Colin often refers to his sisters who start firefox to access the internet, but the step does not carry the same meaning to them as it does to computer people. Most people think of starting the web browser the same way they think of starting their car. You need to do it, to make things go
Faced with questions like this and ideas like the Online Desktop people often go the next logical step. Should we remove all our Desktop applications in favor of Web applications? And where do you draw the line between the two?
To simplify the differences between the two types of applications I often just work with what I think are the most glaring differences between the two. Web applications make sharing things easy, everyone has a web browser from which they can view videos, photos, blog entries, and more. Desktop applications get easy access to all your external hardware inputs.
You could try to argue that web apps are slow and desktop apps are fast, but I’ve seen plenty of fast web apps and slow desktops that it’s a tough call. I stick to these basic differences because I think they are what’s most important to people.
Someday these differences may completely disappear or maybe they’ll always be around. The point is that we shouldn’t keep such a divide between them based on where the bits are actually located. To most people where the bits reside does not matter at all.
I like to put a narrative around this situation and talk about how restaurants pair wine with food. A valuable service that restaurants perform is to pair a nice wine with the food on their menu. The chef in a restaurant will often have picked this wine out on purpose because they believe it will enhance the dining experience.
You’re still free to choose, mix and match your own wine and food despite the recommendation of the chef, but you’re on your own. Your personal choice may be good but likely the chefs choice is at least as good or better.
Because it’s your time and your money, you are also free to choose only wine… no food. If you do this it’s like you’ll get wasted pretty quickly; I wouldn’t recommend it (ok, it’s fun sometimes). On the other hand you could only order food without wine, you’ll be satisfied, but I’d recommend the wine because you’ll likely be more social and have a better time overall.
Bringing this all back to applications. The Online Desktop idea isn’t about only drinking wine from now on, an old french roommate claimed that a person could survive on wine alone… but it would take some adjustment. However the Online Desktop is trying to move us away from simply eating food without at least some paring of wine.
You want a good pairing of web applications and desktop applications for the best experience possible. So I’m looking into our desktop applications system to add an online application pairing.
I wouldn’t want to recommend just flickr by itself to someone even though it may be the most popular online photo application. While recommending flickr I’d want to also offer the best of bread desktop application that works with flickr such that this person is able to have the best experience possible importing and uploading their photos.
At the same time, I think it’s incomplete to only recommend a desktop application to someone, how many of our desktop applications are useful or interesting without a network component? We can and need to integrate the online applications that already exist out there into our desktop applications. Lots of this is going on already, lets start to unify the ideas!
From GUADEC I noticed an excellent behavior that consistently happened because of the spotty internet access available during the conference. Stealthily from behind, I could catch the profiled looks of despondence as people clicked on the different wireless connections. Continuously attempting to access “the internet”, but what for? If our desktop and it’s applications are so cool offline, why the need to be… online?