When Written: Oct 2007
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Another ‘Live’ service is a complete mapping technology at http://maps.live.com which is like Google Maps, and like that, it has been around a while and similarly is constantly being upgraded with more features being added all the time. Microsoft’s Virtual Earth now has a full API to enable you to integrate it better in your own web application. The SDK is at http://dev.live.com . It is very easy to get very blasé about yet another application that puts ‘pushpins’ on a map depending on some data source. So yawn worthy are these demonstrations, can I make a plea that we stop doing the obvious with this mapping technology and come up with a novel use of these petabytes ( yes that is a real word; 1PB = 1,000TB = 1,000,000 GB ) of data. My first internet based job back in 1996 was helping develop a web site which put push pins on a map dependant on a search the user did against a database of hotels, so you will pardon me if I fail to get too excited. Sure the maps are better, but that is just down to storage and performance of the servers; the web applications work in better ways now but we are still only using maps in the same old ways, there has got to be a ‘killer app’ waiting to take advantage of all this data, and no, it’s not the one that shows me where my friends are msn’ing me from, I either know where they live or don’t care and knowing that Mike is chatting from the same location as Bill’s wife is positively dangerous information. Lets hope with the launch of ‘Live’ tools for Visual studio we will see some truly innovative use of this mapping data.
It works well, but hardly a new idea.
Passport to success?
I was awoken from my disgruntled musings by the announcement of ‘Live’ ID user authentication. Those of you who remember the all encompassing vision that was Microsoft’s ‘Hailstorm’ may find this familiar. The only thing to come out of it was the still born ‘Passport’ user login service. Microsoft’s hopes were that other web sites would use this as a user login service and so users would only have one place to log in to. Anyone who uses the internet knows that this did not happen. Sure Microsoft uses Passport, well they would wouldn’t they? They also hope that we have all forgotten the time when Passport broke badly and lots of user accounts were ‘lost’. So is this a re-incarnation of Passport concept? Microsoft don’t want developers to think of it as Passport Version two but rather as ‘Live’ ID version one. Putting the marketing spin aside for a minute, let’s look at how it should work and what advantages implementing it in a web application could offer the web developer. Its real benefit comes if your web site uses any of the ‘Live’ API functionality. So, if for example, you may want the user to be able to access their MSN buddy list from your web site. Without using ‘Live’ ID your web site would have to ask the user for their msn log in details and pass these details through to the ‘Live’ API . However if your site allows the user to log in directly to the ‘Live’ ID site via an iFrame on your site then a token will be passed back from Microsoft’s ‘Live’ servers to your site that will then enable controlled access to their ‘Live’ data depending on the user’s settings. If the user is logged into ‘Live’ ID before they get to your web site then this supply of a token is transparent.
What ‘Live’ ID is not is, it is not a single place for web sites to use for users to log in. The reason for this is that, whilst you could use it for this purpose, your web application will have no access to the extra user information stored on the ‘Live’ ID site. So for example, let’s assume the user has previously logged into ‘site a’ via ‘Live’ ID and then been asked for their address. Later the same user logs into ‘site b’ . If ‘site b’ wants to know the users address they will have to ask for it again. Which I think will make it an even more frustrating experience for the user. If you had gone to the bother of entering your full details on a site that had a ‘Live’ID login, how infuriating is it to be asked for the same information again when you log in using your ‘Live’ ID on another site? I can see that Microsoft are trying to build a secure mechanisum for access to ‘Live’ services via other web applications and as such it looks like a good enough way of doing things, but a second coming of ‘Hailstorm’ it ain’t!
Perhaps I was expecting too much from Mix:UK and I was surprised to say the least, when only about 20% of the people attending put their hands up when asked who had any experience of developing in AJAX,. Visual Studio 2008 will have much greater support for AJAX with 40 new tools and AJAX 1.0 will be included in the .NET framework 3.5 rather being an add in. So perhaps as development and debugging of AJAX applications becomes easier and easier more people will come on board and start producing these ‘killer apps’ that we are all looking forward to? That is unless Microsoft changes it all again with some more cool technologies and scares more developers off learning about something that might become obsolete before its first service pack is released. I really hope not!
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton