Trends to Watch in 2006 – Part 2

The following is part 2 in a series of Trends to Watch in 2006 right here on your neighborhood Bokardo.com. (Part 1 | Part 3)

Synchronization and Local Store

Synchronization is an increasingly big deal for people in a networked world. The ability to store our information on remote servers, or even our network server at work or home, introduces the necessity of synchronizing data over time. In any case where we have data stored in more than one place, we need to be able to keep that data current. If it changes in one place, we need all places changed. Doing this manually, however, is really difficult. We don’t want to be bothered to worry about which information is the latest. Our software should do that for us, and that means synchronization.

The following is part 2 in a series of Trends to Watch in 2006 right here on your neighborhood Bokardo.com. (Part 1 | Part 3)

Synchronization and Local Store

Synchronization is an increasingly big deal for people in a networked world. The ability to store our information on remote servers, or even our network server at work or home, introduces the necessity of synchronizing data over time. In any case where we have data stored in more than one place, we need to be able to keep that data current. If it changes in one place, we need all places changed. Doing this manually, however, is really difficult. We don’t want to be bothered to worry about which information is the latest. Our software should do that for us, and that means synchronization.

The local store will play a huge part in synchronization. The local store is simply a local copy of information that also lives on the network somewhere. It is used, in part, for storing web-based application data when we aren’t connected to the Internet. Imagine being able to use Gmail offline to write and read email and have everything send out when you next connect. Although the places where we can’t connect are shrinking, local store will still be necessary for a seemless experience from desktop to Web (and back).

Right now local store is used in a lot of ways, for preferences, bookmarks, history, and cookies, just to name a few. Most of those things, however, are not copied out to the network, even though we’re using a web-based application! Unless you export your bookmarks, for example, you can’t simply retrieve them from another machine at your leisure. Local and network store will allow us to have the same functionality offline and online, blurring the lines between desktop and web applications.

Is the Primary Store Local or Network?

Apple’s iCal is already a great example of the blurring of this line. My wife and I each have an Apple laptop. We also share a .Mac account which allows us to synchronize our todo lists and calendar items automatically, which we update several times a day. Every few hours my running version of iCal checks my local store of information (any changes I’ve made since it last checked), and uploads those to the .Mac account. Then, when my wife is online, her iCal checks in the same manner and synchronizes the data automatically. Once we’ve set this up, we don’t have to touch it. We simply see changes as they happen, as if some ghost is keeping our records up to date for us. Once you get used to this sort of thing, you can’t go back.

In addition to Apple, the Mozilla team is working on this too. One effort is called unified storage, and it extends the functionality of already existing local stores such as Bookmarks, History and Cookies. But they also have several plugins that do similar things, like the Del.icio.us plugin. The Flock browser also is heading down this road, as are many others.

Synchronization Formats?

This fall, however, saw perhaps the biggest news for synchronization yet. Ray Ozzie of Microsoft announced an extension to RSS called SSE (Simple Sharing Extensions). Interestingly, he uses the same example of calendaring in his explanation of a problem that SSE could be used to solve:

For years, as many of you, my work life has involved significant travel. As significant bi-coastal coordination has now entered into the mix, things have gotten even more complicated for me, for my wife, for my assistant and hers. In order to stay on the same page, each of us has the need for (limited) visibility into aspects of each others’ calendars and schedules. Each of us has a mix of private, shared, and public events and meetings that we’re tracking.

Some of these we edit privately and publish to others. (This itself has posed significant challenges – particularly sharing partial information from confidential calendars.) The most challenging calendars we deal with are those that are “shared”, such as the family calendar my wife and I jointly maintain, or the calendars we share with outside groups – such as the meeting calendars of volunteer organizations.

It’s tough because we use a mix of different email/calendaring systems – corporate as well as non-corporate, web-based as well as client-based. And to each of us it makes sense to want to edit the calendar in our own PIM application of choice where we do all our calendaring and scheduling work – not within calendaring systems on other various websites.

The SSE FAQ has some good information as well.

Taken together, synchronization is big trend for the future. With desktop and web-based apps increasingly being built with synchronication features, and the coming of synchronization formats, 2006 could be a big year for it.

to be continued…

Published: January 5th, 2006

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