I realized something recently about changing computer paradigms.

For most people, "data" is synonymous with the application in which it is worked with. For example, people seem to think that "email", which really is data, has to be viewed in their email program.

This is definitely not the case. I can pick up my email using my phone, my desktop, my laptop, my RSS reader (on my phone, desktop, laptop), to mention a few of the most important. On top of that, other computers can read my email and repurpose it. Gmail does this every time I view an email, showing Adwords campaigns related to my email.

Google understands this. The Gmail interface is not popular with designers and people who like their applications. It's popular with those who are comfortable working with data itself.

I use Google Reader all day. As I read through my subscriptions, I star and tag them, and then turn right around and embed my RSS items by tag into my blog. So what started out as a blog item on someone else's site turned into an RSS item in my feed reader, which turned into a different RSS item in my own tag-based stream, which turned up on my own blog.

All this streaming is confusing until you realize what's really going on. I don't care about my applications as long as I can accomplish what I want without them.

Which brings up an existential point: if you don't know what you want, then applications are very important indeed.

... I can't believe I just linked "existential" with desktop applications.