There is a tremendous amount of hype around Web 2.0 these days. I have never even seen an adequate definition of what it is. In my mind it is actually two things.
- Web applications are becoming more like desktop applications in that the user interaction is handled locally at the client, versus at the server.
- A fascination with user-generated content and all things tagging, tied to a fascination with search, particularly Google, and most importantly, with their net income.
The second item I will discuss another day. Long live Google!
But the first item is closer to my heart. Consumer computing is becoming network centric and consumers are going to get their whole computing experience over the net. This has a lot of good features, not the least of which is that a consumer’s local computer is fungible, as it should be since only ubergeeks have any idea how to keep one running, virus free, and backed up.
If you assume that the consumer computing experience is going to the net, then the only sad thing is that we all know that local applications written natively to use the windowing system and other features of the operating system are more responsive and more enjoyable to use. Web 2.0 is a response to that shortcoming. Using AJAX, web apps are getting better.
But there is really no reason to abandon the idea of writing applications directly for the operating system. Those applications just need to be network-centric. Phanfare follows this model. You can download the client and run it from anywhere, logging into it to get access to all your photos and videos. And Phanfare makes you feel as if your photos and videos are local. Phanfare talks to the network via web service calls, is multithreaded and caches heavily to achieve this user experience.
Microsoft Outlook running against an Exchange server is the same idea. Gmail is a great interface, but Outlook is still a better email client. And like Web 2.0, I can install Outlook on any computer and access the Exchange server. Granted, I have to install the application, but for something I use every day, this is worth the trouble.
A day may come when the programming environment within the web browser is so rich that there is no reason to write an application directly for the operating system, but that day is not here today. In fact, we are fairly certain that we could not reproduce the Phanfare experience within a web browser due to security restrictions limiting access to local disk.
Further, applications written in the way I just described are really not new. The client-server model of computing from the days of X windows was just this, albeit with less standard communication protocols.
So in my mind, half of Web 2.0 is really about network-centric apps getting better and closer to the smooth enjoyable experience of local applications. Whether those applications run within the web browser is not the point.