Web Applications vs Local Applications

There is a lot of chatter around the Web about what the next killer deployment mechanism is – 6 months ago it was clear to people that Web Application were the future – now, not so sure.

Now I am hearing a lot of talk about local applications (like Microsoft Word) that have “lightweight web-based applications” that allow some of, but not all of the functionality of the local application.  Basically the web-based application can interact with (and maybe even modify) the document created by the local application.

I don’t think this is new – Acrobat, PowerPoint and numerous other applications already have interfaces to the locally created data that are accessible via the Web.  What I do think is that a lot of the promise of Web 2.0 is being seen as what it is – futuristic.  And not just 2 years in the future, but 5 – or more.

In keeping with the argument that you should never buy a “one-dot-oh” version of anything, the current “Web 2.0” is premature, buggy, underdeveloped and over-hyped – much like and other “dot-oh” product.

So what’s Web 2.1 going to look like?  Who knows – it will not replace local applications though – I almost guarantee it.  The CPU speed of my computer is increasing exponentially faster than my bandwidth speed is – the best place for me to run applications is locally.  That is true today, and it will continue to be true for some time.

What might change though?

  • It might be that where my data is stored no longer matters – I’ll be able to access it from anywhere.
  • It might be that it doesn’t matter what machine I am accessing my data from – the browser might be able to give me enough ways to interact with that data that it’s useful and accessible.
  • I might not need to own an application in order to view the data it generates – and I might be able to do that all on the web (AutoCAD files, etc) – without installing anything special.
  • I might be able to recall in time the state of any document regardless of any subsequent changes – think of it like a global cache that is addressable enough that I can “roll back time”.
  • It might not hurt so bad when a hard drive fails – it might just be that our data is replicated in enough places that it can be restored – from numerous locations.

And Web 3.0?  Web 3.0 will be a huge step – a much bigger step than Web 2.0 was.  Web 3.0 will require a completely new browsing technology that will ultimately produce the promises of Web 2.0 – Web 3.0 will deliver what current browsers just cannot deliver. 

Web 3.0 will be a local application (browser) that is able to manipulate your data with all of the ease current local applications do – but in a native web-based format.  A globally recognized format, just as HTML and XML are today – but it will be a much richer format allowing much richer browser-based applications.  But the browser application will be run locally – and I argue the same will be true of Web 4.0 through Web 14.0.

So Web 3.0 will STILL be based on a local application doing most of the work – it’ll just be a standard browser interface for accomplishing things browsers cannot do today.  But the application will be local, even if the data is global.

Will we ever be truly running application “off of the Internet”?  No, I don’t think so.  Local processing power will stay cheaper and more available than bandwidth for a long time (maybe forever). 

The place to do the crunching of the bits and bytes is at the local machine.  There is no strong argument for moving it to the web in the first place.