Tuesday, May 16, 2006


As I look at all the hype surrounding AJAX and Web 2.0 I can't help but think back on the work we did with Device Mosaic and specificially DM 4.0.

With DM 4.0 we set out to create a "modern" browser, which back then meant IE 5.0, that could run in a very tight footprint. IE 5.0 had a number of features that really enabled dynamic HTML as never before. Since we were creating a brand new HTMl handler we decided we wanted support for many of those. As we relied on HTML to render our UI as well, the UIM as we called it, we also planned on using it and making it a selling point to device manufacturers for customization.

Our pitch allowed device manufacturers and their end-users to create a dynamic applications in a "walled garden" environment utilizing these standard features. It landed us a professional services engagement with TiVO. Contrary to some information out there we didn't port DM to Linux because of TiVO. In fact we saw that Linux was becoming popular and "free" so it might be included in more devices. As such we chose it as one of our reference platforms with the Win32 platform being the default due to the capabilities of the debugging tools. In any case, we were selling to TiVO and they wanted to see if they could convert their UI to run with DHTML inside of DM. This would require DM to be able to run JavaScript code and load data from a database to change the UI. We actually were able to mock up quite a bit of the UI utilizing the features of the DM. Not only was it a mock-up but it was very close to existing interface not some horrid hack. There were still many things to add/fix, such as an audio handler to play sounds on cue but with this demonstration we were able to sell TiVO on DM.

Now this wasn't all XML based and we didn't create/utilize XMLHttp but the DHTML and the concepts for getting the data dynamically, and utilzing the event models and JavaScript data structures to create a more compelling interface was defintely there. We utilized similar capabilities in DM for other projects as well but I never saw much similar usage elsewhere. In fact for years after leaving Spyglass and joining another web based startup I was constantly depressed by the UIs that our web applications had. There was so much more that could be done with IE and JS even back then but almost no-one did. In fact I was amazed when our Jeopardy Java applet lost out to a server based HTML app that utilized minimal JS on SonyStation (boy is that another story) rather than a DHTML enabled app. It's nice to see AJAX and Web 2.0 finally bringing these capabilities to the mainstream.

Read some background on TiVO utilizing DM here.

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