All posts by arunranga

Every Plan, etc.

I turned older sometime this weekend, in China Town, at the EZ5, surrounded by people I love. It was a great birthday. The bar even sprung a surprise on me — a very eccentric surprise — the kind you have to grin and bear. Celebrations are always so awkward and beautiful.

SxSW 2007

South By Southwest is a phenomenon. After my first visit last year, I’ve stopped thinking of it as just a big music thing in Austin, Texas (silly me). This year, I’m speaking on two panels as part of the Interactive Festival part of SxSW. I’m chairing one of these panels.

On Sunday at 5PM, I’m speaking on a panel called “How To Get your Company to Embrace Mashup Culture.Kevin Lawver’s got Alla Gringaus (from Time Inc.), Steve Chipman (of WIM fame and SlayerOffice fame), Greg Cypes (Mr. OpenAIM) and myself talking about some of the things we did at AOL to usher in a wave of cool zeitgeisty stuff. I’m excited to talk about the cool things AOL’s engineers did with OpenID, amongst other things.

Then on Tuesday at 10AM I chair a panel I’m really excited about called Browser Wars Retrospective: Past, Present, and Future Battlefields. My panelists are Brendan Eich (who invented JavaScript and is CTO of Mozilla), Charles McCathieNevile (Standards maven at Opera Software and W3C titan), and Chris Wilson (who’s worked on every version of Internet Explorer that I can remember at Microsoft, and on Microsoft’s Avalon stuff). I want to use this panel to discuss some of the same battlefronts that seem to have occurred in the past. One such clash is that of proprietary formats versus open standards of various flavors. The panel description says it well enough — where’s the Web content model really going? The speakers lived the browser wars of the past. I’m going to goad them to talk about their visions for the future of the Web.

(Cross-posted from

(Re)birthing Pangs: The HTML Charter Revisited

(Cross posted from

Aside from us hapless Web developers, few people really think about HTML when they surf the Web. The average user’s Web site of choice is likely to work with their browser of choice. The fact that this is the case can largely be seen as a testament to the W3C standardization process — HTML just about works, tag soup notwithstanding.

Not many people know about the often acrimonious debates between Microsoft and Netscape that induced this kind of interoperability in the past, or about a certain HTML working group meeting in Colorado a few years ago where everyone worked all night on HTML so that they could go skiing all day. The point is, HTML is out there — the mavens have spoken. So what’s all the fuss about?

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Jim Ley invited me in Boston to check out Joost as an alpha-tester. Joost is the startup formerly referred to as The Venice Project (and also known affectionately as The Covenant in W3C circles). The guys who started Skype and Kazaa are behind it. They’ve hired some really smart SVG brains, among others.

While playing with it, I think I had a vague “aha!” moment about social media as television. Sure, there are bandwidth issues (insert net neutrality snide remark), but the Joost guys figure they’ve solved affiliated compression problems.

One of the things I like is that each channel has its own chat room, and you get plugins like instant messaging in full screen mode. I wonder where all the content will come from, since this is not about user-generated content. Content is a bit limited (how much of the surf video can you watch?) but I got really engrossed in an independent movie and started watching it. Before I knew it, a whopping hour had passed. Just like vegging out in front of the (regular) TV! I haven’t (yet) found a sufficient community to test out the plugins like chatting and ratings, but the left-over insight following my “aha!” moment suggests that there is, indeed, a “There there.”

I like the slick SVG menus that overlay the video when it is playing. I read somewhere that these guys use XUL Runner, apparently, and leverage a pretty diverse open source stack. I really like the fact that despite user-agent foibles, the Joost (Yoost?) folks make use of the most appropriate technology. That’s in keeping with my view that many of the most interesting things on the Web will likely be the sum of small parts, and not an immersive user agent experience. That is, Web technologies (protocols — HTTP — and formats — e.g. SVG) will be leveraged where they make the most sense, cobbled into application-driven user agents (not classic “Web browsers”). I think this is particularly true in the mobile world, and said so in my Mobile 2.0 presentation.

I was informed by the write-up on Joost.

The Human Race Condition

This post is about (really, really) bad television, senatorial gaffes, and melanin. Mainly about melanin. For whatever reason, this Superbowl weekend (yes, yes, go Colts) a lot of people wanted to talk about race with me.

Ordinarily, that’s not really a topic I am likely to broach of my own accord. Mind you, I’m not reluctant to talk about race. If I was tongue-tied when put on the spot, it was mainly because my mental machinery takes time to warm up to the subject. This weekend, I distinctly felt that people were asking me my opinion because of my own melanin content — that is, because I’m Indian, the intrepid conversationalists assumed that (rightly or wrongly) I must have something interesting to say about the subject of race. And maybe that’s not a far-fetched assumption.

Something must be going on in the collective zeitgeist (and note that it’s also Black History Month). I got roped into two discussions on the subject, not to mention the fact that race issues featured at the Superbowl as well (e.g. see the numerous stories about the respective coaches). But here’s what happened this weekend, and here’s what motivates my current musings.

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