Feb 17, 2009

Will the browser die?

I think so. I haven't looked to see who else agrees with this but in looking at Twitter's API and the number of clients that have sprung up, I am certain that we will soon see the browser's demise - for the most part. I imagine that there will be some use for browsers but specialization appears to be on the rise.

TweetDeck and Twhirl are specific to twitter but look also at "Spotify" - similar to itunes - which opts for a specialized client rather than a browser interface.

This may seem counter-intuitive. Who wants to run 5 applications in order to get access to web apps? The problem is that HTML over httpd is so limiting and challenging to engineering teams, that it actually may make sense to spend time supplying clients that work on different platforms rather than wading through css hell just to make an app look and act the same for the variety of browsers available.

What may end up driving a move to specialized client development is smart-phone adoption. If you think the time and effort required to deal with IE vs Firefox is bad, try developing an app that works well on a mobile browser. With most of the 2.0 applications making heavy use of image buttons, javascript and CSS - which is spotty at best on a mobile browser, it makes little sense to spend time on such efforts until mobile browsers evolve. But why do it at all when you could simply develop an app native to the mobile device that does the same thing without having to deal with css or javascript?

This translates well to the PC. With broadband access becoming ubiquitous, we may see the end of the stateless web app. Really, the only thing preventing stateful apps from being developed was the HPPD protocol - which insists that everything delivered over the internet be ASCII - and the limited bandwidth available on the internet. That is obviously changing rapidly and broadband cell networks such as 3G and the smartphones which connect to them are pushing us closer and closer to a time when the browser may be a dinosaur rotting in the La Brea tar pits right beside the 56k modem.

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