All hail the innovators: 2 shining examples of lateral thinking

Wonderful things happen when smart people discard limitations that everyone else has been taking for granted, and two recent examples in the online world illustrate this beautifully.

Distributed version control

For years we assumed that working together on carefully versioned sets of files requires a central server to keep everyone on the same track. Then along came arch, darcs, mercurial, bazaar, git and others – now it seems like a god-given right that every developer should be able to independently commit their source code changes and create branches, and the “central repository” has changed from a technical necessity to a useful convention.

SEOmoz’s Linkscape

It seems like every notable search engine optimisation blog or site you’ll find on the web offers home-spun tools for analysing link graphs, site values, click prices and suchlike. Many of these tools compile information desperately scraped from Yahoo’s SiteExplorer and other sources, because the data that everyone really wants is locked up in Google’s enormous index.

In a stroke of utter genius, the SEO consultancy and community SEOmoz took venture capital, and then several months later popped up with its own index of 30 billion web pages, opening the way for deep SEO analysis that has been impossible up to now.

Talk about thinking big.

Innovators, I salute you!

I find it thrilling to see these kinds of innovations, and it’s a reminder to routinely step back from the problem in front of me, and see if I’m taking for granted a constraint that isn’t really there.

Do you have any other examples? Leave a comment!