Unexpected find: ThingLink and its business

A Science News article online experimented with interactivity not possible in their print edition. It was fairly simple at first glance: when a cursor hovers over certain places in the image, additional information pops up. Seen all over the web, like the little pieces of trivia behind bing.com background picture of the day.

What caught my attention is the link in the corner: “Made with ThingLink, Learn More” What I had thought was a simple piece of HTML is actually a business built around the concept.

A brief exploration found that ThingLink hosts the image (and associated server storage and bandwidth) plus the interactive scripting. The package of content is then available to be served alongside content hosted elsewhere, such as WordPress.com. I can embed a ThingLink right here in this post, if I had something interesting to show.

There’s a basic level of the service for free. To make money, they sell higher tiers with features like customization, branding, and analytic information. I’m ignorant on how this information might be valuable, but ThingLink has an idea: they believe the full set of features is worth over $200/month to some people.

So definitely not just a trivial piece of HTML. It is the tip of the iceberg of a corner of web commerce I didn’t even know existed before today.

WordPress clients everywhere

The first step of documenting my experience on WordPress is… talking about WordPress itself. Self-referential, yes, but it actually served as a great introduction into a different mindset: Software as a Service (SaaS).

WordPress is itself a content management system designed to run entirely over the web. Not only is the content stored on a remote server, the management UI (like the text editor I’m typing this in) is served by the WordPress service over the web. There is no application to install on my computer. When I want to work on my WordPress site, I use my web browser.

SaaS is gradually taking over a lot of the software world, and as a Windows developer, I’ve been missing a lot of the action. It’s time to get to know this new cloud-based world. A world where the service is available anywhere there’s a web browser, because a browser is all the client software you’d ever need.

Or… is it?

It turns out the client-side software concept is not dead, not quite. And not even at WordPress. While it was no surprise to learn that WordPress have mobile apps to access the service on iOS and Android, I was greatly amused to learn they have also introduced desktop client software for Linux, MacOS, and…. Windows.

Yep, Windows client software.

What is old is new again.