Surfulater, Next Generation Part 1

Three years ago I thought all the talk of the death of Desktop Applications was well and truly premature. I’d spent my entire career developing desktop applications and as far as I was concerned there was no way web/browser based applications could or would supplant my much beloved desktop applications any time soon.

It turns out that three years is a very long time in the computing world. All around me peoples use of computers is changing, as is my own. Certain categories of Desktop applications will be around for many years to come, but many others will move into the Browser with nothing to install locally and all benefits that entails.

There are several extremely good reasons for this seismic shift, which has in my mind been largely brought about by the advent of smart phones and their incredible popularity, along with Tablets like the iPad.

We now expect to have access to our information wherever we are and  whenever we want. You could be visiting aunt Mary, be in the car on a road trip or having a coffee at your local cafe. The days of being tied to a Desktop PC “to do stuff” are over, gone the way of the dodo.

And this is precisely why development of the Desktop version of Surfulater has essentially come to an end. Surfulater users want to be able to access and work with their Knowledge Bases from any PC or Tablet anywhere on the planet. They don’t want to be tied to their Office or Home PC to use it and they don’t want to have to copy Knowledge Bases back and forth between PC’s to keep them in sync. It is simply all too restrictive and too hard.

So it is time to move forward to the next generation of Surfulater, one that you can use on any PC, be it a Mac, Linux or Windows as well as on Tablet devices such as iPad’s and Android. Where your information is in sync across all devices, without you having to do anything. And where it is available to you wherever you are whenever you want. And does not require installation, and is always the latest version.

This is the future of Surfulater as I see it, that you want and that we are working on. Great progress has been made so far this year, to the point where I am using it instead of Desktop Surfulater most of the time. But (there is always a but) there is still quite a ways to go.

In my next post you’ll get a peak at the user interface and I’ll talk about the fundamental changes that have been made, largely based on your feedback, our own usage and following current development trends. I’ve already taken the screen shots so expect to see part 2 soon.

17 Replies to “Surfulater, Next Generation Part 1”

  1. Just this morning I was thinking about Surfulater! Coincidence? Anyway, I would like to participate in any beta testing you make available. Thank you.


  2. Hello Neville,

    I came close to buying your product this past week, but was discouraged by the prospect of committing to (yet another) orphaned product.

    I don’t understand why you would abandon a good project in order to compete head-to-head with EverNote. EN has the cloud pretty much covered in this category. Some of us, however, are paranoid about the security of the cloud-based solutions. Google, many governments, and even RSA have been hacked. Desktop (maybe cross-linked to apps on tablets) seems better except for generic, non-personal information gathering.

    Just some thoughts.

    1. @Mark, The plan is enable Surfulater content to be migrated to the new app, to the extent possible. So the app may well be orphaned, however what’s important is your information and that will carry forward. Security of our information is often times important and there are various ways to protect content from prying eyes, encryption being the obvious path. Your own Private Cloud may well be another possibility.

      Surfulater and the like have a limited future unless you can access your information from any PC & OS at any time. Furthermore collaboration and sharing are all important. To meet these needs we must move away from the current model of Desktop apps.

  3. Neville, I continue to be upset about your plans for Surfulater. You talk about collaboration and sharing, but I have little or no interest in collaborating when it comes to Surfulater. That’s not why I use it and recommend it. I use it to save information of interest to ME. Every now and then, I’ll share some piece of information with other people, but I don’t need the cloud to do that. Far more important to me is having the information available even when I don’t have an Internet connection and having it under my control, not subject to mishaps of the cloud.

    1. Hi Joan,
      Sharing and collaboration are but one set of requirements for future applications and the easiest and best way to accomplish this is via. a database which can be accessed from any PC anywhere. This may be “in a hosted cloud” or one you look after yourself, possibly on a PC in your premises.

      I am also well aware of the need to access your information at times when no Internet connection is available as we’ve discussed in the past and I will be striving to achieve that as I posted here.

      And of course the current Desktop Surfulater will continue to work for a long time yet.


  4. Thanks, Neville, for your prompt response. I hadn’t yet seen your discussion with daniloco, since I follow your blog postings via an RSS feed and was responding to the blog. I’m pleased to hear that you’re striving to achieve access independent of the Internet. However, I’m still very concerned about the fate of the current Desktop Surfulater. Without your continued active support, it will NOT “continue to work for a long time yet.” It will be dead as soon as a browser updates in a way that requires an update from Surfulater. I’m praying that you won’t let that happen.

  5. Hi Joan, Firefox is the only Browser that has caused Surfulater grief in the past when FF released new versions. These FF updates were capable of and did break many extensions.

    In my last update to the Surfulater Firefox Extension I have hopefully made it a lot more resilient to FF updates and I don’t expect any problems unless FF makes some drastic changes to extension capabilities.

    That said if there are problems with Browser Extensions I will continue to address same.


  6. Thanks VERY much, Neville, for your reassuring response. I feel less anxiety about the new developments you’re planning if I know that the current Desktop Surfulater will continue to work.

  7. Hi Neville, I just want to put in a word of support for the direction the development is taken. I do have myself some doubts (I’ll post a comment in part II for the main one), but overall it is absolutely clear for me that software developers have no long term future if they don’t offer some way of access via the cloud. Assuming we are talking about synced local and cloud copies of the database, every one will be able to choose which way best suits them to work.

    1. Hi Alexander, I couldn’t agree more, which will come as no surprise. There are some apps which you simply want to be able to use on various devices, regardless of where you happen to be. If the developers of such apps don’t meet these needs it is hard to see them survive, let alone prosper.

  8. Hi Neville, I’m sorry but I have to agree with Joan and others regarding the direction of Surfulater. I love the desktop version and I use it extensively–virtually everyday. But I hate the idea of putting my personal information in the cloud. It’s getting harder and harder to maintain a real sense of privacy, and there is very little that is truly private on that global network we all call the Internet. So if you are able to devise a way to allow me to share and sync the database across my home network (e.g., client/server) in the various device formats needed to address market demands (e.g., PC, tablet, smartphone, etc), and allow me to access that database remotely on my network, and build in adequate security, then I’m on board when you release the next version of Surfulater. I know that’s a tall order but there is nothing about cloud storage that appeals to me.

  9. I’ve been using another app for years to organize my info. But it too, has migrated to the cloud. So I’ve stopped using it and have been searching for a long time now for an alternative. I almost bought Surfulator, it’s great, more solid and useful than my old app. However, I now see you’re moving to the cloud too. That rules Surfulator out for me too. My old app had Android and iPad versions, and I could have simply moved the database to the cloud any time I wanted. But it became cloud only, forcing me to stop using it. Rather than moving your database to cloud only, why not just develop compatible mobile applications? Then we could use Google Drive, Skydrive, DropBox, or the myriad of other mature, well-established cloud providers if we chose to go to cloud storage. I’m afraid with your plan Surfulator will just disappear among the crowd of cheaper or free cloud capture-and-organize programs like Evernote, SpringPad, etc., etc. The niche you’re in right now has little competition by comparison, and you have a big head start over them.

    1. Hi Jack,
      Thanks for your comment which motivated this blog post:

      Services like DropBox et.all. aren’t all that appropriate for an application like Surfulater where databases can get very large. The issue is you don’t want to have to transfer 100’s or 1,000’s of MB of data back and forth each time the database changes, you only want the changes themselves to move back and forth.


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