I’ve just posted a comment on a really good article by Kate Ho of Startup Cafe about her predictions on the rise of multi-user, multi-device table applications. Obviously my comments are focused really on the technology behind such a rise. Here’s my comment in full, slightly edited to be a bit more readable as a blog post.
Kate – another very insightful post. And another set of predictions that I completely agree with you about and really excite me because I’m working on technology that makes this possible and more easily accessible. For multi-user games and collaborative applications the information about a player move, new document update or chat notification generally needs to be instantly sent to all other users. Even where real-time is not absolutely essential to the application a push notification is still more beneficial (UX and resource usage) than notification via polling.
During the last year we started to see, or at least notice, a lot more real-time collaboration applications and games which used the Internet as the network for the messages. In this post I wrote for Programmable Web on real-time client push services the first screenshot is of a web-based scrabble-like game.
Some other well know examples are Google Docs documents, drawing and spreadsheets real-time collaboration, Google Wave, PBWorks and real-time chat services such as Nurph (although they currently use polling). I also think that services such as Balsamiq, a UI mocking app, plan to introduce real-time collaboration functionality.
The user experience side of things is also very interesting. When real-time data delivery becomes a possibility the application developer really needs to consider how this impacts the UX. Just because you can stream 1000’s of tweets a minute into an application it doesn’t mean you should. search.twitter.com is a good example of this; they’ve chose to just show a notification that new tweets are available rather than actually push them into view. These two examples also show notifications being pushed into view:
I’d love to know what people think about this and hear any idea about how we can solve this real-time notification UX problem.
During 2011 I absolutely believe that we will start to see a lot more real-time and cross platform collaborative applications and games where one user may be on a smartphone, another on a PC running in a web browser and another on a native iPad app. These applications will be powered by real-time technologies either hosted by the game or application developers or using one of the real-time push notification and messaging services that started up last year.