Coding with Jesse

The Desktop Web

August 15th, 2006

That dynamic duo Tara Hunt and her PiC Chris Messina have got me thinking. They've been talking about web applications starting to move to the desktop. Okay, that doesn't seem so interesting, desktop applications are like the oldest things there are. But we've learnt some lessons from web apps that we can try to bring back to the desktop.

Tara asks:

I sync my iPhoto with Flickr and Riya - but why couldn't I store all of that data on my desktop?

Chris sees web apps coming to the desktop more literally:

I'm seeing a third generation stack emerging that holds a great deal of promise for sewing up the future of offline-sync-online experiences.

That stack looks a bit more like Rails, SQL Lite (which the next rev of the Firefox bookmarks will be based on), Microformats, some blend of JSON/AMASS/jQuery/behaviour.js/scriptaculous/prototype and, yes, WebKit. What do they have in common? Well, enough inter-woven stickiness to make the heart of a true web geek start to murmur.

This got me thinking about something nobody really talks or cares about anymore: peer-to-peer.

Why doesn't every computer on the web run it's own web server? If you want to share something with the world (photos, music, a blog, etc.), you put it on your personal web server and people come to you.

Try to do this today. I ran a web server off my own computer for a few years in University.. that is, until the assholes at Rogers Cable told me to block port 80 or they would cut off my Internet service.

Okay, I understand the logistical problems here. Even our high-speed Internet connections couldn't handle the bandwidth issues of a busy web site, let alone a dial-up connection. And we would have to leave our computers running all the time. We would also need a static IP or heavily use, plus I can't picture average Internet users configuring their router to port forward to their personal web servers, nor configuring Apache. Not to mention the security implications.

Okay, it sounds like a bad idea for 2006. But I'm talking about the future of the web here.

Eventually, I hope, our current bandwidth will be as funny as 2400-baud modems are to us now. Eventually, perhaps, IPv6 will let every device have a static IP so we won't have to hide behind our routers. Eventually, when a web server becomes as easy to set up as a web browser, we will find them in every household. Eventually.


1 . Chris Messina on August 16th, 2006

Chris Messina

Heh, I guess I actually *presume* P2P in my offline-sync-online world... where resources will be dynamically loaded wherever they are on the network -- locally, p2p or remote.

I think it's an obvious way to emeliorate the low-bandwidth problems plaguing the developing world as well -- and something that needs to happen given disjoint ad-hoc wifi networks.

2 . Jesse Skinner on August 17th, 2006

Jesse Skinner

This reminds me of BBS days.. I'd sometimes use offline software that would download all the messages on a BBS in a few seconds, let me disconnect and write replies, then I'd reconnect and sync.

I guess there may be more lessons to learn from BBSes, these servers running on home computers that weren't always online. That was really peer-to-peer.

Comments are closed, but I'd still love to hear your thoughts.