Asterisk is the new LAMP

I met with a startup today that does some interesting work bridging web services APIs with telephony, and I stopped them early in their presentation to ask what their voice platform was. The discussion was purely about their service, not the backend nuts-and-bolts, but I just had to ask: “Are you using Asterisk?” They were, of course. (I became interested in Asterisk and wrote about it just over a year ago in one of my last InfoWorld columns. There’s also an O’Reilly book on Asterisk that was published last fall).

I suspect that the “yeah, we’re using Asterisk” answer will become as commonplace and unremarkable as the “yeah, we’re using the LAMP stack.” Very cool. Expect some amazing things in this space as developers dreaming of new voice applications start playing with Asterisk more broadly.

Microformats are huge at Yahoo!

From the Yahoo! Local blog (which is itself new), a massive announcement about Yahoo! support of microformats:

Starting today, we’re happy to announce Yahoo! Local fully supports the hCalendar, hCard, and hReview microformats on almost all business listings, search results, events, and reviews.

In sheer volume, I’m pretty sure this means Yahoo! Local has the largest implementation of microformats on the web. In a broader sense, I think Yahoo! continues to lead the way in opening things up in big-bang ways. Good job, Vince, Andy, Ronnie, and Yahoo! Local team.

Reading 2.0 and microformats

Yesterday, I participated in the Reading 2.0 summit (organized by Peter Brantley of the California Digital Library), a small gathering in San Francisco about the future of digitized material, with the digitization of books being a primary topic. Tim O’Reilly did an amazing job of taking notes.

As Tim notes, I gave a short presentation about microformats at Yahoo! (borrowing heavily from Tantek Çelik and microformats.org, who I credited in an intro slide before I even got into the topic). Since my slot was a brisk ten minutes, I decided to briefly talk about what microformats are, but then go straight to the markup. This approach seemed to work a few years ago when I found myself explaining RSS a lot. I always found that pulling up an RSS feed and showing the the simplicity of the feed itself got the point across that RSS was not particularly complex. I think microformats are similar in that regard.

An interesting question came from Cliff Lynch, who asked if it might be possible to use microformats to mark up genomic information. I have to admit that I don’t know much at all about genomic information, but to the extent that this type of information is on the web, decentralized, and can be structured consistently (preferably modeled after an existing standard, as hCard is modeled after vcard), I don’t see why not. That’s the beauty of efforts like microformats — anyone with the ability to publish to the web now (which is everyone) can participate in creating a microformats standard by putting it into practice and sufficiently documenting it. hGenome, anyone?

For more on microformats, you can see a presentation that Tantek gave on a recent visit to Yahoo, and microformats.org. There is also a microformats-discuss mailing list.

An easy way to get started with microformats is to use the hCard creator to build your own hCard (see my hCard).

Again, be sure to read Tim’s notes. Really cool stuff.

Yahoo! User Interface Library: amazing and free

In my very first days at Yahoo! working with the team that made the Local Events Browser demo using a bunch of Yahoo! APIs, I was really amazed at the Javascript/CSS talent assembled at Yahoo! As of today, a huge chunk of it is out there for anyone to use and the people who created all of it have started a blog. By any standard of openness, you have to admit that the release of the Yahoo! User Interface Library is incredible:

The Yahoo! User Interface Library is a set of utilities and controls, written in JavaScript, for building richly interactive web applications using techniques such as DOM scripting, HTML and AJAX. The UI Library Utilities facilitate the implementation of rich client-side features by enhancing and normalizing the developer’s interface to important elements of the browser infrastructure (such as events, in-page HTTP requests and the DOM). The Yahoo UI Library Controls produce visual, interactive user interface elements on the page with just a few lines of code and an included CSS file. All the components in the Yahoo! User Interface Library have been released as open source under a BSD license and are free for all uses.

If the technology itself wasn’t cool enough already, check out that generous BSD license — “free for all uses.” Getting your hands on the Y! UI Library is incredibly straightforward, too. I just downloaded the zip file and the zip file unzipped with no funny business.

I always like playing with real examples, and there are plenty of those (these are just a few that caught me eye — there is much more and all these are backed up by detailed documentation):

Aside from the UI Library, there’s the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library and an article on Yahoo’s Graded Browser Support by Nate Koechley.

All I can say is: have fun.

Salesforce.com and API metrics

Although I’m not as engaged with the topics of software and services for the enterprise as I used to be, I’m still keeping up with what’s going on at Salesforce.com. I was a customer in my InfoWorld days and also wrote some nice things about their web services platform early on in its development. When it comes to APIs and “web as platform,” Salesforce has always been a trailblazer.

A recent post from Adam Gross on the sforce blog provides a glimpse of the mix of API usage vs. the web application itself and the numbers are really exciting:

. . . from our modest beginnings with Sforce 1.0, we’ve seen the Sforce Web service API grow to account for over 40% of all of salesforce.com’s total traffic. Think about that for a minute – the API is almost as heavily used as the salesforce.com Web application.

Wow.

(A hat tip to Charlie Wood for pointing this out in his blog)

Mashup Camp: a cool idea

David Berlind is working on a simple but killer concept for an “unconference” he’s calling “Mashup Camp” (and he’s already got the domain mashupcamp.com, so it’s not just an idle idea):

My goal for Mashup Camp is to do the opposite of what all these other Web 2.0-esque conferences are doing. It won’t be invitation only. The pilot event will be modest in size guaranteeing intimacy and low or perhaps even no cost to attend (perfect for some of the people doing the real innovation on a low budget). And, it will involve a mix of open networking time, leader-facilitated discussions that address some of the most important issues and concerns that the API providers and the mashup artists actually need to work out, and fun (for example, a hottest mashup contest with an even hotter prize).

I think David’s concept nails a clear deficiency in some “Web 2.0” events: beyond all the talk about good ol’ RSS, there’s a deeper story about what’s happening in the broader world of APIs that is often glossed over. RSS is still important, but we need to expand the discussion. APIs are where the action will be in the coming months. The “mashup” theme broadens the discussion in all the right ways without losing sight of the technical guts that make everything work. I think the mashup concept is also something both business people and API providers can get their heads around. It’s a nice hook.

If you want to help David put this together, be sure to read the rest of his post about the idea drop him an e-mail. (Full disclosure: David is a friend from my InfoWorld days, but knowing and talking to David about this just makes me even more enthusiastic about the idea.)

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