Can the familiar software clipboard become new again? Perhaps, if famed developer Ray Ozzie is correct. Microsoft CTO Ozzie demonstrated his newest innovation, the Live Clipboard, at this week's ETech show in San Diego, and it promises simple sharing of structured data among Web applications and PCs. It has garnered plenty of attention.
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Ozzie refers to Live Clipboard as a way of "wiring the Web." The current standard for sharing structured data, the blog RSS feed, offers so many different schemes and techniques that "[t]he user experience for subscription is a mess," Ozzie wrote in his latest blog entry.
As the Live Clipboard demo shows, end users can right-click on an orange button to copy the data, then left-click to paste it. Users can also paste from one browser to another and from a browser to client-based apps.
The name Live Clipboard refers to Microsoft's ongoing Live efforts, which take the desktop powerhouses -- Windows and Office -- and adds online services. "[W]e view 'Live' efforts as those providing users with seamless end-to-end scenarios that 'just work' by weaving together the best of software and the best of services," Ozzie wrote in his blog.
Many bloggers were impressed with Ozzie's idea and his ETech presentation. Dave Winer, for example, said the technology will work as long as developers "don't create too many ways of expressing the same data, and don't create too many different graphic representations," while Jeff Carr sees this as a sign that "Microsoft is serious about its commitment to open standards." (Alex Barnett and Robert Scoble have posted a variety of comments on Live Clipboard as well.)
The origins of the Live Clipboard stretches back to the early days of the GUI, Ozzie indicated in his blog. This path grew with Lotus 1-2-3's intra-application transfers, and grew mightily with Windows' multi-application functions like Copy and Paste -- and now finds itself stymied by Web sites that essentially serve as standalone applications, Ozzie wrote.
Copy and Paste is fine for strings of text, Ozzie reasoned, but not for structured data like calendar entries and shopping carts. "An in most cases, the structured format of this data, which could be externalized as an XML item or a microformat, generally isn't. It's trapped inside the page, relegated to a pretty rendering," Ozzie wrote.
UPDATED:In an April 1 blog post, Ozzie offered an update on progress toward turning Live Clipboard into a 1.0 spec. Ozzie covered everything from presentations at the MIX06 Web developers conference to updates to the Live Clipboard site and an implementation in Google Maps. To read the draft spec for Live Clipboard, click here.
In addition, the Live Clipboard group has launched a discussion group for developers to ask questions and offer feedback. Click here to join Microsoft's "LIVE-CLIP" discussion group.