The Web is a web of content, not an application framework

I’ve never been a big fan of Web “applications”. For most tasks that warrant the use of some sort of application I much prefer having a stable desktop application that adheres to the user interface conventions of the platform I’m using, and that I can use without having to be connected to the Internet.

When I use the Web, it’s first and foremost because I want to find or share information—what many call “content”. And that’s something the Web excels at. Yes, Web applications are popular. Especially among developers. But being a platform for creating and delivering applications is not what the Web does best.

Instead of trying to put more words to my thinking on this, allow me to quote a couple of passages from Ben Ward’s article Understand The Web.

First a paragraph in which he talks about the purpose of the Web:

Think about that word; ‘web’. Think about why it was so named. It’s nothing to do with rich applications. Everything about web architecture; HTTP, HTML, CSS, is designed to serve and render content, but most importantly the web is formed where all of that content is linked together. That is what makes it amazing, and that is what defines it. This purpose and killer application of the web is not even comparable to the application frameworks of any particular operating system.

Then a few sentences on why the Web is great for content but Web applications in general do not offer a particularly good user experience:

The success of the web, the success of this impossibly huge network of information is because of the open, universally accessible, cross-platform, cross-device nature of web content. Cross-platform user interface sucks. It’s a nightmare of inconsistency and wrong, momentarily obsoleted assumptions. But cross-platform content? Well that is content.

Finally something I touched upon in the first paragraph of this post—applications made specifically for a platform are better than cross-platform Web applications:

I honestly think that ‘Desktop-class Web Applications’ are a fools folly. Java, Flash, AIR and QT demonstrate right now that cross-platform applications are always be inferior to the functionality and operation of the native framework on a host platform.

Cross-platform content, on the other hand, does not have that same problem.

Posted on May 10, 2010 in Web Standards, Browsers, Accessibility