hmmm... online word processing 11.21.2005, 6:18 PM
posted by ben vershbow
Not quite sure what I think of this new web-based word processor, Writely. Cute Web 2.0ish name, "beta" to the hilt. It's free and quite easy to get started. I guess it falls into that weird zone of transitional unease between desktop computing and the wide open web, where more and more of our identity and information resides. Some of the tech specifics: Writely saves documents in Word and (as of today) Open Office formats, outputs as RSS and to some blogging platforms (not ours), and can also be saved as a simple web page (here's the Writely version of this post). A key feature is that Writely documents can be written and edited by multiple authors, like SubEthaEdit only totally net-based. It feels more or less like a disembodied text editor for a wiki.
I'm trying to think about what's different about writing online. Movable Type, our blogging software, is essentially an ultra-stripped-down text editor -- web-based -- and it's no fun to work in. That's partly because the text field is about the size of a mail slot, but writing online can be annoying for other reasons, chief among them the fact that you have to be online to work, and second that you are susceptible to the chance mishaps of the browser (accidentally backing up and losing everything, it crashes, you forgot to pay Time Warner and they turn off the web etc.). But with a conventional word processor you're vulnerable to the mishaps of the machine (hard drive dies and you didn't back it up, it crashes and you didn't save, coffee spills...). Writely saves everything automatically as you go, maintaining a revision history and tracking changes -- a very nice feature.
They say this is the future of software, at least for the simple everyday kind of stuff: web-based tool suites and tons of online data storage. I guess it's nice not having to be tied to one machine. Your work is just out there, waiting for you to log in. But then again, your work is just out there...
Posted by ben vershbow on November 21, 2005 6:18 PM
tags: Social Software, Web2.0, document, ebook, open_office, openoffice, social_software, web_2.0, word, word_processing, word_processor, writely, writing
Ray Cha on November 22, 2005 11:13 AM:
It is important to note that the beta version is free, for now. There is a lot of interest (and pressure) to move towards network client applications and away from the desktop, for instance salesforce.com . Web services that charge users subscription fee to are a lot harder to pirate than software on CDs. Although having all my documents accessible on the Internet would be convenient, the idea of a lifetime of paying for all my software raises concern.
ben vershbow on November 22, 2005 12:37 PM:
Right, these free betas are just the bait.
We're in the midst of this confusing change in the notion of value. When you're dealing with physical commodities, the value is in having one, in having a copy -- hence copyright, hence all these piracy concerns. But when you're dealing with digital commodities, copies are cheap, almost meaningless. So it's much more about access, about being there.
Assuming things are gradually moving toward a subscription model, that companies are figuring out how to create scarcity of place out of the boundlessness of the web, we'll all find ourselves tangled in pay services pretty soon. I already use free webmail for all my correspondence. I suppose it's not a thing I own, rather a place I'm allowed to be. Google probably can't survive on ads forever. Eventually they'll start taking hostages. Our data, I mean.