Why Google apps will stay inside the browser

Why Google apps will stay inside the browser

Summary:  Ryan Stewart makes the case for Google to develop more RIAs (rich internet apps). He says: "If Google wants to deliver applications to main stream users, they need to adopt a Rich Internet Application strategy.

TOPICS: Browser


Ryan Stewart makes the case for Google to develop more RIAs (rich internet apps). He says:

"If Google wants to deliver applications to main stream users, they need to adopt a Rich Internet Application strategy. They need to use their talent and their web knowledge to build applications that bridge the gap between web and desktop."

Over time Google probably will do this, but as long as the web browser is the lowest common denominator Web platform - then Google will develop mainly for the browser. Here are my other reasons why I don't see an RIA Google any time soon:

* The browser itself is a 'desktop app' - most people forget this. The browser is the ultimate desktop app in many ways, used as a platform by giant companies like Google, eBay, Amazon and Yahoo.

* There are viable - and popular - open source versions of the browser. Mozilla's Firefox and Flock being two examples. Adobe's RIA platforms are not open source, nor are Microsoft's.

* Browsers mostly support open Web standards - belatedly, in some cases! Web standards are crucial for ensuring the Web remains a largely democratic development platform.

RIA Web Office?

In another post, Ryan suggests a Flex-based Web Office:

"This is where Adobe has the perfect strategy, and I can’t believe Richard doesn’t give it more attention. If you’re building an office suite for the future, Adobe technologies have you covered for both today and tomorrow. You can build your suite in Flex 2 (but it needs much better Rich Text Support…*ahem*) and deliver it as an Apollo application. When your users want the web, they have it, when they need to move to the desktop, they have it."

According to the Apollo Labs link in Ryan's post, Apollo is "a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA’s." The gist of Adobe's Apollo then is to enable web developers to create apps that reside outside the browser.

It's an admirable goal, but I always have one niggling thought about that - doesn't it make you reliant on a single company's technologies (Adobe in this case)? You could of course say the same thing about Microsoft's WPF.

Summary - Google will stick with the browser

So while I have a The browser is the only mass-scale open Web platform great deal of respect for Ryan's RIA visions and Adobe's web/desktop hybrid platforms, for me these products simply aren't open or generic enough to be mainstream Web platforms. For that reason Google will stay inside the browser for a while yet, because it's the only mass-scale open Web platform around right now.

See also: R.I.P. Browsers? No way!; Google Office: a close-up look; Both Microsoft and Google want to dominate the Web

Topic: Browser

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  • AJAX and Web Pages

    It amazes me that Google and others are able to create such slick applications using javascript and a little XML. It has always been tremendously tedious to code in javascript and make it work cross browser. Google has done a great service to the web development community by releasing some tools to make the development easier.

    This ignores one big problem, web pages are an extremely awkward medium to create an application. They were initially created to share academic texts. Only through the use of duct tape and chewing gum have we been able to coerce web pages to perform some nice real-time application functionality.

    I do not know what the best alternative is, but I am hoping that it is some type of thin client that allows for the same functionality that we can create in desktop applications. I would also hope that it is built on open standards, easy to develop and truly acheives the "write once run anywhere" goal that has been somewhat elusive to attain.
    • Dissing HTML and JavaScript

      I concede all of the unkind things said about HTML and JavaScript as development languages. In fact, they're only slightly better than C, assembly language, or even machine code.

      Therefore, it's patently obvious that they can never be used as the target for sophisticated application development any more than crappy architectures like IA-32 or the C language.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
    • thin client

      but I am hoping that it is some type of thin client that allows for the same functionality that we can create in desktop applications.

      you could always use Flash....
  • It's a browser

    Good for porn and airline bookings or embarassing yourself on Youtube or myspace but as a development platform it's a joke.

    Please let's throw out all we've learned in software development and let's go back to spaghetti code embedded in HTML pages.

    In fact the browser is so good, Google had to develop a desktop app Google Earth to allow decent access to mapping.

    The sooner Google starts making some decent client side apps the better.
    • Implemented in ... ?

      [i]The sooner Google starts making some decent client side apps the better.[/i]

      Of course, those client-side applications would have to run on something more sophisticated than HTM and JavaScript, something elegant, such as x86 binary machine language.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Open Standards

    There's no way google will depend on something like Flex. They've shown that with google maps using VML in IE where SVG isn't available. Something like mxGraph (http://www.mxgraph.com) shows what you can do diagram wise in the browser, also dojo (http://dojotoolkit.org/) demonstrates cross-browsers widgets. I think the technologies underneath these toolkits are very much going to comprises Google's techologies. Remember without Flash 8 being available on Linux there's no Flex on that platform, not much point being cross-browser if you can only run on Windows...
  • Couldnt Agree More...

    These young writers on ZDNET get on her blabbing about Flex and all this Ajax mumbo-jumbo with no CLUE how for years web developers have tried to push both Flash and JavaScript to the brink in solving interactive visuals in the browsers....finding out in the end the huge tradeoffs and failures, ultimately. I acnt tell you how many clients Ive worked with who ultimately ditch their half million dollar eye candy flash sites for plain web standardized html sites. When will we learn that the browsers just dont have the power to support tehse types of apps. And unformatunately most users in usergroup studies dont want to dig through tons of heavy graohics and animations....they just want fast access to content. AJAX and Flex wont solve that problem just like early JavaSCript tricks didnt 10 years ago!
  • At what point does Desktop software become obsolete?

    As internet technologies become more and more desktop aware, and become better at seamless integration with the P.C., will they overtake traditional desktop software applications? There appears to be a race between desktop software and browser-based software ? desktop software is becoming more internet aware, while browser-based software is becoming more desktop aware...who will win? I think the browser.
    • Totally agree

      I couldn't agree more. Desktop apps becoming more "connected" and web-apps are becoming more "desktop like".

      The former is the right direction for integration of data but I feel it's the wrong platform.

      The problem with the latter is that merely moving your experience to to the web is not enough.

      I think the real space for innovation is the merging of both innovations. Rich, web-based apps that leverage their webservices to exchange information across various sources.