Collaboration and Web Apps: The Big Picture
Previously, I talked about Collaboration being one of the key features of web applications. In this post, I want expand more on that point.
I am sure all of us agree that the key advantage of web based applications is Collaboration. There are other advantages like mobility etc. But thats for another post. Lets look at how collaboration is evolving in online applications. Before that let us look at communication applications first and later we shall talk about their role in collaboration.
Today we use different types of communication tools on a daily basis. These tools include Discussion Forums, Email, IM, Audio Conferencing, Video Conferencing, Web Conferencing etc. Some of these tools are used along with others for better/effective communication. Each of these communication tools are intrusive than the other. Forums are less intrusive than Email which is less intrusive than IM which is less intrusive than Audio Conf etc.
With the advent of web applications we have seen a different type of collaboration with ‘Collaborative Editing’ on content where multiple users can work on the same application/content at the same time seeing each other’s changes immediately. In this case, all users are (literally) on the same page working on the content making collaboration effective with out the hassle of emailing attachments and managing versions.
These ‘Collaborative Editing’ and ‘Virtual Whiteboard’ type of functionalities in web applications is just the stepping stone for more broader and deeper integration. These features mark a significant change in the way we work. Instead of emailing attachments, we email a link (Remember, Document is a URL). The communication tools like Email, IM etc are used for the right purpose – to communicate the changes and not for pushing the content.
Collaboration + Communication Tools
What we will see next is a combination of collaboration and communication tools. Each of the communication tools I mentioned will be integrated into web applications that focus on collaboration. A user might prefer one type of communication than the other. So it is important for web apps to provide different types of communication tools for effective collaboration.
In fact we already see this happening in our own applications. Email is integrated into Zoho Writer where you can email a document (selecting a format) directly from the application.
Similarly, Zoho Chat is integrated into Writer/Sheet/Show/Notebook etc enabling instant communication.
With the recent addition of Comments feature in Zoho Writer, a mini discussion forum is integrated to discuss the comments…and then in Zoho Notebook, we have integrated Skype for audio and video communication. You’ll see other communication tools eventually integrate into such web applications.
We certainly see this as the direction web applications will evolve integrating different types of communications in multiple ways. Instead of content revolving around communication tools, the communication tools will now revolve the content.