Had an interesting conversation on Twitter today. What started off as a passing comment by Ev turned into a larger discussion with Zadi and Micki chiming in, and became more about where we’re all headed with this wild internet thing we’ve got going. I didn’t link to any of my comments because I figured I’d just be repeating them here anyway.
My initial reaction was to point out, that in my opinion, the desktop is yesterday’s platform and people who design applications to live there have already lost. The future is web based, and as Ev notes everything needs to have some kind of mobile/web version if they are going to stay relevant at all. If you watch my links you know I’ve been keeping an eye on webapps for a while and with Apple laying claim to the term for their iPhone and iPod Touch it’s a pretty safe bet we’re only going to see more of thing. I’ve got several things on my mind supporting this claim, not the least of which is the fact that in the entire history of the internet we’ve never moved in the direction of doing less on it. We do more. Sometimes we find that something isn’t being done the best way it can, and in those cases we figure out a better way to do it rather than just stopping. That alone suggests that we’ll continue to do more things online, so building a property without that in mind is extremely short sighted.
Let’s also not forget that 5 years ago the thought of editing a photo, live, online was insane, yet today we Picnik which lets us do just that. 5 years ago you’d be lucky to find an open wifi connection, today in most cities it’s hard not to find one – and in many cases you have several to choose from. In one comment Ev notes that “it’s more often that I can connect but at a different computer than can’t at all” and this is exactly the case – we need to be able to do anything from anywhere, and not be locked in to location or hardware. We used to have be restricted to WAP over regular cellular, now we have 3G and EDGE and mobile Safari bringing essentually the exact same experience of browsing as a laptop to your phone. This is only going to continue. Things we can’t imagine doing online today will be common place tomorrow.
Remember when Apple shipped G3s with no SCSI ports? People freaked out but it was a change that needed to happen and it forced hardware manufactures to implement USB across the board and we’re all better for that. I’m not saying that people should be building web only apps to force changes, but rather building desktop only apps is the same as clinging on to SCSI, it’s dated, tired, and old. The future is not desktop based. Just to continue with the “Apple as trendsetter” thread, look at the MacBookAir. The thing has no CD drive. Apple notes that this is because they are assuming you’ll be connected to some kind of wifi network and can access anything through another machine. This isn’t as much a testament that CDs are dying, as it is that people are beginning to build streamlined hardware that is more dependent on the network than on other hardware. And that network isn’t going to have only one access point. We’ll many options (some of us already do) so if one is down the others still work.
I noted this afternoon that it wasn’t that long ago that running out of HD space, or not having enough RAM were major problems but in an era of 180GB iPods and laptops shipping with multiple gigs of RAM stock, those issues aren’t really issues anymore. Same thing with dialup vs broadband. It’s not a 100% non-issue today, but compare it to 2 years ago and you can guess where it will be 2 years from now. This is kind of a scattered rant but the point of it all is anyone building applications in 2008 should be looking at the web as a very serious part of how and were the app will run and live. Apps that are desktop only are so fired.