Open Thread: Why Do You Use Web Applications?


We recently looked at the question of what people pay for web applications. Some of us put a fairly substantial sum into monthly payments for online functionality – which, if your billing rates are decent, is easy to justify in the name of time saving. But there’s another piece of the story beyond the costs: just what do we get out of these applications that we don’t get out of the software on our desktop?

For a while there, the overwhelming justification for using web applications seemed to be “they’re free.” People justified Google Docs over Microsoft Office, for example, because you didn’t need to shell out several hundred dollars for it – even though Office is much more feature-rich. Even with the paid applications, you can fall back on “they’re inexpensive” – though, eventually, those inexpensive payments every month add up to as much as you’d spend on a desktop application.There are other possible reasons for moving major chunks of your work to the web, of course: near-universal accessibility is one of them. Painless backups is another. And there are even some web applications that have functionality that it would be hard or impossible to duplicate on the desktop.

Still, I suspect we’re going to see a time of contraction for web applications in the near term. If online advertising dollars are starting to slump, and VC money is getting tighter, then some marginal players who depend on ads as opposed to some other business plan are going to go out of business. As people’s budgets tighten, paying for a desktop application one time instead of footing a monthly bill may become more attractive too.

Are you re-evaluating your own web application use? If there are some you can’t or won’t do without, why not? What’s driving you to actually keep work on the web, as opposed to just using the web as a communications medium?



I use web applications for several reasons, and am of the general opinion that they make life easier!

1. Webapps don’t require me to have a large IT staff to maintain – no software updates or patches.
2. Webapps are cost-efficient – no expensive servers or upgrades to buy.
3. Webapps are platform independent – any moderately recent browser works.
4. Webapps don’t lock you in – generally, you go monthly and can cancel any time.
4. Webapps aren’t bloated with confusing and unnecessary features – generally, they are geared toward accomplishing one (or two) things, and doing it well.

Martijn Engler

collab and mobility.
And quickly up and running with new laptops. :)

Akhmad Deniar

Me too using web apps often. I like web apps because if they update their application i don’t need to upgrade or install in my computer. I just open my browser then ‘zap’ only in few seconds i can use it, just use it! not need to think ‘am i get unupdated?’

Robert Dempsey

In addition to what the everyone else has said, I travel internationally, and with the ability of the TSA to grab a laptop for any reason (no I don’t have bad stuff on it but I don’t want the government people messing with my MBP), that alone is reason enough to leave it at home. So, I need to be able to access my critical information from any computer in the world. That means web-based, and secure.

skip Knox

I use web apps more and more, primarily because I can get to the same information and the same toolset from anywhere. I deal with very large and diverse bodies of information and I was forever losing stuff. I use Google Apps, and the search feature means that I never lose anything now, and frequently find things I’d forgotten about.

The sharing angle is good; I agree with the other folks on that. But I have a hard time getting any consistent circle of peers to work in the same environment. They’re still in the “email me” mindset. *meh*


As with the other commenter – I see an uptick in people using Google docs (and I’ve pushed it with clients quite a bit) because of the collaboration and versioning. I like other web apps for invoicing, since I can pull up any invoice or database info from any computer. I pay for several services, including Google’s Apps for Domain.


I am seeing an increase in use of Google Docs for group collaboration efforts. Sharing a Google doc is a big improvement over the old way of emailing a Word doc around, getting feedback, then sending out a corrected version. Or what’s worse, getting multiple versions of the Word doc.

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