Sharing, Themes & Multiple Horizons
November 23, 2023
One of the comparisons we got with Space OS is to virtual desktop providers like Shadow or Microsoft Cloud PC. This is fine, but the comparison only touches the surface. These systems start from an existing operating system designed for traditional PCs (e.g. Windows) and then run them remotely in the cloud. What they don’t do is re-think what an operating system can be, once you put it in the cloud, with worldwide accessibility.
In the context of current personal computers (and their cloud streamed counter parts), the concept of “someone visiting your computer” doesn’t make any sense. But in how we do much of our work today, the concept of “someone else visiting your computer” makes a whole lot of sense. Humans are collaborative animals, and the cloud allows collaboration. A lot of apps have ridden this principle (Google Docs, Figma, Notion) to mainstream adoption. But these are single-purpose, focused, apps. They are nowhere near as flexible and multi-faceted as a computer.
Our computers, though personal, should also be social. This isn’t a new idea, but it’s largely been sitting on the research and development shelf since the 60s, receiving little mainstream adoption. Space OS’s next slate of features attempt to lay the foundation for making the personal computer itself, not just apps, networked and collaborative.
Space OS’s first step towards social computing is to enable publishing a Horizon, which lets you share its link by clicking the share button, so others can visit and interact directly with your computer. You can give your Horizon a custom path, or also set an individual Horizon as your personal cloud’s homepage on your personal Deta sub-domain at
username.deta.page. Adding your own custom domain to any Horizon is coming soon.
Shared Horizons show a major departure from the ideas of “cloud pcs”. Your computer is no longer just an inward facing device, but can also be a personal device to access, connect with, broadcast to, and receive from, the outside world. In Space OS’s future, not only will someone be able to visit your computer, but they’ll be able to interact with it. Publishing Horizons is our first step in building a social and collaborative experience in Space OS, where ultimately you’re in control, but you’re also plugged in to a world of people, machines, and the information they have.
Important to Deta’s idea in personal computing is really allowing personalization. Not just by adding an image as a background, but giving a much greater degree of control and customization, starting with the look and feel of a Horizon. Taking inspiration from the early web and products like GeoCities and Myspace, Horizons are now fully theme-able by end users, to tailor them to a variety of preferences and tastes. Using the “Theme Card”, users can select “Easy” to edit the a Horizon’s theme using pickers and sliders, while “Custom CSS” gives complete control over the entire Horizon using CSS.
Last but not least, as people we are often working on many different “things” simultaneously, using computers to aid us. These “things” often have a lot of moving parts, require a variety of media and tools (some of which may be shared), and have different collaborators for each thing. Using conventional personal computers in tandem with internet apps requires context switching to jump into any “thing”, by finding and opening all the relevant resources. Only then can one actually do the work at hand on the “thing”, which is quite cumbersome. Tab fatigue is a very real feeling.
Space OS is tackling this problem via Multiple Horizons. With Multiple Horizons, you can spin up a new Horizon for any “thing” you are working on. Horizons flexibly support a variety of media (images, text, webpage embeds, Space apps, etc.). And you can switch contexts by jumping into any Horizon immediately where you left off, without needing to re-build up any context. This is not a new idea, having roots in the Xerox Alto, but it was nonetheless ignored by commerical PC makers.
Currently anyone can create up to three Horizons for free.
To celebrate this release in Space OS, we are hosting a Horizonathon. You can create and publish a Horizon until November 26, EOD (CET) for the chance to win shirts, stickers, and more Horizons in your own Space.
More details are here: https://team.deta.page/dueling-horizons
Thank you, from the Deta Team, past and present.