Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Web-based applications a good idea?

An entry on infoworld doesn't think so. Apparently the web browser sucks for applications and anyone using them are reverting back to the client server model. Well, it is a client (the browser) and it is a server (whatever). The strong case for the web application in the browser is deployment. There is no easier way to distribute a GUI than the web browser. Unless that is, everyone in the world used Windows.

Of course, the case against the browser is strong too. The same interoperability problems that operating systems experience are shared in the browser domain. In short, your HTML/CSS/AJAX GUI may not work across all platforms (platforms being web browsers in this case).

In terms of GUI interoperability and deployment, the same problems persist. There is no easy way to make everyone happy. And that will always be the case as long as people use different operating systems. There exists no simple unifying solution. Again, with web browsers, you have the interoperability problem. With interpreted languages, it is quite simple to achieve interoperability amongst various operating systems. I think the problem there is deployment. It is a lot tougher to deploy desktop applications that use any kind of data center.

The main problem I see with the suggested solution in the infoworld entry is that there is no mention of distributed data. Lets say I take the advice from the entry and all our customers now use our new Java desktop application. Where did the data go? Any modern requirements will scream distributed data. And that is another complexity there is no alternative for.

All these challenges, distributed computing, distributed deployment, and interoperability, they have been around for a while now. I agree with the author in that for the most part, web browsers suck for any kind of reliable user interactivity. However, I still don't see any solutions over the immediate horizon that will make the browser go away.

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