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Year in review: Web 2.0 apps get slicker, more social

The pace picks up for Web services that replace or complement traditional desktop applications.

    Web 2.0

    Web 2.0 apps get slicker, more social

    By Martin LaMonica
    Staff Writer, CNET News.com
    Published: December 13, 2007, 4:00 AM PST
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    Web 2.0 applications just keep getting better, gaining the features people expect from traditional desktop applications.

    Even though the business models to support online applications are still fuzzy, tech start-ups and established software vendors plowed ahead in 2007, creating an explosion of online digital media and social-networking sites and features.

    While the big story in 2006 was Google's acquisitions, rival Yahoo this year netted, for about $350 million, one of the prized Web 2.0 companies--Zimbra, which makes an Ajax-heavy Web e-mail and calendar application.

    The incumbent desktop software vendors, notably Microsoft and Adobe Systems, also committed to software services in a substantial way.

    In February, Adobe's then-CEO Bruce Chizen told CNET News.com that the company was working on an online version of Photoshop, news that set the blogosphere buzzing.

    Photoshop Express, as it's called, won't be the only Web-based digital image editor. But it shows how much the Web has shaken up the software business, when even a classic desktop application can be reversioned to go online.

    Microsoft, meanwhile, took steps to finally create Web services around its dominant Office desktop suite. Called Office Live Workspace, the offering lets people share Office documents online.

    Having already signed on millions of consumers to Gmail and its other Web applications, Google launched a subscription service, Google Apps Premier Edition, aimed specifically at business users and part of a broader trend of making enterprise applications more user-friendly by adding Web 2.0 features.

    Adobe, too, got into the "Web Office" games when it acquired a start-up that has developed Buzzword, one of several Flash-based online productivity applications.

    The Web 2.0 plumbers were busy at work during 2007 as well, making enhancements to the development platforms to make online applications richer.

    Google introduced Google Gears, a browser plug-in that lets Web applications run offline.

    Microsoft released Silverlight, its long-awaited rival to Adobe's Flash, and said Silverlight would run on different platforms and with multiple programming languages.

    Microsoft also started to release details of its "cloud computing" initiative, which will give developers access to a range of hosted services for building Web applications.

    One of the most exciting new platforms for developers is Adobe's Integrated Runtime, or AIR, which lets people use Web tools to write programs that behave like traditional desktop applications.

    And while providing application programming interfaces (APIs) with Web applications has been going on for years, the social networks got onboard in a big way this year.

    Facebook, which opened up its network beyond college campuses, announced in May that it is letting outside developers create widgets, or mini-applications, that run on Facebook. LinkedIn released its own developer program in December.

    For its part, Google introduced OpenSocial, a set of APIs meant to bridge different social-networking sites.

    2007 Highlights

    At Mashup Camp, geeks plot future of Web

    For all their promise of creating cutting-edge applications, mashup creators are pushing the boundaries of the Web.

    January 18, 2007

    Businesses to buy into Google Apps Premier?

    Subscription version of Gmail, Google Talk and more--$50 a year per user--now includes Docs & Spreadsheets.

    February 22, 2007

    Adobe to take Photoshop online

    Hosted version of program to appear within six months, CEO says, as company combines online features with packaged apps.

    February 28, 2007

    Microsoft sheds light on Flash rival

    Looking to dethrone Adobe's Web video tool, Redmond to unveil a browser plug-in called Silverlight.

    April 15, 2007

    The Web, Ozzie make their mark at Microsoft

    Microsoft's Mix announcements reflect how the Web--and Ray Ozzie--are affecting how the company writes software.

    May 3, 2007

    Sun tries again with consumer-flavored Java

    The server and software company comes full circle with Java, releasing a scripting language to ease Java development.

    May 7, 2007

    Facebook welcomes outside services

    Company invites software developers to build applications and businesses to open retail spaces on the social-networking site.

    May 24, 2007

    Google kicks offline Web apps into gear

    Search giant launches Google Gears, open-source software that brings offline access and local storage to the Web browser.

    May 30, 2007

    Microsoft's 'Cloud OS' takes shape

    Once ethereal, Microsoft's plans to try to replicate its desktop position on the Web are starting to become clearer.

    July 12, 2007

    Yahoo buys e-mail software firm Zimbra

    Yahoo's $350 million purchase shows commitment to communications services as it redefines its place in the market.

    September 17, 2007

    Adobe buys Web word processor Buzzword

    Adobe Systems steps up plans to offer online collaboration with Web word processor and file-sharing service.

    September 30, 2007

    Microsoft Office heads to the Web

    Coming soon: Beta of Office Live Workspace, a tool for viewing, sharing and storing--but not editing--Office documents online.

    September 30, 2007

    Social networks don their platform shoes

    Facebook scored big by opening up to outside developers. Now its rivals are aiming to follow in its footsteps.

    October 15, 2007

    OpenSocial opens new can of worms

    Google has finally unveiled its social-networking strategy, and it's ambitious even for the seemingly unshakable tech company.

    October 31, 2007

    Additional Headlines

    Newsmaker: Ozzie's quiet revolution at Microsoft

    Why Google loves developers

    Cloud OS still pie in the sky

    Google Presentations gets the green light

    Rivals make run at Microsoft Office

    Adobe's AIR: Niche or the future of desktop development?

    Newsmaker: Adobe plots its path on the Web

    Bebo announces 'Open Media' platform

    Mozilla's Firefox 3 beta: Improved but imperfect

    LinkedIn debuts developer platform, revamps home page