Via John Carroll I saw a blog post by Paul Ellis in which he talks about the shortcomings of open standards, or more specifically, standards bodies, and how that affects the open web. In short, it's led to the innovation and widespread adoption of proprietary technologies like Flash and Silverlight. If you really step back and look at it, despite all of the amazing things people are doing inside of the browser, real, ground-level innovation just isn't happing unless it comes from companies like Adobe or Microsoft.
People are definitely doing innovative things with Ajax, but they're taking the same basic set of technologies and rearranging it in different ways with varied results. All of the Ajax frameworks? Great stuff, but there's not much in the way of core technology innovation going on. Flash and Silverlight on the other hand are pushing the boundaries when it comes to video, cross-domain security, offline/desktop access, deep zoom technologies, manipulating sounds, file access, filters and effects, and more.
I'm not trying to disparage the open web. I think if the open web could move at the speed of a private company, we'd all be better off. But it can't, and really, the W3C wasn't made for innovation and people are starting to realize that. Alex Russell realizes it, and more importantly Google realizes it. And they realize that lack of innovation is actually starting to hold them back as a company that relies very heavily on the browser. That's one reason you're seeing so much going into Gears. Google needs to move the open web forward but the W3C is too slow, so they're coming up with their own solution.
In the end, I think the web is pretty robust and it's self-healing. The W3C and other open web advocates should look to technologies like Flash and Silverlight as a way to see what works on the web and what doesn't. If there's a genuine threat, then hopefully that causes people to get up and help fix a broken standards process. The open web is in a good position. It's still the best solution but now it has a bunch of companies fighting to innovate around it. The community can pull good ideas from that battle and move everyone forward.