Thursday, March 01, 2007

ZBrowser: Enabling Continuous Web Expression

The ZCubes platform represents a paradigm shift in the overall concept of internet browsing and what it means to web surfers. One of the most innovative features of the ZCubes platform is the ZBrowser. The tool provides a number of features and functions that are intended to make browsing the web more efficient and useful for web users. This post talks about the ZCubes philosophy on browsing.

Enabling Continuous Web Expression
The internet is literally exploding in terms of users and content with a 10% growth from 2005 to 2006 according to a comScore press release. There are more than 1 billion web users worldwide with more than 175 million websites serving web content. Hence, web surfers are exposed to a lot of content and often they like certain websites or parts of websites.

However, one of the biggest problems with the users' experience on the web is the lack of continuity. What that means is that every time users go onto the web, they effectively start with a clean slate. In other words, it is extremely difficult to continue from where they left off in a previous surfing session. And this problem is not just from the perspective of an individual user, but it is virtually impossible for a user to continue from where some other user left off his/her browsing session.

Current browsers (IE, FireFox etc.) do not provide any tools for users to persist their web browsing experience that can be used as a starting point by themselves or someone else in the future. One available option to save that information is to simply add the web URL to the browser favorites or to some of the social networking favorites sites like del.icio.us. Another option is to copy and save the content into a word file. However, both these solutions are quite "clunky" and inefficient. First, saving bookmarks saves the entire webpage even though the user may only be interested in a small part of the content. Secondly, it is difficult to efficiently share the bookmarks/word files with other users. Additionally, if the information is saved by different tools in different formats, it's very difficult to take reuse information from one tool to another. A major disadvantage is the loss of the "line of thought" of the original user since it is not possible to explain that by using these options.

The ZCubes platform tries to solve this problem by providing a tool that allows the user to easily save his/her web experience that can be used by that user or anyone else in the future. In addition, the ability to save the content that is interesting (be it a full webpage or just parts of it) and then integrate that content with other types like media, text, other websites, paint, handwriting etc allows the user to tell a "story" about the web experience and the thought process behind persisting that particular content. It thus creates a great starting point for any user that wishes to continue with that thought process. Reusing the content is further simplified by the fact that it is saved in HTML format that is standard and easily usable by different applications. This represents one of the key concepts in the ZCubes philosophy which is "Continuity of Thought".


An example where this concept is extremely useful is academic research. For example, if a group of school students are working on a paper on dolphins, one of them can start collecting content from the web about a certain endangered species of dolphins and then send that information as a saved ZCubes experience to the other team members. The other members can then continue on that concept/train of thought and add to or modify the existing content in the experience. Additionally, once the group have completed and published their experience to ZCubes, it is available to other ZCubes users that can use that experience as a starting point and enhance it further, thus maintaining the continuity of thought.
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