The Disappearing Desktop - It's Real This Time
soapdog at mac.com
Wed Nov 9 18:10:52 CST 2005
I was going to comment this on your blog, but I fell this will be a
big email and I know blog comment engines are not suited for this (by
the way, where is your RSS feed?).
I read the memos and I follow slashdot, osnews and a couple other
sites with religious practice, I also am a subscriber for Doctor
Dobbs Journal for I fell that before anything happens in the world of
computing, they will shout. I also know that people here are much
more experienced than I so my takes might sound naive. Well, enough
off topic talking, let us get on topic.
We've be hearing this for a while, which does not make it true or
false. The mais question I'd ask is: "Is the Web ready to hijack the
desktop?". We live in a world of almost ubiquitous networking but
there are times when one is not network, those times the web cannot
handle. What if you need to use word processor on a vacation where no
net access is available. For this kind of task, the desktop will
always be there, even if the desktop moves toward being a single-
machine-network. But if we think we're talking about a always present
network with large enough broadband to make the packed juggling fast
we need to think about some other issues.
User Interface. Browsers were created to display hypertext. All the
rest was hacked inside. I know xul can create complex user
interfaces, but we must remember that using AJAX and that means using
CSS and HTML to construct user interfaces is not the easiest thing on
earth. One thing is to worry about linux, windows and macs, other
thing is to worry about each version of safari, mozilla, firefox for
each platform, this and we're not even entereing the amazing realm of
screen resolution and what does pesky little Firefox extensions can
do with rendering of your website. Meaning it's harder to create a
user interface for web based apps than it is to create for desktop
apps. Next problem is session management.
The web was never created to be a place where you needed complex
session management. Cookies were the simplest thing ever and they
work fine for simple web stuff like shopping cart and user
autentication. Now think of all things a desktop app needs to track
and thing of the stateless nature of the web. Unless people invent
some new way to store runtime information with a web browser, there
will be no sane way to track runtime info. If you going to use a mix
me to drive you to the most fricking thing ever to appear on your
AJAX neighbourhood, BOOKMARKS!
We all know about the asynchronous nature of AJAX apps. Keep
everyhing on the client machine, do asynchronous trips to the server
when you need info from it. What happens if the user Bookmarks? After
fiddling with the app, the user goes there and press "add bookmark".
This add bookmark is not like a "freeze state" from emulators, when
you try to recall that URL, the things that were on memory will not
be anymore, this alone can break most AJAX apps. Not only bookmark
but the most simple go back and go forward of browsers will wreck
most web apps. Try fiddling with that while gMail is thinking, you'll
see it getting lost pretty soon.
Meaning, it's hard to present a nice UI, it's hard to track runtime
data and it's not user friendly, the nature of bookmarks, go forward
and go back makes the browser experience of AJAX app very bug-
development language mixed with HTML, CSS and XML. Note that I havn't
said things are not possible, but that they are hard to the point of
being annoying and bug-friendly. That's why I don't think we'll be
leaving the desktop soon, at least, not until someone present a
runtime data than cookies and a better user interface than "hack your
Now where we stand? We have the dreamcard player which is smaller
than most browser downloads and solves all kinds of problems quoted
above. Revolution stacks can handle vars in a sane way, can provide
any UI we need and can save/restore data easily. And they can be
loaded on demand from the network. We have the technology everyone is
looking for and yet, we're also lost. The problem we face is like the
chicken and egg problem, third party cannot execute rev code if they
don't download the player, if they're going to download the player
they might just download a standalone. If we could make the player, a
plugin and make the browser fetch it if needed, things would be
easier... The problem is that since everyone and his dog got a
browser installed, we're trying to hack apps into browser technology
instead of trying to make a breakthru on network app tech.
We have the dreamcard player which is the most advanced and friendly
thing ever. Before the dreamcard player, I used REBOL and REBOL had a
browser plugin which was nice, there was also another solution called
CURL, even Squeak could load modules on demand and be very user
friendly. Even OpenDoc could solve such things. AJAX is not the
answer for me. We need smarter things for me, but still microsoft and
the other biggies will use AJAX, it's there, it's a buzzword, they
will create Outlook Web App and it will not be safe (at least not
with todays technology)
PS: ... who would not feel safe writting AJAX apps.
On Nov 9, 2005, at 9:38 PM, Dan Shafer wrote:
> I almost labeled this post off-topic since our purpose here is to
> discuss how to use Revolution. But I decided on balance that it
> affects everyone here, so I left off the [OT].
> I've just posted a blog entry at http://www.eclecticity.com/.
> 3c66aaec that I believe should be of interest to everyone who is in
> the programming universe today. I've been leaning in this direction
> for years, drawn strongly to it for the past few months, and have
> now tipped over the edge. Some will think I'm over the edge,
> alright, but perhaps not in the way I intended.
> My prediction -- based on a lot of evidence and clinched by two
> leaked Microsoft memos that you really need to read (they're
> indirectly linked in my blog entry) -- is that the days of the
> desktop app are indeed finally numbered. At best, we will see
> desktops reduced to being containers for ultra-thin clients and
> specialized Internet browsing tools while *everything else* runs as
> a (probably ad-supported) Web service.
> Yeah, I know. You've heard this before. And there's a lot of
> skepticism here and elsewhere on the Net. But Ray Ozzie's no idiot
> and Microsoft's not ignorant or stupid (whatever else they may well
> Comments welcome, though I'd appreciate it if you'd register for my
> blog (it's free) and post them there even if you choose to echo
> them here. This issue is much bigger than Rev but it affects
> everyone on this list, IMNSHO.
> Dan Shafer
> Technology Visionary - Technology Assessment - Documentation
> "Looking at technology from every angle"
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