IITK’s annual TechKriti festival seems to have increased this place’s cranial buzz (if that’s possible). We hear about the “Build Your Own Supercomputer” project, in which students take some NVIDIA GPU components and string them together to do complex calculations, powered by hardware from the local market in Kanpur. Then we actually witness some guys tinkering away on robots — Shashank tells me they’ve been up for two nights trying to get their robots to do stuff. I’m in town with sethb to give a talk about the Open Web. I’ve got some experimental stuff to show off from Mozilla, too.
It’s about midnight, and a wedding party next door is boisterously dancing to loud drum beats, preventing us from drifting off to sleep. sethb gazes out at the shadows behind the curtain with wide open, sleep-addled eyes. Like me, he’s probably exhausted and jet-lagged, but he is curious and intrigued by what he is looking at. It dawns on me that sethb’s adventurous curiosity will make him a great travel buddy as we do a Mozilla trip through India, hitting the road lean and mean. It’s our first day in Delhi, and it’s set a high octane precedent for whatever else will happen. Twenty or so hours ago, Seth got in from Europe, after FOSDEM; I got in at the same time from California and we meet up at Indira Gandhi Airport, Delhi. We haven’t really slept much.
Earlier in the day, we attended an event at the Indian Social Institute called MozCampDelhi, put together by the inimitable Mohak Prince in just a few short days. Mohak (aka “~~~STigMaTa~~~ ~~~HaLLuCiNaTiNg AmBiGuiTy~~~” in all his emails) is a Mozilla Campus Rep in India, and has a real flair for organization. Along with a really sharp crew of open source enthusiasts that helped put the event together, Mohak brought together an impressive audience of professionals, students, and hobbyists. It was a great crowd for a Tuesday afternoon. It was also pretty illustrative of the use of Twitter, Wikis, and the blogosphere in India as instruments of event promotion and spontaneous UnConferencing. I sensed that this was going to be a really smart, savvy and interactive bunch of people, and I remember feeling really elated to be there.
A day after getting back home from Norway, I took off for Whistler, British Columbia (taking my Scandinavian jetlag with me) to attend the Mozilla Summit. In case you haven’t heard yet, here’s a brief summary of the various adventurous goings on: on Day 1, a traveler with worse jet lag than me saw a black bear rummaging through garbage; on Day 2, the Sea to Sky Highway collapsed, leaving us stranded atop the beautiful glacier park; on Day 3, the power went out in the conference hotel. I opted out of the 8 hour bus drive back to Vancouver, and chose to circumvent the rock slide via sea plane It was just… splendid. I documented the whole thing in my Moz08 Flickr set.
I gave two talks at the summit — one on standards (links to my slides and a blog post summarizing what we talked about), and one with Seth Bindernagel on Firefox in India, my particular passion. The India discussion occured on Day 3, when there was no power in the hotel. So, a group of interested parties huddled around my laptop in a semi-circle, and we had a small, intimate and dimly lit discussion in a small room about fonts, the Indian government’s e-governance initiatives, and the propagation of standards-based platforms. I had a deja vu moment when I realized that so many problems with the top Indian sites reminded me of the early era of callow markup, when the evangelism team was first constituted. Seth and I are going to talk to major Indian ISVs about Mozilla, and plan some workshops to coincide with foss.in in November. India is like the new old frontier of the Web; proprietary stuff (like MSHTML particularities and Microsoft’s Dynamic Fonts) still permeate the marketplace. At the same time, the comScore data about India tells us that it has “one of the fastest growing Internet populations.” It is high time Mozilla did something there.
See what I mean by eventful two weeks? Scandinavia and the Canadian Rockies, all for the Web.
But let’s talk about the web platform. Stagnant, really? Innovation at Mozilla ultimately manifests itself as innovation for the web platform. Let’s leave the intricacies of the standards process for another discussion — it isn’t ideal, and big questions about consortia (like W3C and ECMA) are probably valid ones. Great ideas are vetted for interoperability in forums such as the WHATWG, and the W3C’s WebApps WG, and we browser vendors deliver as rapidly as feasible on implementations (some are slower than others — you know who you are). Both IE8 Beta and Firefox 3 now support postMessage, for example, so talk of AJAX methodologies being stagnant ought to be revisited. And support of Canvas2D in browsers such as Opera, Safari, and Firefox results in stellar innovations such as processing.js, which — any “open platform” chauvinism on my part notwithstanding — gives Flash a royal run for its money.