Online products look more and more like databases

I had a meeting with Matthew Rothenberg Friday that evolved into a discussion about user interaction models, tagging tools and APIs.  He made an interesting comment about the point where a technology product is defined either as a pure utility or an interface to a utility. won over the more hard core early technology adopters in part because it looks and feels and acts like a database.  It's fun to use if you appreciate the power of relational databases.  However, the user interface by any traditional design standard is awkward at best.

Maybe the online world is teaching people not to be afraid of raw data and machine-like user interfaces. in its current form could never have positioned itself as anything other than a platform product for resale a few years ago.  Now it has about 200,000 users (I know I read this somewhere recently, but I forgot to tag it...anyone have the exact number?).  

Will mainstream users be ready to adopt SQL query-like user interfaces next?  They seem to understand relational databases intuitively now.  When you show people sites like Chad's event-map mashup, they get it immediately.  It's obvious that there are multiple databases connected via common data points.  And, of course, it looks really slick.

Though specializing on one end of the spectrum or another will help differentiate in a crowded market, the real winners will be the products that are able to combine both forces effectively -- deep data utilities and clean user interfaces.  There's no better example in that sense than Apple's iPod.


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Online products look more and more like databases