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Where's It Going?

Entry 809, on 2008-07-04 at 19:17:42 (Rating 1, Computers)

Where is the world wide web going? Will web apps take over from the desktop as the major type of application program people will use on their computers? Will the web browser become the operating system (as has been suggested for many years now)? These questions are being addressed in several articles I've read recently. Naturally, I am now going to offer my opinion.

At the recent Worldwide Developers' Conference I attended it seemed to be apparent that web apps have progressed greatly and now offer near functional equivalence to many desktop programs. This is particularly obvious on the iPhone platform for apps running in the Safari browser which has advanced support for these technologies. If mobile devices, like the iPhone, become as important as many people think, and mobile networks become more widely available at a reasonable price, then I think there is no doubt that web apps will become important and this will spread to conventional computers as well.

What form will these apps take? I think Apple's approach is the correct one. They reject plug-in technologies, such as Flash, and use HTML 5 constructs, advanced animation and rendering functions, and local database technologies to achieve the required functionality.

These programs go back to the old model of code running in an interpreter. The Javascript engine interprets and executes the code just like happened in the early days of computing with BASIC. The same issues arise too, such as speed of execution and minor differences between different implementations of the interpreter. Standards will be critical and we really need a more standard form of Javascript in particular.

So will the whole web become a "sea of apps"? Probably not immediately. The traditional model of the web as being a large repository of information accessed through static web pages and traditional pages constructed through database queries will remain but we my find that gradually this will switch to specialised apps to access this information. For example, I can imagine a small app to access Wikipedia through a more natural interface than currently provided.

If all goes well I will soon have an iPhone 3G and I will be able to get started on building some web apps. That's when the reality of what seems to be a promising technology will become clear. There's nothing like trying to write a program for a new platform to reveal the true issues involved in the details of getting things to work properly!

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