In the Internet's infancy, Web pages were flat, often in basic black-and-white, and even text took achingly long to load via dial-up. Then the Net became colorized and started talking. A big broadband pipeline into your home suddenly made it possible to stream video, tune into music, and shop online.
Welcome to the Web 2.0 world. In the Net's current developmental phase, you can create your own news service with an RSS reader, brand and broadcast yourself on a blog or a podcast, and mash up an online map to chart local yard sales or global pollution. Dynamic coding makes online services swifter than ever; you can even furnish your office with free Web-based software, freeing yourself from obsolete desktop-bound apps. Of course, the Goliaths in the game have taken notice.
Here's a look at the latest Web 2.0 offerings from a trio of tech giants, starting with online e-mail services
and mapping tools
from Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft. These three vendors are busy crafting a host of online tools, many in rough-draft beta testing that beg your help. The companies aim to integrate their multiple services and serve up new and comprehensive suites that capture your exclusive attention and loyalty, but does one brand stand out above the rest? Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as we examine the new, dynamic e-mail and calendar services, maps, and more from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and their scrappy contenders.
Click here for a comparison of the e-mail apps.
Click here for a comparison of the mapping apps.