Taking the Rich Internet Offline

Taking the Rich Internet Offline

Summary: There is a very good article by Gabor Cselle about what's missing in Web 2.0. One of the things he draws out is the inability to take these Web 2.0 applications offline. While someday we'll see the world covered with internet access, right now, this is a very big deal for both business users and home users. It's also where Rich Internet technologies like Flash and WPF are going to shine and really differentiate themselves from other web solutions.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Browser
5

There is a very good article by Gabor Cselle about what's missing in Web 2.0. One of the things he draws out is the inability to take these Web 2.0 applications offline. While someday we'll see the world covered with internet access, right now, this is a very big deal for both business users and home users. It's also where Rich Internet technologies like Flash and WPF are going to shine and really differentiate themselves from other web solutions.

The power of these technologies lies in their ability to operate outside of the web browser. The plugin model has been derided by some, but this provides a direct link with the operating system. The inherent nature of Flash and WPF is such that you can run applications regardless of an internet connection. Running a .SWF on your computer works regardless of whether or not you have connectivity (though functionality may be limited).

The piece of this puzzle that has yet to fall into place is being able to synchronize data from the internet and store it for later use. Adobe's Apollo project aims to do exactly this by creating a desktop runtime that can seamlessly take data offline. WPF's very close link to the operating system should also provide the ability for WPF/E applications to store data for later use (perhaps backpacking in Wyoming's Wind River Mountains).

wind_rivers.jpg 

Once this link comes to fruition, the lifespan of desktop applications that connect to the internet is going to be cut down severely. Why use a client like Outlook when you can have the same functionality (and more portability) from a Rich Internet Application? The ubiquity behind the technologies, as I've mentioned before, opens up the possibility of taking your offline content anywhere - to your phone or your media center.

The real elegance of RIAs is that they will behave like desktop applications regardless of whether you are online or offline. When connected, which should be usually, they will pull content and data from all over the web. When offline, they will allow you to manipulate and view that content. When you go back online, those changes will be updated. And this is all in a package that goes anywhere and feels the same no matter what OS, device, or computer you're using. That ubiquity and the consistent experience is what is going to draw users.

Topic: Browser

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

5 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Occaisionally connected apps will rule.

    The 'disconnected application' shortcomings of a lot of 2.0 applications (and very few are actually full blown applications) is definitely it's weakest spot.

    I remember folks from the AJAX community talking about how great it was and saying unkind things about Flash and Flex. But what did they want to use and an offline data source? The Flash Shared Object. Figures.
    brandonthedeveloper
  • I agree AJAX will be with us for a while

    I believe AJAX will be with us for a while, and that it will take some time before RIAs start trickling out with some seriousness. I believe even long after RIAs become popular, AJAX apps will be around offering at least minimal services from companies that also provide RIAs. In other words, along with offering basic services through their web sites, many companies will also offer RIAs as a means for their users to access richer services the companies offer.
    P. Douglas
    • Sorry ...

      I meant to post the above against [url=http://blogs.zdnet.com/web2explorer/?p=195]this blog[/url]. FYI: I reposted my message [url=http://www.zdnet.com/5208-11423-0.html?forumID=1&threadID=21518&messageID=410254]here[/url].
      P. Douglas
  • Automated synchronization would be nice

    I was working on apps. like this about 10 years ago. The thing was we implemented a lot of it from scratch. Our apps. ran on mobile devices with wireless TCP/IP. The environment the field workers were in did not allow them to be hooked up to the company network full time. So we stored any fetched data (while they had connectivity) and any data they entered into a locally stored database, on the devices. Once they were within network range we made it possible for them to sync the data. What would be nice is if the synchronization was automated. So the disconnected app. could create files or store data in a local database, and mark these data items for synchronization with servers once network connectivity was restored. While they are disconnected they could still access these items. The OS could then sync the items automatically when the network became available again.

    I think it'll be a while before we have universal internet connectivity. Cell phone coverage is still a challenge outside of cities. Most of the airline carriers don't have it (if any do). They're too strapped for cash to even try. And you can bet that when they do put in Wi-Fi transceivers inside the aircraft they're going to charge an arm and a leg for the service. Not everyone is going to want to use it. It might be more convenient for them to work offline while they're on the plane, and then sync the data when they get to the next airport. Wi-Fi will either be free there, or be accessible for a more reasonable fee.
    Mark Miller
  • Possible today

    It is possible to write AJAX web apps which continue working while offline and know how to synchronize when going back online.

    Here is a working prototype of "Take It With You" Wiki (TiwyWiki):
    http://blog.monstuff.com/archives/000272.html

    The main issue is how to make it easier to develop this kind of applications.
    dumky