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November 6th, 2009

Bye Bye Browser?

We've been ferreting through Microsoft's job adverts, looking for hints about just what might be behind the viel of secrecy that has risen over Redmond since they started work on the Windows 8 series of operating systems. One came up with something very interesting, that fitted in with conversations we've been having with other IT journalists for some time:

What’s the future of the web?

On one side there’s Flash and Silverlight and the rich internet applications world, which is working on ways of taking the web outside the browser and onto the desktop, where it “lights up” applications and plugs them into a connected world of APIs and services. On the other is the HTML5 working group, and their vision of a browser that can do, well, pretty much anything. With HTML 5 there won’t be any need for applications – it’ll all be web pages running on super-speedy JavaScript engines and with CSS for look and feel.

Here comes the difficult bit.

They’re both right. There are things a well written RIA can do that a web page can’t, and there are things that web page can do that are impossible for a traditional application. With traditional code you need to push new applications to every desktop every time there’s a change. Even .NET’s click-once and AIR’s self updaters don’t make much of a difference – you still need the latest version of the code to get the latest features, and that (with a flagship RIA like Morgan Stanley’s Matrix) can be a hefty chunk to download. At least with a web page, one change and then everyone who uses it can get access to the latest version.

It’s all a trade off. Not every web site suits every user, nor does every RIA have a fully engaged audience. That’s why so much work is going into getting those experiences right, whether its online design tools like Mozilla’s Bespin, or Sketchflow in Microsoft’s Expression or the designer developer workflow between Flash Catalyst and Flash Builder. But a web page and an application are outside the operating system, and if web-centric OSes ever become common, they need to have some way of supporting and interacting with the web. That’s why there’s so much interest in Google’s ChromeOS and Microsoft’s Windows 8. They’re going to be the first real operating systems of the modern web.
Read more at 500 Words Into The Future on ZDnet...

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