I've been around the internet since, well, the start of the commercial internet (~1995). In order to publish your ideas in the early days of the Internet on the internet you had to know HTML. Truly committed authors learned HTML by copying other people's code, but most were prohibited. This was a huge barrier to publish for a LOT of people.
The web was created by a few and read by many. Compare that to today's user-generated content movement where everybody is enabled to create. This movement is in large part due to the simplification of publishing tools. One of the most important parts of publishing is the WYSIWYG editor.
If I lost you at WYSIWYG, it's easy. What You See Is What You Get. Basically, it's like using Microsoft Word inside a web browser. Whatever you type, however you type it is the way the user will see it in their web browser. Here is an example of the WYSIWYG editor in TypePad.
Here is a practical example of how this simple innovation allowed millions to publish. Let's say you want to create a two column table with two rows in order to list music groups and their albums. Here is what you have to do in HTML:
Not too simple eh? It's definitely not transparent to the user. Compare that to the method you use in the WYWIWYG editor:
You hit the table button and viola you have a table. Anyone can do it. This is a simple and clear example of what I mean when I say that good technology is that which is transparent to the user. When you use one of these easy editors you just know what to do. If you want to bold something you highlight it and hit the B icon. If you want to bullet pointed list you hit that icon.
This may seem elementary, but I'm telling you this one simple idea of eliminating the need to write HTML code is allowing blogging to take off. If I had to hand code each post and FTP it to the server I certainly wouldn't be posting each day. It could have turned others off to the medium completely.
I'm going to feature more examples of great, transparent technology in the coming months. What examples have you come across?