April 5, 1999
A swarm of WASPs will add to the buzz on the business Net
As I wrote last week, those who are using Web technologies for business communication and collaboration -- whom I call "internetworkers" -- focus on building applications, not sites.
There are many differences. A Web site is a place that people can visit, like New York, Cleveland, or www.infoworld.com. A Web application is a tool that people use, like a cordless drill, a calculator, or the Web site translator at babelfish.altavista.com.
Sites, however dynamic they may be, have static content at their core. Applications, no matter how static in appearance, have dynamic data at their core.
Sites are like rock stars: They put on a show and the crowd watches. Applications are like psychiatrists: They listen to you, interact with you, and help you solve your problems, one on one.
Web applications are not what used to be called "rentable applications." The very name conjures up the worst images: paying by the minute to use your word processor, waiting hours for applications to load via pokey dial-up lines, and losing access to critical files when you hit your credit limit.
Today's desktop applications can't be delivered easily over the Web using HTML and Java. Instead, what's emerging is an array of Web applications that perform functions uniquely suited to the world of the Internet.
As companies deploy Web applications, their sites will no longer be places that customers visit, but rather the interfaces through which customers and employees interact.
Internetworkers may develop their own Web applications, but an increasing number can also be outsourced through Web application service providers, or WASPs, as I'll call them, following the suggestion of Stan Lepeak, vice president of the Meta Group.
The first wave of WASPs includes providers of Web-based calendars and contact managers. Examples include When.com (www.when.com), Jump (www.jump.com), and Visto Briefcase (www.briefcase.com).
This wave takes traditional consumer applications and adds functions that take unique advantage of the Internet. Because these applications live online, it's easy to integrate public event information from the Web into your private schedule -- so, for instance, your calendar is automatically cleared the next time the Monsters of Rock tour comes to town.
A second wave of WASPs is taking aim at facilitating Web-specific tasks for enterprises. A clear example is Responsys, at www.responsys.com, which lets marketing professionals construct online marketing campaigns. Responsys automates the process of sending out an e-mail campaign, collecting responses, and even giving recipients special offers based on their responses.
Because Responsys manages online marketing campaigns, it makes perfect sense for this application to be Web-based. And by outsourcing marketing applications to a WASP such as Responsys, a corporation can save its IT staff a lot of headaches.
The third wave of WASPs will happen when existing enterprise service providers, such as industrial-strength Internet service providers Frontier Globalcenter and Exodus, start adding application hosting to their menu of services. Outsourced e-mail (Web-based or otherwise) is a natural place for these WASPs to begin, followed by enterprise versions of calendars and contact managers, and then by commerce and customer-service applications.
How will you use Web applications? Write to me at email@example.com.
Dylan Tweney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
has been covering the Internet since 1993. He
edits InfoWorld's intranet and Internet-commerce
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