Jeff Atwood argues that web applications, as limited as they are, may be good enough in most cases:
- The typical user only touches a fraction of the functionality in most applications. Switching to an online spreadsheet like EditGrid or WikiCalc is hardly a catastrophic loss when you only used 1 percent of Excel’s functionality to begin with.
- Online applications may be awkward, but they do one key thing that local applications can never do: embed snippets of live content in a web page. Instacalc may never be Excel, but so what? It’s a completely different use case. Instacalc is ideal for embedding bite-sized, interactive nuggets of calculation next to a paragraph of text on a web page. It’s the YouTube of spreadsheets.
- … I see a world of large applications that are inappropriate for most users. It’s high time we scaled down and scaled back. If anything, this is a beneficial side-effect of the limitations inherent to the platform.
I’m a huge fan of browser applications — I practically live in Firefox. But even web workers have to leave the web sometimes for the more powerful landscape of the desktop. I use Adium as my IM aggregator, MS Office for spreadsheets and word processing, TextMate for text editing, and Fireworks to edit images. Occasionally I play music through iTunes.
Lately, though, there’s been some move to a hybrid application model that combines web and desktop in the same app. Adobe’s Apollo offers a web development paradigm for desktop applications while Trillian’s next-generation web client shows the way to browserless web apps with operating system integration.
What’s your opinion on web interfaces vs. desktop UIs? What do you think about new hybrid models like Apollo and Trillian’s web client? What desktop applications do you continue to use and what tasks have you moved online?