Sunday, May 1, 2011

The status of web development

With the launch of Apple’s iOS App Store, and the launch of the Android Marketplace, the attention has shifted away from web-based applications and content, to apps, or applications. People thought that the idea of having a centralized source for content in the form of an app, was much more convenient. To a certain extent, aggregating content such as games or video or news, through an app is convenient, but it moves us back into the “suburbs”. The application model is “a gated community”. Applications lock you into this ecosystem and move you away from the web, whether intentionally or not. If we had a centralized source for web-based applications, that was actually practical, then everyone would be using that instead. Therefore, I thought today I would describe the status of web development as it is right now, and then talk about how we, as consumers, could make improvements.

In its current state, web development is difficult due to the sheer fact that there are many display sizes and many hardware and software vendors, all with different requirements and specifications. One might think that web development would be easy since there are no strict rules or guidelines. Even though web development being an open specification that should interoperate between all the different types of devices, is still difficult for a variety of other reasons.

Another challenge in web development that exists is that there is confusion among consumers about the difference between web applications, or content on a website, and an application that you run on your device. Local applications, also known as the ones that are stored on the device or computer, are often much easier for consumers, because these applications are accessible at the touch of a button, without having to know any URL. However, even though apps might appear to be more convenient, there is a down side. When someone is using an application, they’re receiving content that is pre-packaged and is not modifiable. The user has no control over the experience or the content. People right now do not give enough attention to Internet-focused apps. People tend to have a bias for the convenient style of doing things. As well as convenience, consumers are not willing to pay as much for web applications, as they are for local applications, since they are often more affordable compared to web applications. The stereotype that application marketplaces, such as Apple’s iOS App Store, which serves iOS users with local apps, have set upon consumers is that local applications are the better way to go. It is obvious that Apple with their iOS App Store and Android with their Marketplace, want to encourage people to invest in local applications, rather than web applications because it gives Apple and Google a great source of income. However, if consumers can overcome the big corporations that are encouraging these types of “gated communities”, then we can make a confident transition into Internet content. We need to eliminate the stereotype that web apps are not worth as much, in terms of currency, as local apps. Change is most certainly necessary here. However, that change can only occur if we change people’s opinions about web applications.

Some “die hard”, or devoted developers, are weary of using the web to host their content because they are afraid that they are going to run into serious obstacles or that the web cannot provide the functionality they are looking for. I have some fantastic news for those developers, there’s no need for this concern! In fact, HTML5 alongside JavaScript and CSS3 is very powerful. In many ways, it would be easier for developers to develop in these languages because those languages are widely accepted now in most modern browsers for desktops and mobile devices alike. The overall development process would be a lot simpler, and a lot cheaper than a developer dedicating him or herself to a specific platform.

I have only described some of the obstructions in the way right now for web developers. There are much more and I could go on forever describing them, but those are just the main problems that we need to focus on as consumers, and web developers need to tackle as well. Despite these roadblocks, I am optimistic in that these challenges can be beat. The experience using web-based content will be greatly improved and may eventually be much more desirable compared to applications. Sure, it will take some time for all the changes necessary to take place, but in the end, it’ll be worth it. Consumers will just have to be patient in the meantime.

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