I've been looking for examples to explain the ways 'web applications' are changing in terms of interface design. For the most part we need tools that are familiar to use - inboxes and outboxes in email apps, posts that migrate to the top of a site or list according to popularity in Digg or organization folders and slideshows in Flickr, etc. But what about completely different ways to manipulate or view data?
Digg labs is a great example of unique data visualizations - we can see the most popular stories swarm or stack in real time. An open API is available so people who know how to do these things, can make their own.
An accomplished artist in this area is Jonathan Harris. The Whale Hunt is his storytelling project documenting an entire trip, from breakfast in Newark airport, to camp on the ice on the Arctic Ocean, to the butchering of the whales caught in the hunt. Documenting such a trip by taking at least one photo every 5 minutes is quite a feat, but designing an interface that matches the moments of boredom and excitement of such an adventure over a timeline is the real accomplishment.
Similarly astounding but on a much larger scale, is Universe which shows us our current stories as constellations and connections with the other stars in modern life.
"As humans, we have a long history of projecting our great stories into the night sky. This leads us to wonder: if we were to make new constellations today, what would they be?"
Watch Jonathan's TED talk on The Web's secret stories, where he explains several of his other projects and premieres Universe.
Speaking of the Universe and really cool interfaces, we're all waiting for the premiere of the WorldWide Telescope on the web, sometime in the spring. Again at TED, you can watch a sneak peak of the WorldWide Telescope, Microsoft Research's application that combines feeds from satellites and telescopes all over the world and the heavens, and weaves them together holistically to build a comprehensive view of our universe.