When I started using Markdown (and wrote a blog post about it) I hoped it would help me be more productive and write more for this blog. So far it seems to have succeeded. In just the first 24 hours since I started using Markdown I’ve written four blog posts (that will be published at different times during this week). That’s a whole lot more than I’ve been writing lately.

This really seems to be Google’s day on this blog. So far one part criticism and one part praise. I guess this post will be both.

Today Google bought Motorola. They claim that it is to strengthen Android as a platform against the ”anti-competitive” moves to buy patent portfolios by Apple and Microsoft. (Never mind that according to Microsoft, Google was invited to join in on the joint venture that bought one of the patent portfolios that Google’s been wining about.) Apparently other Android using phone makers praise this move.

A few things comes to my mind:

  1. It’s not unlikely that Google is trying to, so to speak, control the entire experience. Especially people that likes/loves/worships iPhones criticize Android for platform fragmentation and for lack of a unified user experience. This gives them an opportunity to seriously lead by example, to make a ”true” Android Experience.

    Sure, Google has sold two Android phones under it’s own brand before, but none of them seemed to have been wholeheartedly done. I guess it will be different now.

    I’m not saying that this is a bad thing, absolutely not. For phone users it’s likely a great thing. A sort of ”gold standard” Android phone likely means happier customers. It also means more competition for Apple, which for me as a heavy Apple product user is even more great. Competition means Apple got to try harder and make even better products. And who knows, maybe they produce a phone that even makes me switch to team Android.

  2. This will likely lead to a lot more revenue for the Motorola-Google, compared to Motorola’s revenue. Time and again the iPhone keeps being the by far most profitable phone (yes phone, not smart phone, it beats all mobile phones) even though it’s market share is far from the biggest. One big reason for that (and for Apple’s huge revenues in other parts of the tech industry as well) is likely Apple’s way of wanting to own and control ”the whole experience”.

  3. Other Android vendors will likely not be so happy in the long run. If Google in fact starts making phones that are marketed as the true, intended Android experience, the other vendors are going to have quite a challenge competing.

    If this is not the case, then I don’t really see what Google gains from this move. Sure they get a bigger patent portfolio, but Google doesn’t like patents, since it hinders ”openness”. Defending against something you don’t like by acquiring a lot on your own doesn’t really sound like an honest thing. You wouldn’t oppose nukes by manufacturing your own, would you?

    If Google really wants to make a stand against patents (which I would applaud greatly, by the way) a good way of doing so would be to use its money and power to make some serious lobbying against software patents.

  4. We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android.

    Google’s executives really, really got to stop playing the role of some kind of victim!

In the spirit of ”give credit where credit is due” and as a follow up to this mornings rant about Google+ and what’s not opened about is, here is some praise to Google for what is in fact open.

According to the SitePoint podcast #120 Google+ has a feature called ”Data liberation” (or something like) that allows you to export everything on your profile in more or less open formats. That’s seriously awesome!

I’ve never used Google+. This article is solely based on me reading other sources.

The word ”open” is often used by Google, and even more often by Google’s proponents, as an argument for why Google and their products are better than others (especially better than Apple, but occasionally Microsoft). In my opinion though that has always been about business strategy and marketing, not ideology (and that’s fine). Google is a company that wants to make money and there is nothing wrong with that. This is not going to be an Apple fanboy’s assault on Google. It’s going to be reflecting on the not so open world of Google+ and a concerned look at some of the not-so-great-in-fact-really-bad things about Google+ and it’s lack of ”openness”.

The semantics

The HTML of Google+ is an absolute nightmare. It’s <div> in <div> in <div> in <div> (repeat indefinitely). And the class names makes no semantic sense what so ever. On episode #32 of Build and Analyze Marco Arment speculates that this could be because the code itself is actually written in a higher level language and compiled into the HTML that makes up the page. That may be the case, but it’s still a complete disregard of everything that the Web Standards-people and the Microformats community (and others) have fought for over the years.

Semantics and well-structured HTML that validates can easily become a religion. Breaking these dogmas is not a problem for the sake of it. It’s a problem because it partially locks down the content on Google+ and makes it harder for parsers and crawlers to do something meaningful with it. Instapaper for instance had to have a completely specialized parsing algorithm written for it (again Build and Analyze #32). One of the main purposes of the new elements in HTML5 was to give developers simpler tool to mark up content in a way that makes sense semantically. Google has previously made a big deal about HTML5 so why not follow its semantics as well?

URL from hell

The urls for peoples pages on Google+ is horrible. People are identified by a long string of digits, not by a username or anything that’s easily rememberable. In practice this means that the most popular way to find people’s Google+ sites is likely to use Google Search to find them. Thereby Google, who makes its money from advertising, gets yet another chance to show you its ads.

With a bit of a tin-foil hat-mind this could be seen as a slightly anticompetitive move, but there are other search engines too, right?

Everything is a JavaScript

Every single part of the content of a Google+ page is generated with javascript. This is unfortunately not something unique; Twitter does it, I think Facebook does it etc. However, just because you are in good company does not mean you’re doing the right thing. Here’s some reasons why javascript-generated content is bad:

  • Javascript is likely present on almost all browsers that surf the web today, but there is no guarantee that it’s activated. Any browser that has javascript deactivated will be unable to use the service. This is really, really bad practice. (Again, Google is definitely not the only company that does this mistake.)

    So how many people does this really affect?

    According to an analysis by Yahoo, performed in October 2010, about 1% of the visitors to Yahoo’s services have javascript disabled. Among Americans the number was around 2%. While both these numbers are pretty low, the internet has a lot of users and a small percentage of really big number is still a big number.

  • Even if you have a browser that supports javascript and you have it enabled, there is still the risk that one tiny bug in the code makes the entire site useless. I don’t think this is much of a risk in this case, but when prominent web companies do things contrary to best practice other people, companies and organizations will likely follow.

  • Javascript generated content makes it hard for crawlers, spiders and robots to scan the content. This means (according to Marco, again on B&A #32) that the traditional crawlers used by search engines will not be able to index the content of Google+. Google Search however will have full access to the content since it’s all under Google’s roof.

    Now this point means the tin-foil hat does not need to be that big to suspect that Google is using + to promote its own services by making it harder for their competitors.

End game

I want to once again state that this is not an Apple Fanboy’s rant against a threat to the all mighty fruit, it’s a web developer who’s concerned about some of the directions being taken by one of the largest web companies in the world, and one that explicitly uses the word open time after time to tout its own greatness.

Last weekend Daladevelop – in this case Mikael, Emil and I – spent 24 geeky hours in a house in Bjursås. The goal of every Daladevelop is to make program something great. Hitherto it has resulted in for example the WP Plugin Boilerplate and ”Pizzasugen”. This time it resulted in ddDrumr, a browser based drum machine prototype.

Since it’s awesome, I’ll advice you to try it! (You’ll need a really modern browser for it to work well.)

(Or, fork it on github,)

Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but today (or yesterday since it’s passed midnight here) I did what I should have done long before and checked out Markdown. According to its creator John Gruber it’s

a text-to-HTML conversion tool for web writers. Markdown allows you to write using an easy-to-read, easy-to-write plain text format, then convert it to structurally valid XHTML (or HTML).

It is both a way to write plain text documents so that their content is somewhat formatted and a tool to convert this text to xhtml.

The reason I checked this out today (or was it yesterday?) was an article in Macworld called Forget fancy formatting: Why plain text is best. It made some good points about why plain text is almost always better than something written in for example Microsoft Word or Apple Pages.

[Plain text is] timeless. My grandchildren will be able to read a text file I create today, long after anybody can remember what the heck a .dotx file is.

The article then mentioned some tools that was great for plain text writing, among them Byword which according to the article ”has baked-in support for Markdown”. I’d heard about Markdown before, mostly from Merlin Mann in the Back To Work podcast so now I finally made myself find out what it was. (Finding out was as easy as clicking the link in the Macworld article.)

The concept behind Markdown seemed really great, so I decided to try it, and to buy Byword. So far I’ve just made some test documents with the Byword/Markdown combination (as well as writing this blog post) and I must say it seems pretty great. I do a whole lot of writing in my work and most of it is just simple text documents that I’ve used to write in Microsoft Word (yes, I actually do like Word) but I guess the bulk of my writing this upcoming semester will be done full-screen in Byword using Markdown and then exporting the appropriate format. (Apart from xhtml, Byword also exports as .doc, .pdf, .rtf and Latex.)

One more thing

I also found out that although Markdown is written in Perl there is a php version and that version also works as a WordPress plugin. So this very blogpost is written in Byword, marked up (or down?) with Markdown and will then be pasted into a post in my blog, where you will read it.

In just nine months, the photo-sharing startup hit 150 million pix and more than 7 million users who upload about 1.3 million photos daily (15 per second).


It took Flickr, one of the world’s largest photo-sharing sites, close to 2.5 years to reach 150 million photos, which could be uploaded from any computer and shot on any camera. But it took San Francisco-based startup Instagram roughly just nine months to hit that same milestone–with just one mobile app, available on just one device maker’s OS (Apple’s).

The interview and article is from FastCompany.com. The interview is good but I think the comparison between Instagram and Flickr that’s made by the author is unnecessary and incorrect.

Instagram has grown faster than flickr, that’s true, but I don’t think the comparison is very good. To me flickr is clearly a service aimed at photographers, amateurs and professionals alike. The users main focus is to show photos as art. Instagram is much more of a ”traditional” social network, but with images instead of text.

Just to clarify, I love Instagram and use it as a way of telling people I know about what I’m up to. I also love Flickr.

(Extra bonus irony-points to the article for using a picture from Flickr for illustration. Tough, I don’t think irony was what they were aiming for.)