Embedded Experiences Are Coming to the Browser

One of the most interesting and valuable developments in enterprise social software (ESS) over the last few years has been the introduction of embedded experiences. Simply put, these are event-driven notifications, usually from other enterprise applications and systems, that surface within the activity stream of an ESS application. Embedded experiences go beyond merely notifying of something important; they also allow one or more actions to be taken to move a business process to the next step.
chatter notification vacation approval
Embedded experiences are great, but they have been written in proprietary code tied to a specific ESS vendor’s offering. It has not been possible to reuse actionable notifications across vendors’ solutions.
Google has announced a new feature in the latest beta version of its Chrome browser that will provide an open standard alternative for the delivery of extended experiences. Chrome 48 Beta enables developers to quickly create notifications with buttons that let users complete tasks. Those notification can be pushed from browser-based applications and webpages, as well as from Chrome OS applications and extensions to the Chrome browser.
Google and Mozilla employees have contributed to the development of the fledgling Notifications API standard under the auspices of the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) community. This specification is what has been implemented in Google’s Chrome 48 Beta.
A Notification Generator built to define HTML-based embedded experiences has been created by Peter Beverloo. The generator shows how easy it is to define an embedded experience that can appear in any HTML5-compliant web browser.

Notification GeneratorSource: http://tests.peter.sh/notification-generator/#actions=1;;requireInteraction=true

As previously noted, embedded experiences have been proprietary to individual vendor’s applications and platforms. Google’s beta implementation of the WHATWG’s Notifications API specification is a first important step toward embedded experiences that will work across operating systems and applications. When the feature is properly vetted and becomes part of the stable release of Chrome (and, we assume, Mozilla’s Firefox browser), open, actionable notifications will be reality.
This is important because it will make the development and use of embedded experiences far more practical and widespread. Enterprise software vendors who choose to implement the WHATWG’s Notifications API specification will empower their customers to more easily create interoperability with other vendors’ browser-based tools. Actionable data embedded in notifications will be able to be passed between systems, business process execution will be accelerated, and personal productivity will be increased.
This news further intensifies the browser-based versus operating system-dependent application debate, especially with regards to mobile computing. The current preference for native applications on mobile devices will be challenge to the uptake of the Notifications API specification, given its dependence on the Web browser. Development of more of these types of Web standards is precisely what is needed to swing the pendulum back toward browser-based applications.

WeTransfer Moves Toward File Transfer as a Microservice

It shouldn’t be news that enterprise file storage, sync, and sharing software and services (EFSS) have largely become a commodity. Prices continue to fall, in part because providers’ storage costs are still decreasing. More importantly, their cost to actually transfer a file has always been negligible, even with the application of strong encryption.
With costs low and decreasing, it’s fair to ask which of the aspects of file storage, sync, and sharing creates enough value for customers that providers can charge for the service. When you stop and think about it, the sharing or transfer of the file has always been the action that the rest of the bundled offer hangs on, especially for cloud-based services. A file can’t be stored on a provider’s servers until a copy has been transferred there. Similarly, changes to files must be transferred to keep copies in sync. The vast majority of the value proposition clearly lies in the transfer (sharing) of the file.
So it makes sense for the file transfer element to be the focal point for providers’ monetization strategies. If you accept that premise, then the next logical conclusion to be made is that file transfer can be monetized as a stand-alone service. In today’s world, that service would be built and licensed as a microservice, which can be used in any application that can call a RESTful API.
WeTransfer, a company based in Amsterdam (despite claiming San Francisco as its headquarters), has announced today the first step toward the creation of such a commercially-available file transfer microservice. A new partnership makes WeTransfer’s file transfer service an option (alongside Dropbox) for delivering photos and videos purchased from Getty Image’s iStock library. WeTransfer works in the background while the customer remains in iStock.
WeTransfer has exposed its file transfer API to Getty Images only at this point, but will be able strike up similar partnerships with other providers of graphics services. Of course, WeTransfer could also license API access to any developer looking to incorporate file transfer into an application. While it isn’t clear from their statement today if and when that will happen, the possibility is very real and quite compelling.
It’s important to note that both Box and Dropbox have made their file sharing APIs commercially available to developers for several months now, so WeTransfer is playing catch up in this regard. However, WeTransfer has emphasized file sharing almost exclusively since its founding in 2009 as a web-based service that only stores a file being shared for seven days before deleting it from their servers. Dropbox, on the other hand, originally was popular because of its simple-but-effective sync feature, and Box was initially perceived as a cloud-based storage service.
The potential market for file transfer microservices is so young and large that no provider has a clear advantage at this point. The recent nullification of the Safe Harbor agreement (PDF) between the European Union and the United States also presents a significant challenge to file services vendors that provide file storage for a global and multinational customer base. If WeTransfer emphasizes its legacy as an easy-to-use, dependable file transfer-only service with its newly-created microservice, it could gain a larger share of the market and expand well beyond its current niche of creative professional customers.

Here’s the strategy behind Airbnb’s mobile web redesign

Airbnb has redesigned its mobile web experience, bringing it into responsive union with its desktop website. The two applications will now work in sync, so changes made and features added to one will also appear on the other.

The shift highlights the growing importance of the mobile web and how to tackle its design structure. Airbnb has taken the stance that the mobile web is a funnel for people who are new to the Airbnb experience. They end up there by clicking links shared by friends or other media. They haven’t yet downloaded the app, but they want to be able to explore what Airbnb is about.

Therefore Airbnb wanted its mobile web homepage, unlike its mobile app, to look more like a landing page for newcomers. The mobile web became its own distinct experience, instead of a copy cat of either the mobile or desktop app.

It entices them with visuals and a search bar. “We needed to create an opportunity to learn about Airbnb without feeling like you’ve got to download the app,” Justin Santamaria, mobile product lead, told me. Like most other web properties, Airbnb has seen a huge shift to usage on mobile. One fifth of its users come through the mobile web specifically.

Because it’s a responsive design, features added to the desktop web will automatically translate to the mobile web too. That shift will also allow Airbnb to do more with its team of engineers, instead of having to devote clusters of people to mobile web changes and others to desktop. The design will allow for screen size flexibility. For example, the number of options shown in the “weekend getaways” feature could be six on mobile and twelve on desktop.

You can see the differences between the two mobile web home screens here (before: left; after: right). Instead of hammering people with listings, they’re prompted as to Airbnb’s purpose and given a search bar to peruse their own interests.

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left); New Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left), new Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)

Amazon Brings Kindle Software to the Mac

It’s been teased for a fairly long time now, but Amazon (s amzn) finally released its Kindle companion software for Mac, as of yesterday. To date, the Kindle application has only been available for Windows machines, which has made it slightly harder for Mac users to organize and manage their Kindle collection.

Kindle for Mac also offers e-reader features, so you can access all of your e-book purchases, download and read them right on your computer. It’ll also sync the furthest location read with all Kindle devices registered to your account if you want, so that you can continue reading on your Kindle, iPhone or Mac without missing a beat. Read More about Amazon Brings Kindle Software to the Mac

OmmWriter: The Weirdest Writing Experience I’ve Had on a Computer

Eliminating distraction is a constant concern for the at-home worker. My PS3 is around three feet from my workstation, and the TV is just another foot beyond that. When I want to sit down and do some writing, I’ll try anything to make sure my attention stays focused where it should.

That includes OmmWriter, a new writing application for the Mac (s aapl). It promises a very unique experience, one that aims to reduce distraction and enable you to maintain your focus. Part of that strategy is full-screen text editing, which has been done before, but that’s only the beginning of OmmWriter’s story. Read More about OmmWriter: The Weirdest Writing Experience I’ve Had on a Computer

Twitt: A New Twitter Client For the Mac

Twitt logoI’m very happy in my choice of Twitter clients at the moment. Tweetie is my weapon of choice for the Mac desktop, and it has served faithfully since its release. Doesn’t hurt that it’s free, either (though ad-supported). But I’m always glad to try out new contenders to the throne, and that’s why Twitt caught my eye today.

Twitt is a new, lightweight Mac (s aapl) Twitter client that has some interesting features I haven’t yet found elsewhere. Can it compete with perennial favorites Tweetie and TweetDeck, though? Using both those programs regularly has set my expectations fairly high, but Twitt definitely counts some surprising twists among its repertoire. Read More about Twitt: A New Twitter Client For the Mac

7 Handy iPhone Apps For Your Work

iphoneWe at WebWorkerDaily review a lot of web apps. Since many of us — and many of you — have iPhones (s aapl), I like to keep tabs on web apps we’ve written about, to see whether they get a companion iPhone app. So here’s a list of seven useful iPhone apps for some of the better web apps that we’ve reviewed.

  1. Shoeboxed. Organize your receipts and business cards through this service (see our review here). With the web app, you scan in what you want to save and organize or mail in your “shoebox” of items to scan and let Shoeboxed do it for you. The results are searchable and easy to organize. With the iPhone app, you can take a photo to digitize a receipt or card. Read More about 7 Handy iPhone Apps For Your Work

iTunes Alternative DoubleTwist Offers Amazon.com MP3 Store

doubleTwistWe’ve covered doubleTwist in the past, and for a time I even used it as my primary media management solution on my Mac, until iTunes 9 drew my wondering eye back to familiar territory. Now there’s even reason to go back to the iTunes competitor, as doubleTwist has just introduced Amazon (s amzn) MP3 store compatibility.

doubleTwist already offers the ability to sync with pretty much any device, instead of just your standard Apple (s aapl) i-devices. And with Amazon support, there’s little reason for many to venture back to iTunes, especially since Amazon’s prices are often better than those found in Apple’s own online store. Read More about iTunes Alternative DoubleTwist Offers Amazon.com MP3 Store

Google Picasa 3.5 Takes Some Cues From iPhoto ’09

picasa_logoIn case you’re an Apple (s aapl) user who isn’t on board with iPhoto ’09, Google (s goog) has just updated its own free image management software, Picasa, which shares its name with the web-based Flickr rival. Picasa 3.5 for Mac takes a lot of direction from iPhoto ’09, borrowing at least two major features from Apple’s own software.

Picasa web users will recognize the “new” features for the desktop version, which haven’t previously been available on locally installed instances of Picasa in the past. They include face recognition, which Picasa calls “Name Tags,” and support for geotagged photos with location data. Read More about Google Picasa 3.5 Takes Some Cues From iPhoto ’09