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Virus risk as Apple iPhone goes Web 2.0

For all of the talk of “Walled Gardens” and proprietary development for the iPhone, the news of Apple making the iPhone a full-blown Web 2.0 citizen of the ‘Net just got breezed over for the most part. Well I have a theory about that…

Some of the comments I read, scattered hither & thither around the web were of the finger-wagging, tossing a condescending look with furrowed brow variety, followed by the words, spoken in a solum, low voice: “Naughty, naughty Apple! Must try harder.”

So imagine their next words when Apple neatly side-stepped the cumbersome and weighty bespoke application development angle almost completely and timed the iPhone to meet with the rising sun of the Web 2.0 thing, with the likes of Adobe re-christening Apollo as Air slotting neatly into their release date of the end of June.

“Oh, err .. didn’t think of that! I’ll, err, I’ll get my coat, shall I?”

So to see Apple not only meet with the demands to have their hedges cut to size so their neighbours can see in, but to go and hold a garden party and barbecue, what a sickener for the nay-sayers that must have been, eh?

It’s a clever play, even for Apple, who’re currently on somewhat of a roll of late:

“’Developers and users alike are going to be very surprised and pleased at how great these applications look and work on iPhone,’ said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. ‘Our innovative approach, using Web 2.0-based standards, lets developers create amazing new applications while keeping the iPhone secure and reliable.’”

Sure, some cool stuff came out of the preview of Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” but the iPhone going Web 2.0 is probably bigger, in the sense that the iPhone is being pitched at a much wider audience, specifically those who might not think to buy a Mac, but would buy an iPhone or an iPod, or maybe both?But I can’t help think that this is probably the most overlooked announcement from the WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) and it’s a strategy that people should be really talking about:

“Web 2.0-based applications are being embraced by leading developers because they are far more interactive and responsive than traditional web applications, and can be easily distributed over the Internet and painlessly updated by simply changing the code on the developers’ own servers. The modern web standards also provide secure data access and transactions, like those used with or online banking.”

However, it’s a sneaky play by Apple that’s not entirely without some risk, as virii find their way web-ward:

“A computer virus for the free OpenOffice productivity software is spreading across computers that use the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems,… The worm’s ability to spread is aided by its use of components written in scripting languages such as Javascript, Perl, Python and Ruby that can operate across multiple operating systems – a cornerstone of so-called Web 2.0 applications…”

I’m not sure anyone could have seen something like this coming. Although a cynical mind might have guessed something like this would come along eventually.

So clearly this becomes an issue for Apple’s software engineers and the Safari development team specifically, which has split into a three-pronged attack; Windows, Mac and mobile via the iPhone.

And since most Web 2.0 web applications and services run via the browser (Adobe Air not withstanding) it’s a poor man who bets against Apple going to town on the security aspects of Safari, regardless of where it’s to be found…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.