Living Online, Part 23

I'm at the Emerging Technology Conference in San Diego this week. It's a real geekfest, focused largely on Web 2.0 applications and services (so yes, I'm right at home). I just got an early demo of one called ThinkFree—essentially Office online. It allows you to create, edit, save, and share Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents through a Web site instead of with applications that live on your computer (although you can also upload docs created in those apps).

We've written about other sites like this in How 2.0 (Writely , for instance), but these services live or die by how well they actually work day-to-day, and ThinkFree has the advantage of having been at this for years. The company tried to launch the same service in the late 1990s, but the technology, Internet speed and advertising really weren't there, so to stay alive, it took the applications offline and sold them on CDs in stores. Now that the necessary broadband penetration is here and that AJAX allows application-like functionality through a Web page, ThinkFree is having another go at it. The latest version won't go public for a couple weeks, but I'll be trying a preview account and will post updates (so far: great interface, glacial speed—but this is just a preview).

The upside to this sort of thing is enormous. To me, the promise of Web 2.0 is less about the social/sharing/collaborative aspect that is so often touted and more about just being able to keep my life online, where I can get at it from anywhere. At least once a month I need to work on something at home and I forget to e-mail it to myself at the office or upload it to my .Mac account or move it to a USB key. There are a lot of ways to keep your stuff in sync, but six months of using Backpack for my to-do lists and del.icio.us for bookmarks has been enough to prove to me that a single easy-to-use online repository is the best route to solving that problem. And isn't that what all this geekery should be about? —Mike Haney

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