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Monday 4 January 2010

Happy 2010 - it's review time

I was happily snowboarding and skiing (the latter for the first time in two decades) last week, so here comes the year-end review a week late. Last year, I harped on Facebook's closed nature, and over the the year they've tried to open more of the users' data over to the Internet. Still, there are no decent APIs for a user to pull out everything they've posted to Facebook to have their own copy, though. That doesn't seem to stop them from dominating the Internet for the time being, though, so good for them.

I'm trying to think of what would have surprised me over the year, but given I failed to make many accurate predictions myself, things just seemed to happen in pretty natural direction. Oracle's Sun acquisition over in April was a bit of a surprise at the time, but since then, I've grown to appreciate how it might make sense for Oracle. However, what still baffles me is that EC is going along with Monty's campaign of blocking the completion of that acquisition. Look, guys - the entire world does not need to agree on a commercial transaction in order for one to go through! MySQL is not the important thing here overall, Java is.

We managed to complete a few of major transitions for Habbo, most notably replacing the Shockwave client which was getting a bit long in the tooth with an all-new Flash-based Habbo Hotel and integrating Habbo with Facebook and other social networks. I didn't write about either of those launches here at the time, but these are pretty huge things for us because they make approaching Habbo much easier for a new user, and enable us to create all kinds of interesting features that would not have made sense previously.

So, what do I expect from 2010? Well, did the mobile Internet already happen? If not, at least it has a fighting chance this year. I'm having a hard time identifying any people close to me who're not using some Internet services on their phone by now, and some seem to be doing that almost exclusively on a phone. That must mean the rest of the world is close on their heels. As for more predictions, others have taken care of them by now.

One promise I can make is to try to do my part in making the Internet more fun and more social. At least now that even newspapers are beginning to think that asking their readers for money is not just a utopia, we can focus on the apps themselves, not whether they're ad-supportable.

Have a great year MMX!

Wednesday 11 November 2009

MySQL - could we please move on already?

I've kept away from this debate since last April, but this eternal dragging-on is getting to me. Could we please move on already regarding the Oracle-Sun-MySQL decision? I'm a customer of MySQL, and I don't really savor the idea of becoming a customer of Oracle. Even so, I'd much rather see Oracle own it, than leave it straggling, let alone see this process drag on and on. This is helping no one.

I'm using a product from a company from which I buy commercial support, but I could switch to using a binary-compatible Open Source tool any day I chose. I am not bound to remaining a customer of the company I'm buying support from for any period longer than the current contract. I can definitely live with that obligation. I can live with the OSS-tool (whether we want to call it MySQL Community, Percona, MariaDB or whatever, I don't care) instead of the commercial product - in fact, I'm getting the understanding that the OSS-tool may in fact be better suited to my requirements than the product. So, I have no issue being bound Oracle, should the merger go through, because I am not bound to them. I can see as much interesting related technology being developed outside the discussed commercial unit as inside it, so I'm certainly not worried about the future of the tech.

At this point in time, I could buy support from at least a couple of different organizations to replace and extend that which I've bought from MySQL/Sun. I have absolutely no reason to think that option would go away should the merger be approved, despite what certain founders now claim. If it's not commercially possible to develop and support a database product without being in full control over its copyright, then how come Percona has a business? If it's possible to provide such support for GPL software on a limited basis, but not on a big-business enterprise level, then how come Red Hat is a successful public company?

I use MySQL as an infrastructure component to run a business which could be described as software-as-a-service. I do not redistribute the code base as part of a licensed product. There are companies who do that, but they've always done it with the full understanding that what they're doing is dependent on having to license something from an independent party over which they have no control. If they don't like licensing from Oracle, then they can choose to re-engineer their solution to work on top of some other database engine. It's not like those don't exist, or like technology, licensed or not, hasn't always carried that risk with it.

I can't avoid thinking that some of the parties keeping this thing from reaching completion are dreaming of Skype -- selling the same business twice. Hey, more power to them if that happens, but frankly, that was dependent on Ebay making a stupid deal at the time. I just do not see what that has to do with anti-trust and why the European Commission needs to be involved. THIS is hurting the market, more so that Oracle is likely to.

I have nothing further on the matter. Thank you for your attention.

Sunday 28 December 2008

A year-end review

2008 is nearly over, and it's time to take a look at what happened over the year, as well as to take a peek at the the coming 2009. A year ago I made a guess that social networking services would open up and start sharing their profiles – well, practically everyone but Facebook are doing some of that, and Facebook is trying to get everyone to depend on them – not that “create dependency” isn't a part of Google's and MySpace's plan, too. Unfortunately, we haven't yet found a meaningful way for Habbo to participate in this festival, due to differences in demographies, interest areas, and the priority of running a profitable business, instead. Still looking for that solution, though.

I also guessed that productivity applications would seriously move to the cloud – and was a bit too optimistic on that one. Sure, the applications are there, but I don't really see any of them having replaced the desktop-based counterparts – nor do I see that happening next year, either. People are, rightly so, focused somewhere else, and while over the long run moving off to the cloud will make sense from both productivity and cost standpoint, it's still too much of a jump, and too expensive to make.

The increasing popularity of netbooks, Internet access via 3G networks, etc, will have an impact on that, though. Perhaps we'll all move out to the net in a completely different way: not via our old productivity apps, but via entirely new class of applications. Something else than Facebook and Twitter though, I hope.

What else? MySQL was acquired by Sun, and we're all still waiting for the next step. The Register (I can't believe I keep reading it) has somehow gotten the impression that Sun has slowed MySQL down – nah, it's been this slow for at least three times that long. Fortunately, the acquisition may have been a catalyst for the MySQL developer community to start doing something else instead of waiting, and I'm really looking forward to the improvements Percona and Drizzle are making to keep MySQL competitive. As for Sun – time to stop confusing a good thing with dubious business models and bad release engineering before you lose all your customers, I'd say. At the same time, I'm also super-interested in the stuff Sun is doing on the hardware side of database storage with SSD-optimized solutions. Can't say I paid much attention to Sun there for a while, but they're making what seems like an unlikely comeback.

For Habbo, we've continued making progress on the track chosen late 2007 – revolutionary changes made incrementally. Biggest one this year, the free second currency of Pixels, was just launched a month ago. Several improvements are coming up for that, of course, and a whole lot of other stuff is in the works, or at least being thought of. We're trying not to hold anything longer than it absolutely needs to, so everything radically new continues to be launched sort-of unfinished and get improved along the way. It just ends up being so much better that way, as the feedback makes a significant contribution to the overall design.

This a weird time. The world is reeling from what indeed may be the worst economic crisis in 75 years (though I'm not well versed enough in history to be able to tell myself), and still (or because of it?), opportunities lie all around, ignored by most. It's never easy to tell which direction is most promising, but now I'm finding it incredibly hard to choose and prioritize between the possible things to focus on. Still, 2009 is definitely going to be a year to really focus on even fewer things than usual, and really kick ass on those.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. I wish you a great year 2009, whatever it is you're doing.