Ed Brill: First beta of Notes/Domino Social Edition now out to design partners

by Volker Weber

I did not have to think much about Notes in the last two weeks while I was busy with our roadshow. So I missed the announcement that IBM has shipped the first beta drop of 8.5.4 to design partners.

Note, starting with this build, we have simplified the name of that plug-in --  we had been calling it something like a "Notes Application Player Plug-In for Windows" and now we are just saying "Notes browser plug-in". Also we are building that for Internet Explorer and Firefox; I know my Lotusphere slides showed we hadn't decided which two browsers to focus on first.

"Internet Explorer and Firefox" reads "Internet Explorer and Firefox on Windows". What does the plug-in do? It runs Notes apps in a browser, client-side. It's the basic client, minus email, minus Java, packaged as a browser plugin. Since there is no basic client for other platforms, I don't see IBM ever delivering this on other platforms. Oh yes, IBM now calls it what we called it all along.

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Am I the only one having the Impression IBM always takes Notes just the half way?
They have some really smart brains in their Notes-team, unfortunately they never let them unleash their potential. I doubt they ever will ...

Jan Lauer, 2012-04-23

There has been a classic client for the Mac afaik. I think you can also run 8.5 in classic mode. Maybe they are using ActiveX which is Windows only?
@Jan I think IBM has just moved on. They do what they think is required to keep the majority of their existing customers happy (and don't care much about the rest).
I would not go so far as the recent stories on cringely.com but it seems that Notes and Domino are not the only products that are moving slowly.
While the browser plugin is a nice idea, it limits the capabilities and design to a 2005 standard (Notes7). it is a present to those who already have decided to not move with the platform and adds little value to those who heavily invested in all the new stuff that IBM added in later releases.
I know that the browser plugin is the feature that currently gets the most attention and I would have considered it a great idea in 2005. In 2012 I am not sure what I will do with it. The classic look is outdated, feature limited and the technology behind it has been put EOL. Working with Lotusscript in Designer 8 is a real pain as it will crash several times a day and existing code often is awful (even my own from many years ago).
What a pity.

Henning Heinz, 2012-04-23

Jan, you have to use what you have.

Henning, the plugin is used to avoid installing a full Notes client where the customer has moved messaging away from Notes and still has some toxic applications.

Volker Weber, 2012-04-23

While IBM is on a SE trip, more important to me is an upcoming feature all customers are waiting for years:
A useful Single Sign On feature, based on SAML that can be used/is supported on TerminalServers.
The current solutions are either depricated and should have been called Notes Single Password instead of Notes Single Logon, or, the modern one, Notes Shared Login, does not provide the flexibility customers are asking for, because Notes Shared Login is using machine specific secrets.
Lets wait for the next SSO (SAML based) solution for Lotus Notes and Domino.
(Disclaimer: I know there a various 3rd party products....)

Christian Henseler, 2012-04-23

The plug-in isn't just for folks moving messaging away from Notes. Actually, I would say that's probably a how a very small percentage of folks who will use the plug-in. Financially, if you have a notes app infrastructure that you plan on keeping, I see little reason to break out the mail side of Notes in favor of another costly mail service. Mail just basically...well, runs.

I'm interested in the plug-in because where I work we have hundreds of Notes applications. For me to re-write them in xpages would basically stop new Notes development for years, of which there is an insatiable appetite. The plug-in allows me to move to web at my own pace, and not hold up the support staff who would like to have a subset of our population go client-less.

Mike McPoyle, 2012-04-23

I don't understand. You still use Notes messaging and want to run another Notes client inside the web browser. That sounds wasteful. The Notes plugin is a Notes client. So you are neither running web apps nor are you saving a client install.

Volker Weber, 2012-04-23

@ Mike, great point. We have far too many applications (not toxic Volker, just dated) to devote resources to converting them to XPages, it would take years to do so. This is an excellent way to port existing apps to the browser so we can concentrate on new development projects.

Even with older versions (Pre R8.x) of Notes it's still very easy to make applications look and behave like brand the new wiz bang apps all the kids are playing with. Remember the apps just "look" old and dated, their functionality is still rich, deep and secure.

Dropping a new GUI onto an application is what I do best and it really makes a difference with the users. They suddenly "see the light" and realize that it's not Notes... it's the crappy application that was built with Notes that was their problem all along...

A browser plug-in is a huge leap forward in that respect. Now we can separate the Notes client from the application without a complete recode... just, a face-lift!

Brett Hershberger, 2012-04-23

I doubt that it is very easy to "make applications look and behave like brand the new wiz bang apps all the kids are playing with" with old versions of Notes. It is not even easy with newer versions. Or it is easy until you ask for screenshots or a demo database.
But indeed I am very surprised how much interest the browser plugin gets in the Notes world (or single sign on). I don't share the enthusiasm but at least there is some.

Henning Heinz, 2012-04-23

@ Henning, "easy" is relative then I suppose, so let me rephrase that to "a fun challenge, and certainly do-able".

I have just deployed a Notes/Domino based work order application that has a browser component for mobile users, that looks and behaves just like a native iPhone application. So it's definitely possible, but you are probably right "easy" may not be the right word...

Now, I'm no Nathan Freeman or Chris Toohey, but I do think I'm quite good at UI design, and since that is the entry point to an application for a user, if you make it look good they are more willing to accept minor flaws or issues than if it looks crappy, R7 or R8 it doesn't matter.


Brett Hershberger, 2012-04-23

Brett, “dated” applications are toxic. The rest of the world has moved on. It’s time Domino people did too. I share Henning’s incredulity: by all means develop for the XPages server, but don’t do anything else. That client stuff is OLD.

Ben Poole, 2012-04-24

@Volker: I know. Lesson learned.

Jan Lauer, 2012-04-24

"Notes browser plug-in" - is that IBM's own understanding of "mobile first"?

Peter Meuser, 2012-04-24

It isn't. And you know that.

Volker Weber, 2012-04-24

Brett you mention a very important point:

[...] to devote resources to converting them to XPages, it would take years to do so.

It is a problem that many Notes and Domino customers are facing. If you lock me in your technology stack I need to feel comfortable. Taking years in no way makes me feel comfortable.
The browser plugin will help companies moving away. I am sure Microsoft will be quite happy that IBM finally delivers a tool to keep some of the legacy stuff around.
That it is Windows only doesn't matter much if you run a Microsoft stack.

IBM should have focused on making it easier to upgrade all those old applications. Or if they deliver a browser plugin they should have modernized the old design elements a bit so that they, at least, look a bit better.
Adam Osborne has a nice screenshot. This is more real than uber sexy looking Notes 7 apps that drive users crazy. They might exist but they are more an exception than a rule.
Licensing aside the browser plugin could have been a Microsoft product.

Henning Heinz, 2012-04-24

I really like the 'toxic' name - it hits the nail on the head. I still have a lot of work cleaning up the toxic applications, though.

Andrew Magerman, 2012-04-24

I think a far better word to describe these "toxic" or "dated" applications is "working". These applications are a big part of why there still exists a small market for Notes/Domino skills and ISVs today.

In the years since its initial release, I wonder how many "working" XPages apps are out there in the wild?

Jeff Gilfelt, 2012-04-24

No, the folks running the browser plug-in to access apps would be running iNotes for messaging, so we are saving a client install. Think front-desk, customer service agents, etc...light-weight users of apps/iNotes. They're a small subset of our Notes users, but they're not an insignificant number.

I'm in complete agreement. I've made my thoughts known to IBM on this one, and I'd prefer an easy transition to xpages. That would have been the best strategy, IMHO.

What I'd like is something similar GBS Transformer, with less cost. IBM would have been wiser to provide something similar in-house, to both keep users and help migrate their development platform to xpages. As-is, what we're getting is a bit of a 'hack', but I'm still anxious to try it out:)

Mike McPoyle, 2012-04-24

@ Henning, yeah I completely agree, it would have been nice if IBM created an easier way to transition, but this is what we have to work with, and I'll take it because it does solve a number of issues for us.

In regards to companies taking years to do things, well this is the world I work in. Very large organizations that have massive Notes/Domino infrastructures with hundreds of older (NOT TOXIC!) applications in daily use. As is the nature of our "yellow" beast it takes very few resources to to keep it all running smoothly and since it does all run smoothly the thought process from above is "if it ain't broke don't fix it". The powers that be, see fit to devote the few resources we have to more new projects than revamping old.

Given the choice yes, I'd love it to be XPages all the way, but hey, I'm patient, the company I work for moves at a glacial pace, but they do move. XPages ARE coming...


Brett Hershberger, 2012-04-24

It's clear that there is a new niche market emerging for Notes services organizations. This market comprises first a short term "commodity" service to remove the Notes client from the majority of user PCs and replace it with the Notes browser plugin. Most users only need a small number of Notes applications, often with light duty use....why incur the heavy maintenance costs of the Notes client in those cases? A large scale migration of the majority of users can be a major win for both the customer and the service provider.

The other component of the market consists of providing mobilized Notes applications which can function in a disconnected mode for selected users using tablets and even smart phones. This is, of course, a more complex proposition than migrating to the browser plugin.....it involves requirements analysis since the mobile application is NOT going to look like the Notes client application. It is also complicated by the XPages development required.

The combination of these two activities gives rise to a new, huge opportunity for those of us in the ND service business.

Bill Palmer, 2012-06-17

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