
In either case, Internet privacy and security is something that deserves extra consideration, especially considering recent events with Twitter (releasing user data to developers), Facebook (changing privacy controls), and Google (Buzz, and now the ability to opt-out of tracking), among many others, privacy is something that can hurt businesses and public perception just as much as it can hurt the individuals themselves.