The Other Road Ahead

Last time I argued that from a technical perspective, the “server”, “client”, and “P2P” labels were complicated. That narrow view deliberately ignored the roles that these technologies have on the user, and on communities and business built around them.

I’ve been looking back at Paul Graham’s 2001 essay on “The Other Road Ahead.” He laid out a bunch of benefits that accrued from his successful company’s use of what he called a server-based architecture. While Viaweb originally relied on generic “Web 1.0” clients not distributed by his company, his essay looked ahead to richer clients such as what would come to be known as “Web 2.0.” I think the essay applies just as well today to mixed-technology deployments like Google’s current development. And I think it applies to some Croquet deployments, including those by my employer Qwaq. A lot of what Paul describes turns out to be things we’re already doing. But by explicitly identifying the benefits and what enables them to be realized, even a peer/client-centric geek like me can appreciate the operational value of the different technologies I’d mentioned last time. From this perspective, I’d say we’re “half-server-based.”

Worth a read (as are his other essays). See if you don’t agree.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.

Comments are closed.