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August 30, 2005

Good Riddance to Browser-Based Apps?

Here's a link to an article with the above name.  It's a guest editorial in the July issue of Visual Studio magazine.  You should be able to access the article from the above link, but if not, a free registration will get you in.

The author, Billy Hollis is located in Nashville, TN.  He co-authored the first book ever published on VB.NET, has written many articles and is a frequent conference speaker.  Mr. Hollis is regional director of developer relations in Nashville for Microsoft, and runs a consulting company focusing on Microsoft .NET.  So he is eminently more qualified on the subject than I am.

What's so interesting about the article?  To me, quotes like this:  "Decision makers are starting to realize that the browser sucks as an application platform."

Seems like this debate has come full circle.  VFP developers have traditionally touted the advantages of what is now referred to as a "smart client".  I personally have frequently railed at how poor browser-based interfaces are compared to what I can develop for the desktop in an environment like VFP.

Don't get me wrong – there are clearly many applications that are great as browser-based apps.  Like e-Commerce storefronts, airline reservation systems, etc.  But I've not seen a fulfillment of the promises to make browser-based UIs handle complex tasks you can manage relatively easily in desktop apps.  There certainly hasn't been a single commercial (VFP) app I've worked on in the last several years that could possibly have been implemented as a browser-based app, because the UI is much, much too complicated.

In addition to the requirement for a simple UI, browser-based apps are falling victim to the overall browser/Internet security concerns of late.  In more and more corporate environments, employees are severely restricted (if not prohibited altogether) from free/any access to the Internet.  That reduces the effect of the use of browser-/Internet-based apps that promise easier deployment.  Not to mention the problem of existing desktop apps that have been "updated" to be browser-based, when many of the folks who are supposed to use these apps don't/can't have a 24-7 Internet connection.

It seems to me that a significant part of the problem is the marketing that accompanies new technology.  That technology is typically hailed as the "Next Big Thing", and marketed as such, the implication that whatever you were doing before is no longer valid.  Poppycock.  So now, if Mr. Hollis is right, what has been fashionable and trendy for the last few years is now "not so Big Thing", and what we were pretty much all doing before that has now come (back) into vogue.  Is he right?  I don't pretend to be smart enough to know, but I do know that the desktop app that has fallen into disfavor over the last few years sure doesn't deserve that bad (marketing) rap.

Is it just possible that the "right" kind of application "depends"?  I don't see it as rocket science to recognize that some apps are well-suited and even more desirable as web/browser-based apps, while others are definitely not.  Why not market "the best tool for the job" or "the best implementation for the app", rather than spouting the marketing babble that there's only one kind of app at the end of the rainbow?

Posted by Drew Speedie on August 30, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

I have read you post with quite some interest and confusion. Although I agree that most of the browser-based "stuff" available today cannot handle complex tasks as those you can manage easily in desktop apps, there are some exceptions.

I have looked for long and large, being part of the "trend" of professionals looking for browser based apps to find solutions to my company. I have to admit search was long and in many cases futile... but I have found what I wanted.

The real problem is that many good applications get buried under tons of freeware, add-ons... etc. But when you look closely you notice that every single need is answered, you just have to know where to look. You even can find some very interesting innovative ideas nobody hear about. Freeware are like hidden treasures in a pile of Garbage.

I found mine, A browser-based platform where I can develop my own applications for my company, its basically 10 times easier to use than access, and everything that’s too complicated is done by posting your requirements on the software forum, or browsing through available standard applications. Not only did I get this software free, but I even managed to make money by reselling my applications to other companies.

Why am I saying all this? Because I believe that most people are discouraged by the amount of information and software they can find and prefer to rely on big players. However these software do not meet companies needs, companies have to adapt to the software. The real software that companies need is a software that adapts to the companies needs!

The problem with using specific software as you suggest in the end, is most companies have different needs, and getting several different programs to work together is a real headache. This, plus it is hard to use a standard, especially when you want to share your data, additionally each new employee has to learn specific programs again. I think the future is customizable software, with interaction between users and programmers (peer to peer), not big company marketing bla bla on trends.

Posted by: Sebastien | Sep 1, 2005 1:35:45 AM

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