Along with most everybody else I imagine, I had a look over the Avalon/WinFS stuff from Longhorn this week. Jon Udell sums up my position better than I could;

Yeah, “embrace and extend” was so much fun, I can hardly wait for “replace and defend.” Seriously, if the suite of standards now targeted for elimination from Microsoft’s actively-developed portfolio were a technological dead end, ripe for disruption, then we should all thank Microsoft for pulling the trigger. If, on the other hand, these standards are fundamentally sound, then it’s a time for what Clayton Christensen calls sustaining rather than disruptive advances. I believe the ecosystem needs sustaining more than disruption. Like Joe, I hope Microsoft’s bold move will mobilize the sustainers.

Yup, bingo. I was shocked when I realized that they were completely reinventing the wheel here for no (really) good reason … except that somebody high up figured, as Jon says, that the Web was “ripe for disruption”. As much as I dislike many of MS’s business practices, I have the utmost respect for the company and the people there. But man oh man, what a stinker this stuff is. Remember Blackbird? Did these guys forget that they own the browser? If they had done this properly, they could have had the rest of the industry playing catch up to their Web extensions for the next five years or more. What an enormous gaff. Wow.

Just as an example of some things that they could have extended the Web with, consider these;

  • client-side containers for stateless session management; requires HTML extensions (drag-and-drop, events, etc..)
  • Web-browser-as-server for async notification; ala mod-pubsub
  • Advanced forms (XForms/Infopath/RDF-Forms); that Infopath is stuck in Office land is criminal
  • Web-friendly structured storage, where URIs are file names (yes, I meant it that way around)
  • Better HTTP proxy integration via per-request message routing, rather than per-connection routing which we currently have

All but the fourth require non-trivial, visible extensions to the Web … and the W3C and IETF aren’t currently touching them (except for forms).