Sacred Cows of the Web

Brad Neuberg’s brainstorming technique yesterday was called The Sacred Cow.  You put on the white board all your assumptions about “sacred cows” of the browser.  These aren’t hard and fast rules, but rather they are things that people assume.  Of course, there are current innovative examples that break many of these.  Someone tooks pictures, so I don’t remember them all but these are some of the list:

  • The box model
  • Page based
  • Hypertext
  • Everything should be private
  • The web is in a browser
  • The user picks the browser
  • New browsers shouldn’t break the web
  • Pull Model (User starts the dialog)
  • HTML/CSS/JS
  • Desktop is not the Web
  • The web is in a Sandbox
  • The web is insecure

I am missing a bunch.  The key to this phase, according to Brad was to generate ideas.  No skepticism (YET) was allowed.  Just generating the ideas.  The he moved into Phase 2 which was, “Flipping”.  You took some of these and flipped them on their head.  What if the opposite were true?  What would the web look like?  Then finally, was skepticism, where you got practical and pragmatic and tried to ask, “What could be done, right now?”

One that really caught my attention was a shift in thought.  For a long time, there has been this concept of Desktop and Web.  The Web was “out there” and the desktop was “in here”.  My email client is on the web.  Katie’s is in Outlook on her desktop.  Some of my documents are in Google Documents, which live on the web and have no “files”.  They are data in a database which is rendered through JavaScript in a browser.

This led us to the idea of kicking out Desktop and Web and replacing it with Public and Private.  This obviously expands to mean all kinds of conditional trust relationships and publishing/privacy options.  Think about LinkedIn.  Who is allowed to see my contacts?  Friend of a friend?  But not 3 levels out.  Flickr has a similar concept with public and private pages.  Turbotax makes ooodles of money dealing strictly with metadata in a private way to you, but is actually sending that information to the IRS.

Now expand that outward.  I currently publish my online presence outward through Instant Messenger.  Even when I am typing, the recipient can see that.  Some may say this is trending towards a 1984 Orwellian society.  Although that is always a fear and it is important to avoid this possibility, I think there is tremendous benefit to a world where each person has control over what is shared and what isn’t. And also benefit in the inherent ability to share things voluntarily.

We are rapidly moving into a time where everything is sharable.  My IM typing, my Contacts, My Pictures, My Documents.  What is left for the desktop?  Maybe we don’t need a desktop at all?  Is this the Google vision?  The idea of a paradigm shift from Desktop/Web to Public/Private is fascinating to me.  I think we are already on that road.

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