I was hoping to have a new version of Well ready by today, but real life keeps intervening, so it’s maybe a week or two away still. One must have patience, I guess.
Anyway, I noticed Mozilla released Webian Shell (introduction on Mozilla Labs). Despite sounding a lot like Well (especially since the word Well comes from Web Shell), Webian’s focus is firmly on the client side of the equation. Webian aims to do away with the traditional “heavy-weight” OS interfaces that we’re all familiar with for people and devices that don’t need it.
Chrome OS is a very similar project with the rather major difference being that it includes an actual OS and can thus run standalone. Nonethless, my guess is that Webian is hoping that
s/Shell/OS/ at some point in the future. (It can’t just be coincidence that Webian rhymes with Debian.) Thus, I consider these two projects to have the same goals in mind, albeit with slightly different starting approaches.
I started working on Well around September of 2008, treating it mostly like a fun hobby. When Google announced Chrome OS in July of the next year, it spurred me into more focused action. What spurred me specifically was my concerns with Chrome OS, which were the same then as my concerns with Webian today. Both projects propose that all the servers, all the data and (ultimately) all the control live in “the cloud”. That sounds nice, but the cloud isn’t as disparate nor as fluffy as it sounds. When we think of “the cloud”, we tend to think of millions of servers at our disposal. And that is true, but in reality most of those servers are run by only a handful of companies and organisations — those few that have the resources to both create excellent software and host massive amounts of data. My guess is that 90%+ of the important data that lives in the cloud and on 3rd party servers lives on servers run by no more than about 20 companies and organisations. As web applications improve, we might expect this number to increase, but it won’t. Possibilities for mergers combined with the barriers to entry (premium skills in software design, systems engineering, extraordinarily deep pockets and extraordinary brand recognition) are such that this number will likely never grow.
At least, not unless we change our approach to the cloud. Well is one such attempt. My hopes for Well (or a Well-like project) is to transform the cloud into something less fuzzy and more certain, while being just as (if not even more) convenient. The aim is to give people ownership of their own data and to give them the ability to decide who will serve it and who will guard it. Your documents, your emails, your programs and apps and games, your work, your photos and videos, your personal information. You should own all of it — and in the fullest sense of the word “own”.
Well allows you to do just that.
Or it will, once I actually release it.