The latest project of Dan Bricklin (the inventor of VisiCalc) is wikiCalc, a browser-based collaborative spreadsheet using the familiar spreadsheet UI model. wikiCalc's goals are:
Well, why not just enter your data into a database? I mean, that's what databases are for, right? Contemporary multi-user databases have an important, yet often-overlooked difference from spreadsheets scalar values (1 field/column in 1 row) are early-bound in databases, but late-bound in spreadsheets ("Databases are like Java, but spreadsheets are like Perl"). In other words, spreadsheet users don't have to care about the details of the data in their cells until they have to manipulate that data. If the data in a cell is never used by a formula, the user doesn't have to care about whether that data is properly formatted as a particular member of the necessarily limited set of available datatypes. This makes creating spreadsheets easier for the average person.
Contemporary multi-user databases, on the other hand, demand that you plan in advance for the type of each and every field/column in the database. This is a large requirement for many people, most of whom are not even aware that different lengths of text may require different database field/column types (BLOBs, anyone?)
It would be instructive to know how many spreadsheets vs. how many databases are created by people each year. My hunch is 10X-100X (or more) spreadsheets are created than databases, in part due to the late-binding of data types in spreadsheets. For smaller sets of data, spreadsheets are simply easier. This comes from someone comfortable with databases Oracle, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and Access are a regular part of my toolbox, I've been a PostgreSQL tuning expert on a consulting job, and I've written database program code at a database vendor. With all that database experience, I still create many, many more spreadsheets than databases each year.
The pieces of wikiCalc have been in place for several years, but it took Dan Bricklin to combine them. wikiCalc's combination of features expands the spreadsheet metaphor: easy entry of tabular data for the Web, multi-user spreadsheets (per-cell version control), and spreadsheet portability across multiple platforms among others. As someone who seeks out novel feature combinations (coming up with a few of my own novel feature combinations), I am genuinely excited to see the power that this set of features will provide. Uses yet undreamt-of will be unleashed wikiCalc is a fine example of innovation at work.