WYSIwhat? What You See Is What We Thought You’d Like, which was coined by a colleague of mine today. It’s just such a brilliant way of summarizing one of the biggest usability problems of web sites and applications: Layout and functionality is static.

But the situation is changing (as always). For-profit companies are revealing their APIs (Flickr, Google), allowing users to create their own tools and plugins dragging functionality from otherwise separate web services. Javascript support is getting universal enough to enable stuff like drag-n-drop, sorting without reloading data, fading, resizing input fields, expandable lists, drop-down menus, graphical editors, and lots more which has so far been outside the realm of cross-browser web pages. Free, open source applications are becoming a reasonable alternative to closed source (and often expensive) software (Linux vs Windows, OpenOffice vs. MS Office, GIMP vs. Photoshop, Firefox vs. Internet Explorer, etc.), and most of them are highly extensible and customizable by design. Greasemonkey is a perfect example, allowing users to effectively control the layout, content, and functionality of any site from home.

As always, I remain convinced that it’ll only get better. The net sure is an interesting place, these days!

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