Have you noticed how little you see chat forums on web sites nowadays? They’ve all but gone, replaced by messenger type applications on the desktop, or creative use of Ajax.
I’ve spent some time recently looking at the new breed of web sites coming along – things like UserVoice and StackOverflow and I’m starting to see an interesting shift in what people are producing. In the past people have understood new technologies by the “badge” that’s applied to them, “does it have a wiki in it?” “It’s got forums, right?” But now we’re starting to see lots of software focussed very tightly on solving a simple problem. UserVoice for example, is a system for collecting requests and bug reports from your customers – rather than bolting the usual suspects together (typically a forum) it does it in a very simple, but very effective way by ignoring the usual suspects and developing something very specifically “built for purpose”.
This feels like the start of something different – tight, efficient, well thought out technology focussed around a single problem, instead of bolting a variety of established components together to come up with some half considered solution. Is this the beginning of the end of what we now call wikis, blogs and forums, all to be replaced by a new breed of solution specific applications?
Now all we need is something to tie all these things together. I once heard someone suggesting Shibboleth, but I think they must have been drunk at the time.