Back in the 1990s, a lot of people thought (or wanted) the web to go in the direction of Television. Big, flashy, high-concept media and visual interaction. What they didn’t understand, was that e-mail was (and still is) the lowest common denominator that enabled the internet to take off at a mass level in society.
So we are stuck with that malformed, much maligned format of email. It works because we fill in the gaps mentally – we can project our own shape and form onto the basic tit-for-tat exchange of texts. But when we use it frequently, it wastes a lot of time.
The standardization and understanding that now exists in the realm of realtime collaborative document editing could signal the end of this period of collaborative email and time wasting. It is actually quite a straightforward concept, but requires some very nasty clever tricks to get working in a reliable way.
Differential synchronization breaks down the synchronous nature of sending messages back and forward in a conversation to the micro-scale of typing and deleting individual characters in a document.
At a high level, the core function of this lock-free collaborative editing is a merging process that occurs whenever a conflict is triggered when two people try to edit the same part of a document.
It is already clear how this is going to transform corporate “knowledge work”. What is less clear is the influence it will have on arts and media development.
Or perhaps the opposite is true. As much as things change, they stay the same. The only difference being that instead of people sitting around a table arguing, they will be sitting at their desks arguing through their keyboards (or even sitting around the same table and arguing via their respective laptops and phones).