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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

web applications  vs.  desktop applications

I see a lot of online discussion about web application taking the place of desktop applications.

One example is e-mail.

What people publishing blog entries about this often don't take into account is this: webmail is FREE and easy to access.

Desktop e-mail is not - you have to pay to get a POP3 mailbox, and then set your e-mail client, which is complicated.

So, what we are observing is not that people prefer web applications instead of desktop applications. We are observing the fact that people prefer FREE stuff.
Monday, September 27, 2004
It is clear that apart from free stuff which normally generated from mass or volume sales, web application has better future to desktop application. Since year 2000  that I started programming in web, it has always been difficult developing desktop application. Sometimes, simple desktop tool/utility fall victim to this.

We must understand that people like to interact being a social animal.Hence anything whether technology that encourages this will always proper.
Raphew Adedotun Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
Well, you don't have to pay for a POP mailbox, it all depends for most people on the kind of deal the ISP gives, most include email in with their offering.  The software is available for free and gratis to read and send email.
Simon Lucy Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
Very true. I think applications like MSN Messenger demonstrate this. Everyone I know uses it because it's FREE and takes 3-4 clicks to setup.

Would a free web based MSN Messenger be as popular? Of course not, because poeple have got used to the rich interface of the desktop version.
Monday, September 27, 2004
Nope: I actually pay for a premium Yahoo mail account for a few specific features I want (no, not the size). So there goes the free argument. Besides - plenty of good, free mail clients these days.

I can use it wherever I go; I don't need to install software. I take my customisations with me everywhere.
Patrick G Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
Actually, maybe people like things that are

A. Free
B. 'Follow them arround'

MSN Contacts 'follow you around' as in they are not stored locally. Web mail follows your around. POP mail does not, and most ISP's don't offer IMAP.
Monday, September 27, 2004
Easy to access from any computer is definitely an advantage. Microsoft regognized this immediately when they saw Hotmail and paid a lot of money for the company.

It's not clear yet whether people will trust other personal information to a distant server farm instead of keeping it on their computer. But the trend seems to be in that direction.

With a broadband connection and a CD burner you can make your own backups of data stored at a remote site, so data loss isn't really an issue either.
Tom H
Monday, September 27, 2004
Back in the summer of '01, I set up my first personal file server at my apartment to hold all of my files, webapps, etc.

Fast forward 2 years to summer of '03 and I open it up to a few select friends and my wife.

Fast forward 6 months to Jan of this year and I am now hosting it on my 1and1.com account.  It's great having my info no matter where I am.  With a simple browser, I can access all of my address books, email, etc.  With a ssh or ftp client, I can get to my more important stuff.
KC Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
Re: Yahoo mail

I happen to know that Yahoo mail is rather insecure, in that IE keeps all of the pages in its cache, so anyone can easily read your messages, etc by viewing the browser history. This does not require you to enter a password, etc.

I think that Hotmail is better, in that the pages are invalidated in the cache, so you need to log on again to view what is in the history.

Just a heads up.
Monday, September 27, 2004
> webmail is FREE and easy to access

Not if you pay per minute for net access it isn't.

Monday, September 27, 2004
"A distant server farm" doesn't have to own your data in order for the user to use a web application...

For instance, many desktop applications have a web front end these days.  And some companies (like ours) create web applications for others to use.

Especially in a business context, there are many advantages to using a web application over a desktop application:

For instance, it is easier to maintain a single version (easier support) because web apps tend to be centrally stored.  You can maintain control over most settings so that it is difficult for the person using the client to mess up the application.

The application can be accessed from anywhere, a feature that is so important to some users that they will cope with any resulting disadvantages.

In our particular case, speed of development and ability to integrate legacy systems are also an advantage to a web application approach, although I recognize that not all web application developpers use tools that allow them to make this claim, while some desktop application developpers might.
Monday, September 27, 2004
Most put up with the incredible anoyance of webmail because it is the one application you want "on the go". Most private email accounts do not have the luxury of having good free webmail backed up pop accounts.
Just me (Sir to you) Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
`Most put up with the incredible anoyance of webmail because it is the one application you want "on the go"'

Maybe people put up with the so-called `incredible annoyance' because the limited interface is entirely sufficient for the simplistic purpose of email?

There are many domains where a so-called rich interface (a laughable term implying that the hyper complex web stack is some sort of teletype) is highly beneficial, but it's questionable as to whether email is one of them.
Dennis Forbes Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
Actually the answer to the question of why some people use web mail is given in another post on JOS - the one about the help desk.

ISP Users are basically divided into tow camps. Those who use IE and get their email from Hotmail and have no idea that there is such a thing as a POP3 account, and those who use Outlook Express for their email, and have never accessed a web page in their life unless the link came in an email message.

As for Dennis's suggestion that it is doubtful if email requirea a rich interface, I can assure him that if you are using it on more than a casual basis the answer is very much so. Part of my job is to vet job applicants, and thus I have to go through about 300 email appliations a month. As well as reading the enails, I have to check for any previous correspondence, and check out all attachments. I found that doing these tasks took between tow and three times as long with Outlook Web Access over a dialup connection, as it did using standard Outlook as a normal client.
Stephen Jones Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
It's my impression that the web is drawing a huge new base of people. These people don't want to learn anything. They just want to do something. Nothing too complicated. All web apps can do what these people want to do. I've seen my family getting into the web. They are not me nor or they most people here.
Peter J. Schoenster
Monday, September 27, 2004
i consider myself somewhat tech savvy, yet i find webmail much more convenient to use for personal use than a desktop app...
Kenny Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
Any application mode has tradeoffs - what are the application goals, objectives, downtime expectations, uptime requirements, customer service requirements, and costs of either mode.

Web mail is great - until I'm somewhere with my laptop that doesn't have web access and I need an archived mail.  Flip side - I go places I prefer not to take my laptop (eg China) - web mail lets me check my mail without risking the laptop.

I worked for years on versions of a system that had an online as well as offline mode.  As painful as it was sometimes to figure out the logic of what had priority when syncing back up - there were two overriding reasons for the dual mode setup: first, connectivity was not (and continues to not be) reliable enough globally for mission critical systems.  When we started we could expect up to 6 hours of down time per day to some regions of the world.  That's fine from midnight to 6am, not so much from 10am-4pm. If you're going web only - how much down time can you accept during prime hours? 
Secondly, sales people go to customer sites where they need access to vast amounts of business data.  The sales people cannot rely on being able to use the customers web connection to get that data.  It can't practically be printed out.

There is no one right way - it's all tradeoffs.  And the dual mode approach comes with it's own pile of trouble.
Kate Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
I've developed several web based applications for internal use at my company.  I've found that even the most non-technical people require little to no training and are quick to accept a web based application.
Brian Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
The obvious resolution to the web-vs.-desktop dilemma, of course, is to not force folks into making a choice.

One strategy for an email vendor is to distribute a rich desktop client that can intelligently push some subset of your email up to the web.  The vendor could decide to charge users either for the desktop app, the service of uploading, or the service of doing email over the web.

How does the desktop intelligently decide what subset of your email to put up on the web?  Well, you make obvious priorities.  First, you mimic the folder structure, since that's very a small amount of data.  Then, in deciding which emails to upload, you create some heuristic that weighs how old an email is, when if ever was it read, is it part of an apparently active email thread, etc.  When you hit "Upload," the desktop app just keeps sending emails up to the web until you disconnect.

Perhaps Google will provide some kind of desktop client that does this kind of upload.  If Google can come up with an algorithm for most relevant websites, then surely they can devise a similar algorithm for most relevant emails.
Steve Howell Send private email
Monday, September 27, 2004
msn messenge as a web app? 

check out http://webmessenger.msn.com

It is in beta but works and looks like the desktop app, even does the toaster pop up when your contacts come on line.

Another benefit is that I can use it at work, ( access has been blocked for the desktop version) and of course messenger does not need to be installed.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
One class of apps is almost impossible to implement with a web server based html interface, that being apps that interact with hardware attached to the client computer.  These range from simple wifi card managers to complex industrial testing and production applications. 

There's lots of this class of applications in the world, and once they go beyond low freqency monitoring a desktop app will always be the prefered solution.
Jim Howard Send private email
Thursday, September 30, 2004
Web Application : All forms of _communication_. Email. Chat, BBS, Fora, VoIP.

Non Web Application: Word Processing to Signal Processing to CD Pressing to Oil Drilling to Heart Monitoring.
KayJay Send private email
Friday, October 01, 2004

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