The web was geographical (document-based) until very recently and it is now evolving faster and faster to add a “time” dimension. Back in the days, Mosaic was the very first tool to actually browse these sites from a site to another. Unfortunately, all these browsers were built to deal with documents, not with a stream. The best proof of that is the presence of a “reload” button!
Twitter and facebook are definitely making real-time web mainstream, but they are just “content” producers, we need the browsers to consume that content. And before the browsers, we need the protocols (I’ll talk about that later!).
There are many tools that start to look like this real-time browser : Seesmic is paving the way, Tweetdeck is another example, but Growl also presents some very interesting features. iPhone applications like AppNotifications can also be considered as real-time web browsers.
Here is the set of functionalities that I’d like this stream-browser to implement :
- Stream-agnostic : Mosaic could display any web site… not just and handful of them. Seesmic should be able to receive content from any stream, not just Twitter or Facebook. I want my RSS feeds, I want my emails, I even want Google news… etc.
- Context-Aware : I want the stream to follow me on the desktop, on my phone, or even by fax (yeah!). If I am on the laptop, it should show the message there, if I am watching TV, it should show it there, and if it’s 3AM, please, do not notify me.
- History : I want to be able to travel back in time.
- Re-Stream (share) : exactly like the Re-Tweet functionality on Twitter. The Real-time browser must not be the ‘end’ of the stream : data must flow from there to my friends, to other services that I use… etc.
I know all that sounds quite ambitious, but we’re really not too far from there. All the bricks are ready actually, we just need some glue between them.