Someone is blowing a lot of hot air

So, has everyone got their cue cards ready for the next generation of the web?

What? you didn't get the memo yet?

Well just to catch you up we're being told now that the next great thing that is going to have us all drooling is the arrival of the real-time web. Not sure what that means? chances are you aren't alone but I'll give you the short form description using an already famous web allegory.

Head down to your nearest firehouse, grab the hose and tell the nearest fireman to turn it on full blast.


Yes folks we are being told that regardless of the fact that the majority of the stuff that streams by us daily in nothing but crap this non-stop flow of stuff is going to be the way of our future. Except the future according to some is actually already happening.

At the forefront of this rush to drown ourselves with information is of course the darling of the early adopters – Friendfeed. In this case the firehose got turned on when Friendfeed flipped the switch the other day and took their beta design of the site live for everyone to play with. I have already made my thoughts about this new design of the service quite plain in a post here at The Inquisitr and I'm not going to re-hash what is pretty well old news now – especially in this real-time Web world we are being thrust into.

What I am more interested in is all the hot air being pumped out about the idea of the real-time web and some of the things being written about one of the people behind the push for a real-time Web.

A real-time Web isn't so new

It amazes me how much of the whole Web 2.0 kool-aid is drunk over supposed new ideas that our current crop of whiz kids are dreaming up. Much is being made over at Friendfeed and in blog posts about how cool and breakthrough the instantaneous presentation of things like comments and the such is.

How soon we forget.

A few people have tried, valiantly, to point out that what Friendfeed is doing might be new in regards to the Web 2.0 world but in the larger scheme of the Internet it's old hat. Yes people, I am talking about that old archaic service called IRC or as it is also known as – Internet Relay Chat. Get it – chat.

What Friendfeed has done is nothing more than put a web page interface to it. Now before you all start yammering about how the cranky old fart is off his rocker and doesn't know what he is talking about I suggest you take an antidote to the Web 2.0 kool-aid and chill for a second.

irc-chat I would be willing to bet that the large majority of people who are climbing on this Friendfeed is doing something new and it isn't IRC bandwagon haven't even been anywhere near an IRC chat network or channel. You think that what Friendfeed is doing is so new and different then I suggest you drop into one of the popular IRC channels on EFNet, Freenode, QuakeNet or Undernet and see what real real-time conversation is all about. Discussions on any of those would make Friendfeed look like a garden hose with a kink in it.

I am sure that some will try and point to things like the Groups or private as a way to differentiate the service from such old school stuff. When you do that you only show either that you have never used IRC or it's been a long time. On just about any IRC network you can setup permanent, or temporary, channels (Groups/Rooms) in less time that it would take you on Friendfeed. What a private conversation? it only takes a double click on the person's name and bam – your private conversation.

There is nothing new about what Friendfeed is doing. It is only new because it has the Web 2.0 label attached to it. It is only new because in general people don't want to admit that just maybe those of us who have been at this game for a long time may just have thought of this type of thing first. Sure you can add pretty pictures to your posts (but not on the comments) on Friendfeed but that is about the only thing that it allows for now that IRC doesn't.

The rewriting of Web history

Of all the posts written about what Friendfeed has done the one written by Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb has to be the most effusive in it's praise of this wonderful innovation. In the post Marshall piles on a lot of praise for Paul Buchheit one of the co-founders of Friendfeed.

Now just to clarify before the fanatics send out the lynch party Paul has had a great influence on the Web we use today from his time working at Google. After all his was the moving force behind Google GMail. However as one commenter on Marshall's post pointed out this praise doesn't include rewriting history in order to make Friendfeed even more world changing. The part the commenter was referring to was muglargeMarshall's opening paragraph

Paul Buchheit built the first version of Gmail in one day. Then, he built the first prototype of Google's contextual advertising service, Adsense, in one day as well. Now, he's working on a much-watched startup called FriendFeed that he believes just brought to market the next big form of communication online: flowing, multi-person, real-time conversations

The point of contention isn't Paul's contribution regarding GMail but rather that Marshall attributes the development of Adsense to Paul. Well a quick check of Wikipedia, as the commenter shows, proves otherwise

The underlying technology behind AdSense was derived originally from WordNet, Simpli (a company started by the founder of Wordnet, George A. Miller), and a number of professors and graduate students from Brown University, including James A. Anderson, Jeff Stibel, and Steve Reiss. A variation of this technology utilizing WordNet was developed by Oingo, a small search engine company based in Santa Monica founded in 1998 by Gilad Elbaz and Adam Weissman.Oingo changed its name to Applied Semantics in 2001, which was later acquired by Google in April 2003 for US$102 million.

Nowhere on the Wikipedia page for Google Adsense does Paul's name come into it so either a whole bunch of smart people who contributed to the entry are lying or Marshall is intentionally trying to puff up the importance of Paul – which doesn't need to be. As a result for anyone who knows Web history Marshall's post stopped being anything of substance by the end of the first paragraph.

Not to diminish a cool feature

I am not trying to diminish anything the Friendfeed team has accomplished, or will accomplish in the future. My only point is that before you start trying proclaim something as new and game changing you would be best to check your history. What Friendfeed has done is taken an already existing principal of Internet communication, added a few unique ideas to it and put it behind a web page. for that they deserve all the praise in the world.

However to suggest that real-time communication on the web is something revolutionary and game changing is misleading. Just as misleading is to write something that is provably incorrect in order to increase the readability of what is written.

In both cases it is nothing more than blowing a lot of hot air, something we already have enough of thank you very much.