Some thinking aloud…
I’ve browsed through the Google App Engine gallery and the applications you can find there at the moment are pretty much what you’d expect: lots of Web 2.0 “share this, share that” sites. These are what you’d expect because firstly they’re the kind of simple application you’d build whilst exploring any new environment. Secondly because they’re exactly the kind of sites that are currently being released every which way you turn.
But for me App Engine is intriguing as it might provide an interesting new perspective on distributing shrink-wrapped packaged software. When Google take the lid off of the number of sign-ups, its going to be a simple matter for anyone to have their own App Engine environment. Forget cheap web hosting and the expensive and configuration overhead that that entails: just sign up for an App Engine account.
App Engine has the potential to provide an enormous number of people with a well-documented stable environment into which an application can be deployed.
It will be interesting to see if anyone seizes on App Engine as an opportunity to create a simple personal application that combines elements of all of the Web 2.0 favourites: bookmarks, blogging, calendar, photos, travel, and perhaps an OpenId provider. One that that makes me the administrator of all of my own data, but doesn’t scrimp on the options for other people to harvest, syndicate and browse what I’m uploading.
At the moment our online identities start out fragmented, because we have to push data into a number of different services. And then we strive for ways to bring that data together and knit it into other sites that we, or our social network, use.
But why not turn this on it’s head? And seize on App Engine as a way to avoid this early fragmentation and instead start out with a centralized, personal web presence; but one which seamlessly integrates with data in other spaces. The potential is in open data, and services that are built around it. So why aren’t we managing our own open data repositories and letting others offer us services against particular aspects of it?
The App Engine environment doesn’t involve any configuration on behalf of the end user, and I suspect you could probably create an App Engine Deployer using App Engine itself. So sign-up, deployment and upgrades could also be pretty straight-forward. Python seems well suited for creating a simple modular web application that could be extended to cover new areas as users needed.
Instead of using lots of different web applications, we can each have our own modular web application that is intimately linked into the web, and becomes the primary repository for the data you want on the web. Data portability follows from the fact that you’d be the administrator of your own data.
This would also change the nature of the kinds of applications that we’d need elsewhere on the web. Instead of lots of specialist databases, we need more generic services and more community/local/temporary aggregations.
Some thinking aloud…