Month: July 2008

Bad choice for France Télévision web platform

It’s sad to see France Télévision chose a proprietary platform (MS Silverlight) to develop its web platform for video delivery … They developed this “thing” with public money; the content should at least be available to all the public eyes (even the “without Silverlight” link requires to have Windows Media Player 11 which even recent MS-Windows PCs do not have).

No silverlight

Here are some general reasons why it’s a bad idea to develop something with Silverlight:

  1. The Silverlight runtime is only available for MS-Windows and recent MacOS machines. This leaves out other operating systems (i.e. Linux, older Windows or MacOS versions, …). Even if these OSes market shares are minimal (compared to Windows XP and MacOS X), Curl and Adobe developed players for altervative platforms. For the end-user, it means (s)he will be able to keep her/his favourite computer to run your application.
  2. Javascript-enabled browsers are already available since a long time, on nearly all operating systems (e.g. Firefox is available for Linux, Windows, MacOS and xBSD). For the end-user, it means (s)he will be able to keep her/his favourite browser to run your application if you use standard technologies like AJAX, DHTML, etc.
  3. If you, as a developer, you really want to develop your web application with OpenLaszlo or Flex, the Flash player is already available on the computer of more than 95% of your potential clients. Although this is mainly due to historical reasons (Flash is available since the 1990s), I can’t see why Silverlight can win over Flash/Flex/Air since Silverlight is a competitor without added value. For the end-user, it means (s)he will most probably be able to run your Flash-based application out-of-the-box and it won’t be the case with Silverlight.
  4. From a developer point of view, writing code for Silverlight requires to download and master 4 packages: Visual Studio, Silverlight Tools for Visual Studio, Expression Blend and Deep Zoom Composer (although real web designers will probably prefer other tools than the two last ones). Compare with this: if you develop for AJAX, you might need to download and master 1 kit (your AJAX toolkit) ; developing for OpenLazslo or Flex: 1 SDK each. Moreover, all developer kits (except Silverlight) are open source, giving more durability to your developments and investments.
  5. Finally, still from a developer point of view, your Silverlight application will not be seen in any of the major search engines. No SEO possible.

The "problem with TinyURL" is (partially) solved

Thanks to the free software project lilURL and one of its implementation at ur1, the problem with TinyURL is solved. Thanks Alexandre for the info. 🙂

So now can be short ( and free at the same time: free to use, and free to look at source code.

Since I’m never fully satisfied (hmm, never say never), the next step would be an implementation of some “intelligence” in these short URLs (see Udi’s post). And since I never have time (or less and less), I’m a bit sad not to have that time to code a solution (which should be quite easy).

The problem with TinyURL …

The problem with is that its source code is not free. And I can’t find any other open services/projects that offers the same features (1).

I realized this when trying to add a long link in a Twitter update (2, 3). A maximum of 140 characters doesn’t allow you to add much text around. And it seems that a lot of Twitter users are using the service which allows you to translate a small URL it gives you to the full, “regular” URL. For example, (37 characters) becomes (25 characters).

But … TinyURL is trademarked and its terms of services explicitely tell us they may report your activity to some “agencies” … In addition to the reasons why Udi hates TinyURLs, I wonder how is stored your URLs. Well, it’s not exactly “how?” but “with which additional information?”. I guess they store your IP address, ISP and location (to be able to report your activity to your ISP and U.S. agencies) along with your submition, date & time, … Nothing is said about privacy in their page. Nothing is said either about the time they will keep your URL (what if you try to use your TinyURL in 5 months or 5 years?). And obviously, no source code available. On the other hand, if you don’t want to use the service, you are also free not to use it.

The only problem is that I can’t find proper, free/open alternatives. There are dead/unborn projects like this one at Mozdev or url(x) (no, GiganticURL is not a solution 😉 ). And there is even a PEAR service to TinyURL. Decent URL is not a solution since it’s only a variation on TinyURL (still not open/free and nothing about privacy). BURL is often cited but the only link I have is broken.

It could be nice to have a TinyURL-like service with open source/free source code and a clear overview of privacy settings (why not à-la-carte settings defined when the user submit his/her long URL?). (Note that Udi also has interesting additional ideas in his previously cited post, mainly about knowing what kind of media you’ll get with the short URL)

(1) The first sentence of this post is a kind of “executive summary”. I hope I’m not getting too old to indulge myself in this kind of thing 😉
(2) Yes, I now have a Twitter account. I don’t know the real purpose of having this kind of thing along with my own blog. Let’s see …
(3) I know, Twitter doesn’t have an open/free source code too. But open source microblogging site may become Twitter fallback.