Living life online

I’m increasingly living my life online. I moved from hosting my own mailserver to throwing mail at Gmail and POPping it off right through to just using the Gmail web interface. I may have to start doing more of that with documents and the like. One of the big things missing there is a presentation package which lets me create S5 presentations in a graphical way. No, s5presents is not good enough. I want a GUI, WYSIWYG presentation editor. A second thing that’s missing is a word processor like LyX. I am more and more becoming convinced that the LyX WYSIWYM approach to document creation is better than the Word/OpenOffice/AbiWord WYSIWYG way of doing things. I rambled about this a little more on the LugRadio forums a while back. The main thing that’s missing, though, is storage. At the moment, every online application makes you store created documents there, or on the machine you’re on by downloading them. What’s needed is the following:

  1. A shared storage server. It should be possible to run your own, or sign up for an account with someone else who’s running it (imagine someone setting up the server at or something, and charging £10/month for accounts or similar).
  2. A JavaScript and server side library which makes it really, really, really easy to save files to a specified shared storage server. This isn’t designed for users; instead, it’s designed for people building Web 2.0 online apps like Writely or Num Sum or s5presents, to make it fantastically trivially easy for them to integrate sharedstorage support into their applications, so instead of saving your files on their server you can save them on your choice of onlinedrive server.
  3. Authentication to onlinedrive servers should work very much like OpenID.

This should mean, in theory, that when you go off to your choice of online office app, or anything that saves files, and you click the Save button, it says “where do you want to save it to?” I then say “”, exactly as I do with OpenID, and it finds my onlinedrive (which might be on, or might be delegated to or or wherever, exactly as OpenID can be), and it then goes through some kind of handshake thing and saves my file to my onlinedrive. This is sort of like .Mac is, as I understand it, except it’s designed to be easily integrable with other people’s applications; you publish the specs and so on. Allowing people to run their own servers is critical; a lot of people won’t, and there’s then a business model for doing it for them, but if you have to use or wherever to do this then it’s a power grab by the people who think it up, and people won’t use it (and it won’t get integrated into apps). I think this really could work. The OpenID people have done most of the hard work as regards shipping stuff around and how to specify delegation and so on, and everyone wins. Jeremy Zawodny was musing about something similar, but doesn’t mention integration, which I think is the critical part. Note that if the specs are published it would be trivial to also integrate onlinedrive handling into desktop apps; you could do it in the major office apps (OpenOffice, MS Office, etc) with macros. If it’s all open it’d all work. A project for someone to pick up, perhaps.

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