May 10, 1999
Internetworkers need `synchronets' to help them work and travel
I've been learning how to surf -- in the ocean, that is, along the Pacific Coast south of San Francisco. Let me tell you, this is nothing like "surfing" the Web. Whoever first thought to apply this term to the process of using a Web browser obviously had never paddled out into 50-degree water, gotten repeatedly flipped off his board by rogue waves, and ended the day with sinuses full of saltwater and a face fried to a crisp by the sun. Web browsing, for all its charms, is nowhere near that fun.
But if browsing the Web has nothing to do with surfing in the ocean, it also has little to do with how I usually use Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer these days.
Several years ago, when the Web was new, I spent a lot of time browsing (surfing) from site to site, idly following links and exploring the Internet. No more. Now, like most Web users, I have a short list of favorite sites and Web applications. I use My Yahoo to check e-mail, my calendar, and the stock market; I use various search engines to locate specific information; I buy things at online stores.
In other words, I'm an internetworker. As I wrote last month (see "A swarm of WASPs will add to the buzz on the business Net."), internetworkers use Web applications to get things done, collect information, or simply have fun, rather than merely designing or visiting Web sites.
Indeed, many of you have written to tell me about internetworking applications you've built to manage databases, update research data, organize the delivery of gas and electric power, sell futon frames, and even manage dairy farm production.
The most advanced of the internetworking applications I use, in terms of its capability to help me get work done, is clearly My Yahoo (my.yahoo.com). I've found that its capabilities far exceed what competing "Webtop" services offer -- and it's free.
But Yahoo, like other Web applications, has a long way to go before it can replace my Windows desktop. Much of what internetworking applications need now is not more features, but a better supporting infrastructure.
Chief among the infrastructure requirements for effective internetworking is the capability to rapidly and easily synchronize data stored in different locations, across what I will call (for lack of a better term) "synchronets."
For example, my calendar now exists in four separate locations: on my Palm, on the laptop I use for work, on my home PC, and on Yahoo. I check my calendar in each of those places at different times, depending on which devices and what connectivity I have at the moment.
Yahoo offers better synchronization capabilities than other Webtops through its TrueSync software, but it is very slow and difficult to use. Besides, it's kludgy -- TrueSync is an add-on layered on top of a synchronization technology I already use (Palm's HotSync), then tweaked to work with applications not originally designed for synchronization.
A functional synchronet would be a collection of applications or data-storage sites that easily and rapidly synchronized themselves with one another, enabling me to move from my Pilot to my PC to my Webtop without a second thought.
Does such a technology exist? Tell me about it at email@example.com. I'll report your responses in a future column.
Dylan Tweney is the content development manager for InfoWorld Electric. He has been writing about the Internet since 1993.
Previous columns by Dylan Tweney
How to succeed in I-commerce without breaking the bank
May 3, 1999
Online music David has industry Goliaths quaking in their boots
April 26, 1999
Consumers, unite! Use the Net to drive down prices of goods
April 19, 1999
Companies get a clue about the Net: It's not just business as usual
April 12, 1999
Every column since August, 1997