Making simple things simple

At the 2005 PDC last fall, a marked fascination with RSS showed that Microsoft was again rumbling Web-ward. In a pair of interviews, Amar Ghandi told me about Vista's RSS subsystem and Bill Gates described the broad role he envisioned for it.

Then last week Ray Ozzie blew the doors wide open. In the opening keynote at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, he demonstrated a new prototype called Live Clipboard.

O'Reilly conferences are ground zero for the open source alpha geek tribe. Encounters with visitors from Microsoft have sometimes been tense. But Ray Ozzie strode into the midst of this gathering bearing an olive branch and an offering. The olive branch was Firefox, which he used for his demo. The offering was Live Clipboard, which he called a "gift to the Web." This was exactly the right way to ask for the broad support that will be necessary if Live Clipboard is to become a Web-wide standard on all platforms.

"Imagine what it will be like," one conference attendee said to me, "the first time somebody reaches for Right-Click/Copy in a Web app and it does exactly what they expect." Indeed. Ray Ozzie and his team have planted a tree that will bear fruit both inside Microsoft and across the Web. Keep up the great work, guys. [Full story at]

One reader of my column shot back a searing indictment of Microsoft's security woes vis-a-vis active content, and concluded: "Pardon me if I contain my enthusiasm." It's an understandable reaction. And to be honest, I thought at first that I'd have to wait until I got home to try the demo on my Windows box. But that's not so. It works the same on my Mac, in Firefox. I invite folks to study the example. For web-to-web copying, it's all straight XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

For web-to-Windows and Windows-to-web, there's a platform-specific hook -- which I don't think is available yet. It will certainly have to be scrutinized, and not just on Windows. I very much hope the same kind of bridge will be built on the Mac, on Linux, and wherever else is appropriate.

But the core of LiveClipboard is the purest web creation that I've seen from Microsoft in ages.

In related news, I heard months ago from Daniel Chudnov about a proposed unAPI with goals similar to LiveClipboard:

unAPI is a simple website API convention. There are many wonderful APIs and protocols for syndicating, searching, and harvesting content from diverse services on the web. They're all great, and they're all already widely used, but they're all different. We want one API for the most basic operations necessary to perform simple clipboard-copy functions across all sites.
Among other things, it suggests a standard way to discover the microformats embedded in a web page.

Former URL: