When you publish your opinions on a regular basis, it’s hard to resist the urge to gloat after you’ve been proven correct(For example, I’ll be I-told-you-so-ing with regard to the iPod mini for the next couple of years.)

It’s also rather easy to ignore the times when you’ve been proven wrong.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t publishing 万博manbetx贴吧 back in the mid-to-late ’90s, because if I had been, I’d currently be eating an awful lot of crow with regard to what I would have written about the web’s potential as an application platform.

At that time, at the peak of the Netscape-Microsoft browser war, the conventional wisdom was that the web was the future of application developmentThe technology certainly didn’t yet exist, but the idea was that Netscape’s web browser posed a serious threat to Microsoft’s Windows monopoly — that at some point in the future, user applications would be written to run within the browser.

Thus, Microsoft’s incredible change of course, going from more or less ignoring the Internet to completely dominating it within the course of a few yearsThe idea was that Microsoft killed Netscape because Microsoft saw them as a threat to Windows.

然而,我,我只是没有买它I completely saw the potential of the Web as a出版medium, but I just didn’t see how the Web was ever going to serve as a high-quality application development environmentThe way I saw it, Microsoft killed Netscape not because it was a threat to Windows, but simply because they (Microsoft) wanted control over this new publishing medium.

我简直不能错The conventional wisdom was in fact correct — the web具有turned into a popular application development environmentWhere I’d gone wrong was in getting hung up on the idea of it needing to be high-quality before it could become popular.

I was thinking in terms of the apps that I used every day, circa 1996: BBEdit, QuarkXPress, Photoshop, EudoraThere was simply no way that a “web app” could ever provide the same quality experience as the “real” apps I was already usingAnd I was right about that — the user experience of any app running in a web browser is crippled.

What I’d overlooked is that most people don’t use advanced text editors or desktop publishing software; and more importantly, most people simply don’t care about the quality of an app’s user experience一点也不They just want it to work, and to be “easy”.

My saying that web apps would never become popular was like a theater critic in the early 1950s dismissing television.

The user experience limitations of a web app are glaringly obvious. They simply don’t look or act like normal desktop appsThe browser in which they’re running —那是普通的应用程序But the web apps running within the browser aren’tThey don’t have menu bars or keyboard shortcuts(The browser itself does.) This isn’t about being “Mac-like” — it applies equally to Windows and open source desktop platformsInstead of looking and feeling like real Mac/Windows/Linux desktop apps, web apps look and feel like web pages.

The persnickety little UI details I obsess over — these are nothing compared to the massive deficiencies of even the best web appBut most people don’t care, because web apps are just so damned easy to useWhat’s interesting is that web apps are “easy” despite their glaring user experience limitations.

What they’ve got going for them in the ease-of-use department is that they don’t need to be installed, and they free you from worrying about where and how your data is storedExhibit A: web-based email appsIn terms of features, especially comfort features such as a polished UI, drag-and-drop, and a rich set of keyboard shortcuts, web-based email clients just can’t compare to desktop email clients.


With web-based email, you can get your email from any browser on any computer on the Internet“Installation” consists of typing a URL into the browser’s location fieldThe location field is the new command line.

Google’s Gmail has turned the competition up a notch by providing a few features that actually do compare well against desktop email clients — fast, accurate search (of course), and a very nice threaded display for discussionsGmail also offers a bunch of keyboard shortcuts, implemented in JavaScript, but asMark Pilgrim described them in his Gmail review, 他们

[似乎]由vi用户设计(Ĵmoves down,ķmoves up, and we are expected to memorize multi-key sequences for navigation).

Gmail’s threading and searching are indeed nice, but its overall look-and-feel is far inferior to that of a real desktop mail client. What it has going for it is what all webmail apps have — zero installation, zero maintenance, access from any computer, anywhere (including from work, a major factor for personal email). Gmail is simply better than the other major web-based mail apps; but Yahoo and Hotmail and the others are still ragingly popular.

What I missed when I dismissed them a decade ago is that web apps don’t need to beat desktop apps on the same termsWhat’s happened is that they’re beating them on an entirely different set of terms. It’s all about the fact that you just type the URL and there’s your email.

Who Loses As Web Apps Win?

是什么让我想到这一点Joel Spolsky’s “How Microsoft Lost the API War”,上周发表的一篇很棒的文章The gist of Spolsky’s argument is that Microsoft’s crown jewel is the Win32 API — the set of programming interfaces that developers use to write desktop Windows software — and that web app development is gaining momentum, at the direct expense of Win32 development.

The reason the Win32 API is so important to Microsoft’s Windows monopoly is dependence: if your company relies on Win32 software, then it also relies on WindowsAnd conversely, as a developer, writing against the Win32 APIs allows your software to run on over 90 percent of the computers in the worldThat’s the cycle that built a $50 billion pile of cash — customers use Windows because that’s where the software is, and developers write Windows software because that’s where the customers are.

Switching to, say, Mac OS X is an expensive proposition for a large corporationNot only do you need all-new hardware, but you also need all-new softwareAnd we’re not just talking about buying new licenses — for large corporations, we’re also talking about custom apps written in-house (what do you think all those Visual Basic developers have been writing all these years?).

Switching to open source desktops — KDE or Gnome or what have you — is also expensiveNo, you don’t need new hardware, but you still run into the same situation with regard to software(Yes, I know — you can run Win32 apps on Linux using the葡萄酒Win32 emulator, or with Virtual PC for Macs, but these are second-class Win32 environmentsI’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it’s unappealing.)

然而,切换到Web应用程序 - 嗯,这是不同的It can be done gradually, because you can switch one app at a time while still running Windows, and thus, still running all your other Win32 software.

It’s not so much that switching to web apps is cheap, as that it’s easyIn fact, in many ways, switching your employees to web apps is even easier than upgrading the Win32 apps they’re already using. I.eit’s easier for corporations to migrate to web apps than it is for them to stay Windows-only.

Web应用程序更易于部署No need to install software on each client machine; there’s just one instance of the app, on a web serverEvery user gets the latest version of the software, automatically.

Custom web apps are easier to develop than custom desktop apps. That’s not to say it’s easy to make a web app that looks and feels like a desktop app — that’s not really even possibleBut it’s easy to write a web app that looks and feels like a web page, which is apparently good enough for most purposes, especially data-entry and data-retrieval apps that tie into server-hosted SQL databases.

And if you think the 90-percent market share of computers that can run Win32 software is huge — how many computers do you think run a typical web app?

大多数电子邮件网络应用(例如Gmail and Yahoo Mail) run on any computer with IE, Safari, or any Mozilla-derived browserMost weblog web apps (e.g.博客可动类型WordPress的,和的Textpattern)在我尝试过的每个浏览器中运行These apps are effectively usable from any Internet-connected computer in the world.

I’ve been thinking about the rise of the web as an application platform for a whileBut what hadn’t occurred to me until I read Spolsky’s essay last week is this, which I think is quite remarkable: Microsoft totally fucked up when they took aim at Netscape事实并非如此网景that was a threat to Windows as an application platform, it was the web itself.

They spent all that time, money, and development effort on IE, building a browser monopoly and crushing Netscape — but to what avail? Here we are, and the web is still gaining developer mindshare at the expense of Win32.

There are certainly exceptions — banking sites come to mind — but for the most part, web apps are being built to run in any modern browser, not just IE.

I think Spolsky is very much correct that Microsoft is losing the API warBut what’s ironic is that they’re losing this war despite the fact that they won the browser warWinning the browser war — destroying Netscape — was supposed to prevent there ever even being an API war.

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