New Gmail mobile built on HTML5

I was very pleased to read an article from Alex@Google that describes how they have decided to develop the new gmail mobile web interface.

There are at least two reasons why I liked this article, one is that, as Alex mentions, the team originally developed a J2ME application (that I used quite a bit on my old Sony Ericsson W810i) and then decided they needed a web application to serve slightly different needs (and probably slightly different users). The second reason is that it seems like if you don’t create an application for the App Store you are going to fail, while Alex explains quite a few reasons why developing a web site was better than a native application.

Bottom line is, of course, that users get multiple options and an opportunity to choose what suits them best.

I think the article is well worth 10 minutes of your life, if you still haven’t read it, hurry up to check HTML5 and WebKit pave the way for mobile web applications.

Google crawls and converts WML pages

I knew the Googlebot Mobile visited and stored results for XHTML-MP and WML pages and I assumed they would be used as results to mobile users.

It looks like not only mobile users get “desktop” results, but also the other way around.

I was searching, as usual, for some strange User-Agent string and I found this result:

The converted page looks OK in my browser, of course, but I have no clue what it says! :)

New UI for search engines popping up

Just a couple of days I was searching on Yahoo! and noticed some special results for linkedin. See a search for my name:

Note the little icons on the right to get an explanation, send the link to a friend or stop getting this type of result.

And that made me think of some recent changes in Google search results when the page comes from a forum or a group. Here’s an example:

Note how you can see some details about the forum post, number of replies, etc.

This morning James pointed out how in Google a new interface has appeared and lets you add, edit or remove results. Here is how the interface looks for one result:

Depending on the position and result, the icons appear and disappear (you can’t promote to a higher position a result that is already at the top, of course) and also another icon to remove the result appears. At the bottom of the page a few interesting links appear showing you your previous actions and giving you the opportunity to revert your changes or update there. There’s also a link to learn more about SearchWiki. It would be interesting, and maybe it is already coming, to be able to mash up with results from people I know and trust. We’ll see.

After many years of minor tweaks to the Google UI that was replicated by most if not all search engines, we now see some innovation. It’ll be fun!

Can anyone catch up on Amazon’s cloud?

Cloud computing is the second buzz-word after social network these days. It’s all about storing or running your stuff “in the cloud”, remotely. If we all really used the cloud, a lot of storage and a lot of CPU power would be needed. Google has certainly created it’s own elastic cloud of computers and search and e-mail and other services proved how fast and reliable it is. But what about “the rest of us”? Amazon has been running storage (S3) and CPU (EC2) in the cloud for a long time now and even it is not known to the masses they are in fact providing the horse power to many start-ups. In their own words, “After two years in beta, Amazon EC2 has entered General Availability (GA)”.

I’ve had a chance to use S3 quite a bit and also EC2, a little bit. Both services are mostly for programmers, they are not really for the masses, but the solidity and the wide range of options is incredible. It was a surprise to see how well it works and how many things you can do very easily. Amazon provides a number of tools and the the community has also done its part and in fact there are some very interesting tools such as the Firefox plug-in elasticfox that make it super-easy to manage your servers.

From the beginning Amazon has been running Linux servers providing images that you could start with a click. Earlier this year they announced an agreement with Redhat that lets developers run Enterprise versions of Redhat linux.

A few days ago I was listening to the great podcast by the Guardian, Tech Weekly, it was the recording of Oct 28th. They spoke about the recently announced Microsoft Windows Azure and how this is a reply to Google’s and Amazon’s cloud computing solutions. Last week Amazon officially announced not only of being out of beta, but that Windows servers will now be available. It costs a slight bit more than running Linux, but of course you get the full Windows environment, including C# and you even have an option for Authentication services and SQL Server. This is AMAZING, you can get a Windows server up and running in seconds, do your development or tests and shut it down (very good if you need to test a specific version of Windows or combination of OS, Service Packs, etc). All this will cost less than a dollar.

Amazon EC2 is great both if you need to test something temporarily (start a server, test, shutdown) or if you want to run a service full time, in fact, EC2 you might easily run a limited number of servers normally, but when you have a peak start as many extra servers as you need.

Google has App Engine and while it is another approach to elastic computing it is quite different. Yes, it has some advantages such as that you just upload your code and it runs, but of course it does not give you the power and flexibility or a complete server at your fingertip.

I think it will be very hard for the other players to catch up and surely it will not be enough to throw in some money because Amazon already has a very good and most likely profitable business in place and they are not lacking the money themselves. It will be very interesting to see how this evolves and it will certainly be a a great opportunity to save on costs for small companies and start-ups.

EDIT: Did I mention that Amazon now guarantees 99.95% uptime? Can you think of any small to medium company that can seriously commit to such uptime?

UPDATE: Amazon has announced CloudFront a new file distribution system that reminds me a lot of Akamai.