Adobe Live Panel

I was on a panel at Adobe Live this week, discussing "The future of the Internet as an application platform." Ben Watson from Adobe moderated the event and my co-panelists were Andrew Shorten (Adobe Flex Application Engineer), Bola Rotibi (Ovum, Analyst), James Governor (RedMonk, Analyst) and Andy Hood - (AKQA, Creative Development Director).

The topic was a wide one and we decided (conspired? :P) with the other panelists to let the audience lead us with their questions. It was an attempt to gauge the topics that the community thought were important and hopefully address them (or at least spark some lively debate!) It ended up being a lighthearted evening in which the O'Reilly Service Mark, Web 2.0 (don't sue me O'Reilly) was brandied about like fishnet stockings at a Rocky Horror Show convention.

Interesting discussions ensued on topics ranging from accessibility (which I argued shouldn't be about checking checkboxes on a government compliance list but rather about understanding the unique usability requirements of disabled users and designing experiences for their needs), the role and future of Ajax (and the role/future of Flash/Flex/WPF, etc.) and open data, device independence and occasionally-connected computing ("synchronized web" as James put it) as characteristics of Web 2.0.

One of the themes that kept emerging was the importance of being able to use your data, your applications and your devices as you want to use them (as opposed to, say, the limited methods in which Sony or Microsoft believe you should be allowed to use them.) In many ways we don't buy things today, we rent. What I mean by that is that we do not truly own the devices we buy if they have DRM on them because we can only use them prescribed ways. If this were the case with pencils, for example, you wouldn't be able to sketch out a rendition of your favorite Marvel character because the pencil wouldn't let you. It sounds silly with pencils so should it sound any less silly when Photoshop stops you from scanning in money?

As I mentioned earlier, the panel was a friendly affair and in some ways I actually wished we had someone from the RIAA there so we could have had a heated debate. That and, as I mentioned during the panel, I didn't want people to leave with the sense that the whole world agreed on these things as did the panelists before them. There is, actually, lots of effort on the part of large software companies, device manufacturers and the hybrid behemoths that do all of the above and more, to restrict, as much as possible, what you can do with your data, your devices and with your software. Well, actually, it's never your software anyway, you don't buy software, you buy a license to use software. Your data, however, should be just that: your data. You shouldn't be locked in to a specific device or application in order to use it.

Of course, with such topics being discussed, James made sure to mention the importance of the work being performed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and its UK-based counterpart, the somewhat less well known Open Rights Group. I made it a point to mention the importance of the Creative Commons initiative in making licensing terms accessible to mere mortals and creating a body of work that can be remixed, mashed up, free transformed, blended, cut-and-pasted, reversed, syncopated, scratched and otherwise creatively manipulated to create yet more such work.

[Update: Nick Tong shares his thoughts on the panel.]