One of the ongoing debates I have with some of my co-workers are whether web apps are going to take over the majority of applications that users interact with on a daily basis, or whether the future will remain in the hands of internet-enabled desktop apps. I maintain that desktop apps with integrated connectivity are the future. Many of my co-workers place their trust in software that only runs in the cloud.
So what is a web app? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_app
In software engineering, a web application is an application that is accessed via a web browser over a network such as the Internet or an intranet….Web applications are popular due to the ubiquity of web browsers, and the convenience of using a web browser as a client, sometimes called a thin client. The ability to update and maintain web applications without distributing and installing software on potentially thousands of client computers is a key reason for their popularity, as is the inherent support for cross-platform compatibility.
The issue here is whether or not the software runs solely in the browser, or whether additional software needs to be downloaded and installed on the desktop in order for the application to work. If I am on a locked-down computer in a Malaysian internet cafe, and cannot run a program without having to download and install something, it is not a web app. It does not adhere to the requirement that the application can be used solely from a browser, without additional installation. Well, just today I tried uploading a number of photos on Facebook and discovered that I could not do so without downloading (and installing) an .exe photo uploader. Thus, Facebook broke the cardinal rule of web apps: no software distribution or installation.
So the question is whether or not this trend will continue. Will more and more web applications require a separate download, the way Facebook and (say) Google Earth do? Or, with the advent of technologies like HTML5, will the trend toward browser-only software continue? My feeling is that we’re going to start to see the pendulum swing at some point, and the power and richness of web-enabled desktop apps return. Thin clients will once again give way to thick clients. But I am in the extreme minority. Will thick clients return? If so, why? If not, why not?