The Best Website is the One I Don't Have to Visit
by Jon on Friday, January 11, 2008 file under: Technology

I've come to the conclusion that I don't like webapps. Some of them are cute or convenient, but in whole, they all have the same flaws: they require internet connectivity, they all reinvent common desktop application paradigms, and they don't communicate with any of the other apps that I use.

This may seem shocking, since I write webapps, a couple of which I think are pretty good. Many of the apps I work on exploit their web-by roots (they are traditional, page based sites which happen to be driven by some content management application), and all of the webapps have an API, so I (or someone more ambitious then myself), can write a decent client app which uses the web.

The majority of my favorite web sites don't make me visit them. I use del.icio.us through Cocoalicous or the del.icio.us Firefox extension. I use Twitterific to get to Twitter. I use Mail to get my Gmail over IMAP, the Package Tracker widget to get stats from USPS.com, UPS.com, and DHL.com, and for the most part, NetNewsWire to read periodical websites. Even Fat Charley has an RSS feed.

This is the direction I'd like to see web development take: Client/Server for the masses, with rich apps on the client and synchronization/storage on the server. Client apps can work offline (if nothing else, to show you the last state of the server), they use native widgets, but are designed to fit within their domain (a mail app looks different then a package tracker), and they all work together with my address book, calendar, and file system.

Not only that, but people are free to use the clients they want. I like Twitterific, but maybe iTweetr is more your style. There's more mail clients then can even be mentioned. And typically, Mac users get a different selection then Windows or Linux users, with apps on each platform integrating into each environment.

Decent client apps put even the best web apps to shame, and great client apps are in a completely different league.

Don't get me wrong. HTML over HTTP is great when I'm at an unfamiliar computer and need to check my mail. But why would I want to go to a website to read other websites (web-based RSS reader).

A year ago or so I was working on just that, a web-based RSS reader along with Mike Joyce and Nick Pazoles. We were nearly read for a public beta and the app was completely usable for a daily reader. The interface was web-2.0 to the hilt: it kept track of your read status, and even had some social hooks. But I lost interest as I realized I didn't want a web app. I wanted a real reader with synchronization. (which, thanks to NewsGator, I finally have).

I like great web app when I need them, but not for general use. If you're writing a web app, give me an API, some hooks, or some kind of way to get the data programmatically. I'll be very appreciative.

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