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12 January 2005

Nerd Factor X



Gooey or Webby? Or both?

It seems that everywhere you look these days, the division between web and desktop is becoming less and less, well, divided.

Traditional wisdom has it that WebWare is ubiquitous, powerful and convenient. That is, except when it comes time to create content, in which case the primitive browser becomes something of a limitation. There’s not likely to be a WebWare equivalent of Photoshop any time soon.

So you use a desktop application to create stuff, and the web to do, well, prettymuch anything else with it. I think we’re still exploring the potential of the web. The location field is the new command line.

The differences between the two classes of application are painfully obvious from my own flip-flopping. When I first started reading blogs, I was using NetNewsWire Lite. I was happy. Then I discovered bloglines and the major advantages that only a web-based app can provide (always available on any desktop, email subscriptions, etc). But now I find I need to go back to NetNewsWire to get things like podcasts working.

It looks like there is a new class of applications starting to emerge: hybrid web/desktop. So there is a web interface which provides as much functionality as is possible (and we’re seeing from the gmail example that this is a lot), but with a desktop client that adds value to this. It’s necessary that the web interface is usable without a client app, and that it’s also extensible with a usable web-based API (eg

As an example,’s wordpress web-interface is perfectly usable and convenient. However there are good reasons to use MarsEdit (spell checking, image uploads, offline operation). So I use wordpress’s web interface when I’m on my work PC (or when SO has taken the Powerbook), otherwise I use MarsEdit. My new blogging technique is unstoppable!

Other examples: iCal and PHP-calendar. Sherlock and it’s various data sources. And of course Microsoft Outlook and Exchange Server’s Web Interface (though unfortunately Microsoft have tried to make the web interface look like the desktop application, and the results make you want to gouge your own eyes out).

Google Desktop Search is another example of the web/desktop hybrid. Interestingly though it’s presenting a web interface to interact with the local desktop, as opposed to a GUI interface for a web-based application.

I imagine that most applications will fall into the hybrid web/desktop category at some point in the future. Applicationss that manage single documents are becoming (to me anyway) less and less useful. I don’t just have one computer. I really need my stuff on the web.

Are you listening, Internet? Microsoft? Apple? okthx.


Posted by
Brent Simmons
2005-01-12 16:49:36 -0600

Coincidentally, this week I’m working on NetNewsWire/Bloglines integration. I agree with you about the coolness of web/desktop hybrids.