Web apps and services feature as a big part of most of our daily lives, and are mostly taken for granted, and for that reason, we'd like to pay tribute to some of the best of 2010. While some of the biggest apps and services that we have honored have been around for a while, numerous enhancements in feature sets made this year, as well as their continued relevance in the current scenario make them eligible. Sheer ease of use and the raw capability of each web app/ service was another important factor in our evaluation.
Office Web Apps
Microsoft's Office Web Apps, was released in June of this year, and has already made a mark on the web app scene. A free web-based version of Microsoft's Office productivity suite, it includes web-based versions of Microsoft's much-loved Office software, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The main advantages of cloud based Office productivity stem from anytime, any-where accessibility, as well as online collaboration. Supported web browsers include Internet Explorer 7 and later, Mozilla Firefox 3.5 and later, Google Chrome, and Safari 4.
The Office Web Apps service is meant to replace Office Live Workspace, and ties in with Microsoft's SkyDrive storage service that offers 25 G B storage. The service is integrated with Office 2010 so you can save documents straight to the web. While it is a slightly watered down version of Office 2010, but has enough features for casual users. While it still lags behind Google Docs in features but it is has much better compatibility with often used Microsoft Office formats.
Google Docs has seen quite a few changes in 2010, from abandoning IE6 to completely renovating its Docs engine. Google Docs is now one of the most comprehensive document suites online. Just this year, the Google Docs team have added nine major new features:
- Support for any kind of file on GoogleDocs
- Support for multiple file versions
- A thumbnail view for documents
- A web clipboard
- A completely new revamped editor for Google Docs with real-time sharing
- Google Docs drawings editor
- OCR support for recognizing text from uploaded images
- Spellchecker, with support for adding words to the online dictionary
- Improved document revisions support
- More web fonts in editor
- Drag and drop adding images to documents
Gmail, one of the most used email providers in world, has seen numerous updates in 2010, with plentyofGmail Lab updates 'graduating' into the standard version, and plenty of other new features, including a revamped interface, and a new mail sorting mechanism. Other new features offered in 2010 include:
- Priority Inbox which lets automatically detects which mails are important and shows them separate from your normal mail. It learns over time.
- Better support for devices, such as Android, iPhone and iPad.
- Turning off conversation view
- Video chat for Linux
- Voice calling straight from GMail. Can also receive calls. Ties in with Google Voice.
- Renovated contacts manager
- Access multiple GMail accounts at once
- Drag and drop attachments to and from emails
- Nearly instant loading of GMail windows
- Google Buzz, lots of controversy while launching, but is now quite in use
- Nested labels
- Improved account security
- Search auto-complete
2010 saw quite a few changes incorporated into the Twitter service, and the biggest of them was a new revamped interface that was richer in media and real-time. Other new features include:
- @anywhere, Twitter integrated in other web sites so you can tweet and follow from any web site which supports @anywhere.
- Promoted tweets, tweets paid for by companies to stay on top of search results
- Promoted accounts, Twitter accounts that appear on the top of suggestions, promoted/ paid for by companies
- Promoted trends
- Promoted accounts, trends and tweets opened up to 3rd parties
- The Library of Congress mission to preserve all tweets for posterity
- Twitter launched official apps for Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone 7
- t.co link shortening service integrated with twitter
- Geolocation support
- Completed transition to OAuth
Easily the biggest social networking service on the web, Facebook claims to have in excess of 500 million users. An integral part of many people's lives, Facebook has also been the favorite target for privacy groups. While no social network has been spared from controversies regarding privacy, Facebook has faced the brunt of the unrest. Major changes include:
- Collaboration with Skype
- New design
- Facebook chat
- High-res photos in albums, face recognition and auto-tagging
- Change in privacy settings (huge controversy / hue and cry)
- O.facebook.com a lite version of Facebook which will not be charged for on certain mobile networks, for example Airtel in India
- Facebook places
- Friendship pages
- New version of Groups
- Ability to download your entire Facebook profile to file
- Remote logout and one-time login
- Modern messaging system with consolidated social inbox for SMS, 1M, email, and chat
This incredible web application by Adobe brings some very powerful content creation and publishing features to the web. Called an "all-in-one content creation and publishing application", Project Rome lets "virtually anyone at work, home or school inject the power of graphics" into their work, and easily share it with the world. It is available both as a web app and a desktop app. Features include:
- Built-in Flash support
- Browser-based and also available as an AIR app
- Rich interface for creating rich media documents
- Great for presentations
- Supports adding, photos, vector art, even video
- Supports interactive elements such as hotspots and buttons
- Supports multiple pages, multiple layers
- Supports animating elements using a timeline
- Projects can be saved to desktop or stored online at acrobat.com
- Projects can be exported as static prints, images, PDF or even interactive SWFs
This great service by Canonical made Ubuntu's 10.04 upgrade more than just a simple OS update. A storage application, Ubuntu One is currently in public beta, but has already made it mark with its innovative approach to syncing and media streaming/sharing/consumption. Essentially, the service enables users to store and sync files online and between computers, both Ubuntu and Windows. A free Ubuntu One account offers 2 GB of storage, which can be increased to 20 GB with a paid upgrade of$2.99 per month. An Ubuntu One Mobile packages for iPhone and Android phones also exist for music streaming.
Ubuntu One is quite unique compared to other similar service providers, by providing a range of integrated features that work well with standard Ubuntu apps, such as Evolution and Tomboy. Additional support is also forthcoming, including local network synchronization, browser book-marks, and enhanced application synchronization with the Ubuntu Software Center.
The world's most used VoIP service, Skype apparently accounts for a significant portion of international calls made in the world, with a report by TeleGeography Research stating that Skype-to-Skype calls accounted for 13 per cent of all international call minutes in 2009 - that's 54 billion call minutes on Skype!
Skype 5.0 has introduced some great new features, including 4-way video calling, automatic dropped call recovery, improved interface, updated mobile clients, and Facebook integration in form of friends/phone book, 1M and SMS, and news feed support. Offline Facebook message support has also been added, stored free for 30 days on Skype's servers.
One of the most popular photo-sharing services (Picasa Web Albums), Picasa is also a web app with its image organizer, view and editor features. A blend of "mi casa" and "Picasso", the name means a home for personalized art and pictures. It offers wide support for even legacy operating systems, including Windows 98, ME, and 2000, apart from complete support for all modern operating systems. Its numerous features include: organization and editing, key-word data management, image meta search, image backup, face recognition, geotagging, and more.
Continually innovating, we know we can expect more great advances in field of photo-sharing/viewing/editing from Picasa, from the method of uploading to automatic metadata generation.
Definitely the smallest player in our list of web apps and services, Aviary can easily compete with Adobe's online content creation suite, Project Rome. It's developed by the relatively unknown Worth1000.
Built on the Adobe Flex platform, Aviary has a whole bunch of web-based multimedia applications to offer, each of which is named after a bird. Available absolutely free-of-charge, users can use Phoenix for image editing, Raven for vector editing, Myna for audio editing, Roc for beat generation, and the many other bird-named services. Plans are underway for pixel pattern recognition software, a word processor, image resizing, font creation, a terrain generator, and video editors. Go Aviary!