AJAX (aka Asynchrynous Java and XML), the latest app platform on the web, has made it possible for websites to work like applications on your local machine. Don't believe me? Check out these sites:
- www.searchmash.com (Google, without the ads, in AJAX)
- docs.google.com (this is the home for Google Spreadsheets, and is also the location where Google has incorporated the technology it acquired from writely.com into their app suite.
- maps.google.com (Google Maps)
You'll notice that I'm referring almost exclusively to Google properties here - others do a great job (e.g. the Microsoft Live sites, etc.), but Google was a leader in the implementation of this combination of technologies, and their API makes it possible to create MashUps, which overlay interesting data with maps, spreadsheets, etc. An example of this is www.chicagocrime.org, and there are literally thousands of other sites which do similar things.
The biggest change I have seen in the last half of 2006 is the implementation of new, Web 2.0 mobile sites and apps. My favorite is Google Maps for Mobile, and many of the airline sites (example would be mobile.delta.com). While the presentation on the Delta mobile site is nothing to write home about, the data available is really nice. When I'm traveling on a delayed flight, I often look up the connections of my seat neighbors so they know where to go, when it leaves, and what they should do once they get off the plane - it makes you the hero of many a newbie traveler. I'm also enamored with United's mobile site as well. While I haven't installed the Java runtime environment needed for the GMail mobile app on my Treo, it demos pretty nicely on the web.
If you haven't checked out any Web 2.0 sites lately, you should - AJAX is more than just a cleaning agent, and it offers another possible change to a world where everything runs on browsers and servers instead of stand-alone or networked PC's. Very interesting.....