Top Technology Trends

Thomas Dowling's Trends For Midwinter 2006

Ramblings and Meanderings, January 13, 2006

All Library 2.0., All The Time

It’s the best buzzword since “Web-Enabled”, even if (or because) no two people really agree on what it means. In general, it’s a Good Thing to make better online Library services that talk that make smarter use of technology, and give more power to the user. It’s a Good Thing for libraries to take greater ownership in the services they provide. It can even be a good thing to put a fancy label on the project.

That said, the actual trend for a while will be more about discussing and defining Library 2.0, rather than wholesale adoption of new services.

Early Adopters of Library Catalog 2.0

I did say wholesale adoption above, right? There are more than a few toes testing the waters of fairly radical reworkings of the service formerly known as the OPAC. As I write this, North Carolina State University just went live with their Endeca-based catalog. And it seems like every time I turn around someone is suggesting they could dump their catalog entirely in favor of Open WorldCat. Interesting times, indeed.

Watermarking as an alternative to DRM

While the various DRM camps dig in their heels with mutually incompatible systems, TiVo is talking about letting users make unlimited copies of videos and put them on whatever devices they want. The catch is that the software for doing this knows who you are, and any copies you make can be traced back to you.

This is more of a thought experiment than a done deal, IMO. But it’s an interesting approach: making it easy to punish big time abusers rather than annoying the hell out of every single schmoe who’s just trying to watch last night’s Colbert Report.

Want to see an AJAX site? Want to see a million of them?

Remember when desktop publishing was new, and everyone was printing office memos that looked like an explosion in a font factory? And when client-side Java was the flavor of the month and every site used stock applets for things like glowing and throbbing buttons?

AJAX is capable of letting your browser do some very powerful stuff when it would normally be sitting as you read a page. It’s also capable of multiplying the traffic between browser and server umpteenfold, making a simple page wholly inaccessible, and driving up the administrative overhead to run an online service. Before too long, we’ll have a handle on exactly what we need and want to do with this technology. In the meantime, look out for a lot of bad AJAX implementations.


Microsoft’s next versions of Windows and Office will support a document format called XPS (XML Page Specification, formerly “Metro”). What will XPS be good for? Mostly for making you think twice about shelling out for Acrobat Pro. The two formats will cover a lot of the same ground—namely, letting you see a document I created without you having to have the same application I created it in, the same fonts installed, etc.

Many libraries rely heavily on electronic publishing operations that assume everyone has a PDF reader. For better or for worse, we’ve benefited from PDF’s near-monopoly in this area. If XPS takes off, we’ll be in a position of having to explain to users why they still need PDF, and ultimately have to support both document formats.