Facebook continues its progress unimpeded and today announced that they've purchased Parakey, a still-secret startup that was started by Mozilla co-founders Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt that was going to be a "web operating system". I've riled previously about how I don't really understand the web OS model but Parakey seems like a different kind of Web OS:
Parakey is intended to be a platform for tools that can manipulate just about anything on your hard drive—e-mail, photos, videos, recipes, calendars. In fact, it looks like a fairly ordinary Web site, which you can edit. You can go online, click through your files and view the contents, even tweak them. You can also check off the stuff you want the rest of the world to be able to see. Others can do so by visiting your Parakey site, just as they would surf anywhere else on the Web. Best of all, the part of Parakey that’s online communicates with the part of Parakey running on your home computer, synchronizing the contents of your Parakey pages with their latest versions on your computer. That means you can do the work of updating your site off-line, too. Friends and relatives—and hackers—do not have direct access to your computer; they’re just visiting a site that reflects only the portion of your stuff that you want them to be able to see.
That makes it sound like a fairly limited application that you could build on top of Adobe AIR. But think about how Facebook has evolved and the uptake of the platform. The Facebook platform as gone over very well and it's been a big boon to rich internet application developers. Rich internet applications that hook into the platform like Picnik and Scrapblog have seen some significant success. The viral nature of the platform is great for any application developer but RIAs fit very well with the rich media-hungry, broadband-using demographic of Facebook. If they integrate Parakey's technology into that platform then in Facebook would have a desktop hook. Those applications that use the Facebook platform could then, in theory, use that desktop integration in their applications.
Parakey and Facebook both seem focused on users content, so it probably couldn't be considered a direct competitor to AIR. But I think this signals that there is going to be a lot more interest in the desktop for a variety of reasons. Adobe AIR and Parakey may be appealing to the same types of developers in some cases and the Facebook platform is a powerful draw for anyone building applications because if its huge user base and flexible platform. this could get interesting, especially since Google may have been a bidder.But in some ways, Parakey seems like itself to be a big, giant, rich internet application for the desktop: