Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

The Inevitability of "Too Many Gateways"

Ismael Ghalimi's Too Many Gateways is good reading for anyone concerned about the proliferation of data interchange formats on the Web.

Ghalimi, an evangelist -- and day to day user of -- "Office 2.0" applications, puts it this way:

Today, I use no less than 9 gateway services:

  • Application to RSS: Spanning Salesforce
  • Blog to RSS: Feed Burner
  • Fax to Mail: eFax
  • Mail to RSS: SocialMail
  • RSS to Mail: FeedBlitz
  • Mail to SMS: TeleFlip
  • RSS to iCal: Spanning Salesforce
  • RSS to RSS: Feed Digest
  • Voicemail to Mail: SpinVox

What this means is that 9 accounts have to be created and managed, and there is no single place where I can see what happens to the collection of feeds I subscribe to.

Granted, Ghalimi is what we used to call a "power user" as well as a developer. He knows how to work "under the hood." Still, even he is experiencing some frustration with the current proliferation of web based transfer protocols.

Here is how I commented on his article:

I don’t think this “too many gateways” problem is ever going to be solved. It’s not just the issue of technical translation and standards to consider, it’s also the issue of making inevitable version-control and upgrade issues manageable across applications by people like me and my wife who hate having to “work under the hood.”

The evidence that things have already gone too far is the numerous web pages that are festooned with badges, browser download buttons, and a bewildering variety of feed management options. What that situation suggests to me is that, in the real world of the World Wild Web, things are getting harder to manage, not easier.

This is “playing into the hands of” large services (Yahoo, Google, large system integrators) who have it in their power to enforce some consistency and ease of use standards. That’s good for some users, not so good for others.

And I thought the world was getting flatter and simpler!

I know this makes me sound like a Luddite, but it does make me yearn for the good old days when my biggest complaint was Microsoft's forced incompatibility between the Windows and Macintosh versions of PowerPoint. (Although, the current spat between Microsoft and Adobe concerning Vista and PDF generation does remind me of those "bad old days.")

Given the types of issues that Ghalimi raises in this article, it is interesting to speculate on the role that a corporate IT department might play in "selecting and enforcing" standard for the use of Office 2.0 applications in the real world of business. Is this a role that IT is able to play? Or would users feel "put out" by IT's heavy handed demands for standardization?




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