I was reading David Berlind's post about Google Browser Sync and was intrigued by his commentary on "Webless Applications" or as I refer to it, the offline problem. The most interesting part was his mention of JavaDB (which he blogged about here). At first glance, JavaDB seems like a very cool concept: a relational database, built on Java, that has the wherewithal to allow you to surf the web and then "sync" those changes when you get back online. It seems like the ultimate solution to the online/offline problem. Except for one thing, it uses the web.
The web is a broken medium. Don't get me wrong, the content on the web is fantastic. The depth and breadth of information on the web is what makes it so great. The actual experience of getting to that content and interacting with it however, is severely lacking. The way I see it, we have been building on a broken system for years. Just because something works does not mean that it's the best tool to use, and that is what has happened with the web. The web is great for reading content, and five years ago, that's all it had to do. Now we have an unheard of level of interaction on the web. The Read/Write web has become a reality, but the web wasn't built to handle the "Write" part.
Recently we've seen the trend towards the interactive web enacted via web applications that work within the browser and provide a decent level of interactivity. The problem as I see it is that people have gotten used to relying on a browser to view the web. This may sound silly, but there are much better options on the horizon. By drawing the content out of the web and repackaging so that it flows into applications built specifically to consume web data, the potential is limitless. Microsoft's WPF and Adobe's Apollo do just that. They serve the best parts of the web to developers on a platter and it's going to make for some fantastic, rich experiences that simply aren't possible within the realm of the web browser.
Building web applications for the browser is akin to buying a Ferrari to commute to work - sure you have a lot of horsepower at your disposal, but you aren't taking full advantage of it - you're driving 20-30mph in stop and go traffic. The web browser will remain important for viewing the content on the web. When interacting with the web however, people are going to find the browser too limiting and they will want more than the browser can offer them. They are going to want to take their Ferrari and make it go as fast as it can. It's a shame people are expending so much energy on solutions that will only get us half way there. The web simply wasn't built to allow interaction, and we should all be moving in a direction that will give us the best chance of revolutionizing how we use the web. We don't need something that makes using a web browser offline easier, we need to shift the paradigm of the web entirely.