Web services I use

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Web services I use everyday has evolved over time. I thought I’d explore what I use now, compared to my essential services nine years ago.

Bloglines –  I have an eclectic and wide range of online reading material that I like to keep up with. Whilst I have a Google Reader account, it is set up as insurance against IAC shutting down Bloglines. I find Google Reader intrusive and not as productive as Bloglines. In addition, Bloglines works better on a mobile phone and power my blogroll

Delicious – is my memory. I am a web pack rat and it comes in handy for research or pulling together case studies for presentations. I keep a minimal amount of bookmarks on my computer, mostly bookmarklets to take advantage of Google Translate, subscribe to a blog and pull up the local weather

Google – as well as it being my default search engine, Google is also my currency converter, calculator, spell checker and timezone checker. The site has a surprising amount of shortcuts that make my life a lot easier. They don’t require any technical skill, more details here

Teoma – one of the best kept secrets of the web, Teoma is my back-up search engine if Google isn’t giving me the kind of results that I want. If anything Teoma is more relevant than Google is on its search responses. It naturally doesn’t trawl as much of the web as Google and it isn’t as good for real-time or semi real-time content like the latest blog posts. But it does have a clean interface reminiscent of Google previously. If you hit the ‘Google found approximately 150,000 results’ and you can’t find what you are looking for in the first page (which you should have set to 100 results per page) then give Teoma a go

Email – my primary personal email account is an Apple IMAP account (now sold as MobileMe), but I’m old school so I have a .mac address. I also have a couple of other IMAP accounts with a more limited circulation. IMAP is great as it allows you to sync your account across multiple devices and not pay a fortune for Microsoft Exchange

iDisk – I know lots of people swear that Dropbox is the best, but I still like to use iDisk for large file transfers like presentations. Apple has progressively improved the product and I know it inside out

Flickr – if Delicious is my memory of facts and figures then Flickr is my visual memory I use it as an aide memoire, image storage for my blog and as a kind of photo scrapbook

Twitter – is the new IM. Instant messaging on my iPhone and on corporate networks can be a bit haphazard. Twitter gives you the direct message capability of IM but also allows for broadcast messages and syndication of content

Skype – whilst all the fuss is happening in the iPhone world about Facetime I am more interested in Skype. Its combination of reasonably-priced VoIP calls and free Skype calling together with robust file transfer and chat messaging has made it ideal for business communications and keeping in touch with friends in far flung places

LinkedIn – I’ve got business out of LinkedIn, polled opinions on the best content management system for a particular purpose and received recommendations on a web hosting company in Hong Kong. LinkedIn is an invaluable business tool

Ten Web Services I Can’t Do Without | renaissance chambara

Lets have a look this in terms of numbers. In the space of nine years:

  • 3/10 services no longer exist in a meaningful way
  • 4/10 services I no longer use
  • 3/10 services I still use, but are just not important to me anymore

The key lessons to take away from these are:

  • The importance of data portability. Which is one of the reasons why I am minimally invested in Facebook
  • Always be looking out for new services that serve as a plan B
  • Steady but niche beats aspirational mass services every time. Ok so services like del.icio.us had a mass expectation pushed on them by large corporates post acquisition
  • It’s easier to make a service less useful than more useful – Skype definitely had a tipping point into the second tier for me following a user experience redesign around about the time of the Microsoft acquisition

What does my list look like now?

  • Newsblur is my RSS reader of choice. Bloglines was shut down by IAC, so I had a choice of moving to Google Reader or FastLadder. FastLadder was an English language version of their iconic Japanese RSS reader. Livedoor got wrapped up in a financial scandal. The English language service was a distraction and eventually got shut down. Thankfully, RSS readers have a standard format to export your list of sites that you want to read called OPML files. The downside is that it has become fashionable for web designers to turn off RSS feeds on websites
  • Pinboard is my social bookmark platform of choice. Yahoo! started stripping the delicious team of its developers and they eventually transitioned their personal accounts to Pinboard. That was enough of a recommendation for me
  • Duck.com is now my first string search engine. Google is bumped to second tier. The key reason for Duck.com is privacy. It’s search quality is good enough, the search engine results page has a clean design rather like Google used to. Google still has handy vertical search options like Google Scholar and Google Translate are still top class.
  • Email – my use of email hasn’t changed at all. It has been a constant in a sea of change.
  • WeTransfer – Apple’s move from iDisk as a file system on the web to more of a tight integration with the company’s productivity apps (Keynote, Numbers, Pages)
  • Flickr is still my visual memory. It’s just an awful lot more web friendly than Instagram or Pinterest. It’s longevity is remarkable given all its been through with Yahoo!
  • Messaging got a lot more fragmented. I work with friends in China so WeChat is needed, as is KakaoTalk, Messages, WhatsApp and Slack. None of which offer a perfect fit
  • Skype has been replaced by a bridging conference call number and some people that I work with use Zoom. Skype still has some uses but my use has declined
  • LinkedIn is still an important business tool. Despite constant fiddling with the format, the spam on the platform and declining candidate functionality

Listing this out it makes depressing reading. Declining functionality, good products (almost) sunk by large corporate shenanigans and corporate investors. In many respects things have stood still rather than moved forward with web services.