Mashable likes Web Apps more than I do…
“Frankly, a web-based product that plugs into social networking sites is a far better idea.”
Why? What are these huge “barriers to downloading”? Billions of pieces of software are downloaded every year. People know how to do it, and they will, if they see the value and feel comfortable with the company they are downloading from.
Web apps are great. No, they are OK. They aren’t great – they don’t have the responsiveness, depth of color/user experience OR the speed a similar desktop application can offer.
Web based apps store data (usually) on the web – which means you can access the data from almost anywhere. I’ll let you decide if you think that is a good thing or bad thing – I’m just going to argue that it isn’t a “web application” vs. “desktop application” argument.
Anything a Web Application can do, a Desktop application can do. Web applications can’t do everything a Desktop can. And it will be a long time before they can (if ever).
So what is really important? Access to the data, certainly. From anywhere, even a thin client. The data is on the web, not on your hard drive. It is backed up. It is replicated in different sites so a natural (or not) disaster won’t keep you from you data.
The best of both worlds of course is to offer a rich desktop client that offers all the bells and whistles needed AND to offer a slimmed down web-based version of the application to allow you to access, share, and even to some extent modify the data.
But both apps need to allow for both local and remote storage – and preferably a way to synch the data between local and remote (or multiple locals and/or remote sites).
Web applications are convenient – but they don’t have the horsepower to replace desktop applications. But they can certainly be useful to augment desktop applications.