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?

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