I was cleaning out some miscellaneous files from my computer today when I found a folder called “eyeos”. EyeOS. My friend and I thought we were uber-cool when we set up eyeOS on our shared hosting accounts and looking back, yeah, well, we were.
EyeOS was an ambitious open-source project to give you a desktop in your browser. You could have files, record appointments, and write documents from anywhere, as long as you had an Internet-connected computer. Nothing was stored on your local hard drive, it was all up on the … Internet.
This was November, 2005. This was back when clouds meant fewer UV rays.
EyeOS really was quite cool for its time. You could set it up for multiple users, and each person would have their own file store, in which they could upload any file they wanted to. Users on the same system could edit a group note board to share messages to everybody or send direct mail to other users. There was even an Internet browser application, which, of course, was totally useless because it was just a glorified iframe.
And if that wasn’t enough, you could install more eyeApps or write your own!
Certainly, eyeOS wasn’t the only project chasing those nebulous clusters of moisture in the sky. Back in those days, the concept was called a “WebOS” (note how these -OS names were picked up for cellphone operating systems?), which was really something of a revival movement of the web desktop pioneered by the Desktop.com flop. There were many options, but they pretty much all sucked in some way or another, as this review of 10 webOSes showed (check out that screenshot of Orca!).
The term “WebOS” goes back a bit further than Desktop.com, to a project started by UC Berkeley and also worked on by Duke. The original WebOS was described as providing “basic operating systems services needed to build applications that are geographically distributed, highly available, incrementally scalable, and dynamically reconfiguring.” Holy time-paradoxes Batman! If only they had come up with a catchy, meaningless name like “cloud”…
EyeOS continues to be developed and marketed as a Rich Internet Application (can’t you just feel the buzz in those words?), but since November 2005, Google et al. have been the ones pushing the boundaries of Internet computing and commoditizing the native platforms. There is one key advantage of eyeOS over Google Apps, and that is that since it’s open source, you can host eyeOS yourself and control your own data. But if you host it yourself, is it still in the cloud?