Anybody else annoying at the trend of web apps as desktop apps?

Is this lazy on the part of companies or is this really the future?
In the old days, you could write a native application that was tiny and streamlined, took little memory and was fast as slick lightning.
Then companies realized it was too difficult to build native apps for all platforms so generic cross-platform libraries needed to come in to play. Programs got much larger, sometimes buggy, and would typically look best on one of the platforms but not all of them. Features might be missing depending on which platform you used.

Now it’s getting even lazier. Companies are writing fancy “websites” using loads of dependencies for the UI and then packaging up their websites in native wrappers. Now the programs are buggy, slow, chew gobs of RAM, and lack native OS feature integration.

Case in point:
I used to use Wunderlist, thought it was a pretty cool todo list app. It used to be native (or so I think?) in the the version 2 software. Now with version 3 they seemed to have gone this route. The program now lacks many features, looks worse, depends on web tech like jquery backbone.js and other scripts, and can’t do native app stuff like be pinned and run from the System Tray in the background.

This has many customers upset, and the company has been promising the return of many features such as pin to System Tray. But now it’s been months with no sign of them. Instead they ask you to go install yet another program which can pin program to the Systray. On top of this, the app skyrocketed in RAM use while simultaneously being uglier with fewer features. Where the old app might take 30MB, the new one can take up to 150MB to 200 or more. This would make my “simple todo app” the 3rd or 4th largest app I run! Unacceptable!

To take it a step further, I read one support request where the employee basically said “I looked in your account, I see you both are sharing list X …” So wait, employees can just go in anyone’s account and look at their lists and todos?! Sorry, I need a little more privacy and security than this.

I can no longer use this app. It has degraded to an insecure, web-app-in-a-wrapper that lacks common native OS features and became bloated. And no, don’t start lecturing me on “bla bla RAM is cheap bla bla”. Would you accept this logic from vehicle manufacturers? Gas is cheap, who cares about efficient use of fuel?

Personally, I don’t want “web app” native applications. This is the stuff of cheap Chromebooks and “browser OSes”. A lazy way to make cross-platform applications. There is a reason I want to live in Windows, not in a browser.

I understand that companies want their programs to work on many platforms, but I think the best way is still building apps to work according to their native environments. There is a reason people love Windows or love Macs or love Linux, because they like the native OS features and what those OSes offer. If all our programs become website wrappers, then indeed “operating systems” become little more than “browsers”.

I hope that is not the future of computing.

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The future. Why write something that has to work on a single machine, have to port it to another machine, then to another, and every machine where it wasn’t designed on it is probably going to work at reduced efficiency or just be quirky because it wasn’t designed for that machine… when you can just write a web app and it can be accessible to every single one of them without a single bit of effort put into ones that you’ve never heard of?

I’m not even talking about different OS versions like Linux or OSX or Windows. You run into these problems with different versions of the same OS. Then different configurations, etc. Lots and lots to manage all removed by web apps. Take .NET 3.5, 4, and 4.5 for example. You have to load all these dependencies regardless, it’s a heck of a lot easier to do it on the web and you don’t have to worry about it conflicting with some other dependency used by some other app installed on the user’s machine.

Most browsers go by the standards set by the w3c, OS GUIs do not have anything like this and never will. The time for that has long passed.

Not only that, but you don’t have to install web apps and all the security issues that come with installing random pieces of software from random developers are removed.

##Bring on the web app revolution.

I can not think of a single business case where it wouldn’t be easier, faster, cheaper, and better to write it as a web app. The only time you need native apps is when you need to interface with hardware and even then a lot of those apps do everything else based on web technologies. And I’m not talking about the same kind you are where it’s obvious.

Also, all your issues with RAM and speed and what not are not removed by native apps. In fact, they can be worse because your OS may not shut down that app entirely when you close it.


Because of what I said. Generic “web apps” that aren’t designed for native OS are quirky, buggy, bloated, and lazy. If “porting” an app to another OS it “wasn’t designed on” makes it have “reduced efficiency” or be quirky, then how much more reduced efficiency to build apps designed for no OS at all?

W3C standards are fine for websites, not so fine when people want powerful desktop applications. Have you ever seen Netbeans in a web app? Can I produce movies with Sony Vegas in a web app? Visual Studio? Even MS Office? The web apps fail miserably for anything requiring depth or power, speed, etc etc.
OS GUIs have “standards” if by standards you define it as using native OS components. Most every Windows app I use has a pretty familiar-looking frame, menus, buttons, etc.
Do I really want Sony Vegas to look exactly like MS Office and exactly like Adobe Photoshop? No, standards be hanged, they build these apps to be as productive as possible for their intended purpose and have full creative freedom to do so.

Last I checked, every virus and malware infection EVER came from “bad websites” that essentially began the infection process and downloaded something. Nothing inherently safe about web apps. Besides, aren’t all web apps also just “random pieces of software from random developers”?? As if web apps can only be created by saints?
Instead, now all your data is in the ominous “cloud”, managed by random people using random security practices with random protocols and one has no idea if their information is being stored safe and secure and by whom, where, and who has access. At least with native apps, the data is on your own machine.

Yes, that’s great for a business. Meaningless to most end users. There is a reason I can’t get almost ANY popular Mac application on Windows, because it is the “Mac experience”.
We’re not just talking about interfacing with hardware, we’re talking about interfacing with just about anything in the native OS. Web apps live in a bubble, a browser with a border. I see that as nothing but limitations.

RAM and speed issues CAN be fixed by native apps, assuming the developers know what they’re doing. I’ve had every web app I’ve ever used, crash on me many times, from email to editors to form builders and designers, file managers, picture editors, office apps and even CMSes. I’ve spent time typing something only to have the app freeze on save or crash entirely when dragging and dropping a file. Animations, videos, or large data processing apps tend to be the worst.
I rarely ever see a crash in any native app, ever. When I click a button, it does its thing. When I click buttons in a web app, who knows if it’ll work. Take my example of Wunderlist again. When I click on a list and choose to email the list, a new email message pops right up. When I choose a different list and click email, nothing happens at all. Just nothing. Why? I don’t know, it probably does work in the Firefox version, maybe not the Chrome version, maybe it works in the Apple port browser frame, but maybe now the Windows one? Far from perfect.

Anyway, I don’t mean to rant forever. I agree with you in that most all “simple” apps and “website-looking” tools can easily be put in a wrapper and be fine 99% of the time. But now, in 2015, the only thing that happens when I find a webpage-app-in-a-wrapper trying to pretend it’s a real application is that it ends up annoying the tar out of me and being removed in favor of a true native program that can act like one. Same thing on my Android. I install an app thinking it will benefit me, only to find out it’s just the webpage loading in a frame. Useless. A bookmark in Chrome works as well.

I know I’m already defeated here, and webpages-in-wrappers are the new norm, but it is far from being perfect in 2015. Maybe by 2020 things will be sorted out!


MS has also hinted at a cloud based IDE in some of their vNext blog posts, though I don’t think they have specifically said it. Office is also something that people are expecting to come to web based, Google Docs has been around for years and I just read something last week that said MS had something like Google Docs internally before Google Docs was ever thought of.

Sony Vegas is an example of an app that probably needs dedicated processing power and direct access to hardware, much like high end video games still do.

They came from people downloading and installing stuff from bad websites. Pretty much everything you install, up to widely used software like Flash and Java Runtime, includes some form of adware or spyware.

Back in the early days of the internet I got plenty of Viruses, Adware, Spyware, Toolbars, and all that from semi-legitimate sources. If you would like to test this out, CNet is still around with lots of software pleasantly wrapped in 5 layers of Adware. Never have I got one from a web app, because it’s just not possible.

It’s been a long time since ActiveX bugs in IE6 (and below) were exploited to download malicious software on their own.

No, it’s great for users. No more versioning, no more updating, no more security hotfixes. Just the app right there in their browser anywhere in the world they want to access it from any device and from any computer, be it a borrowed kiosk or their smartphone or their laptop or anywhere else.

Are you writing a novel and you got your laptop stolen by someone in Hong Kong on vacation? No problem, it’s still saved in your Google Docs. Just get back to it whenever you get a new computer.

I don’t know what you’re talking about crashing here. Web Apps don’t usually crash… because if they are crashing, they can be fixed without the user ever doing anything but reloading it.

Native apps crash… all the time. I had 3 apps running on my Android crash this morning. To fix it, it has to be patched and downloaded and God forbid if you’re going through something like the Apple App Store or Google Play, because it’s going to be days or even weeks until you can patch your software. This last reason is why many apps are opting for web based apps, so they can be updated when the developer wants, not after they go through a long review process and possibly be denied.

As far as buttons working, you’re confusing bad software with web apps. A button can be broken on any GUI. That’s not something limited to web apps. Again, to fix it you gotta go back through the whole patch and approval process. On a web app you just press F5.


Hmm cool, rent a basic editor on the internet. Or just install a free one. Plus that, don’t like it.

Don’t like them either. Invariably I begin writing a document and 3 sentences/rows in, I need a feature only the desktop versions have. That is, if the app hasn’t crashed or froze up yet :wink:

Not sure where this mindset comes from. Anything is possible with programs, one way or another. There can easily be crummy, spammy, thieving, poorly written, or destructive web apps just like there can be desktop apps. Maybe they don’t secure your data, maybe they steal and sell your data? Maybe they don’t encrypt on the user side and thus all their employees have full access to everything? No guarantees.

I wouldn’t be too quick to accept this mindset either. It’s the old disgusting attitude of Zuckerberg, just release your crap now, fix it later. With desktop apps, you tend to get a solid product from day 1. Patches are few and far between. But web apps? Heck, who cares if they are buggy, insecure, crash all the time and have features missing and UI elements that don’t work, you can always send a patch or a hotfix!
The process of updating desktop apps is little more than clicking “OK” on a popup when an update is ready, if you want it!
The Internet is full of complainers who just get used to their web app, only to find it morphing into something else the next time they log in.

What you’re saying isn’t false, but it’s just selling a story. The reality is, web apps come and go, companies go under, mr. lone programmer got too popular too fast and couldn’t handle it and abandons his program. Employees leave, split, build another sister app with the stuff they wanted. Sure, you log in and some fixes have been applied, or you “try” to log in and find the app is closed. What do you do when your favorite app goes under and never had a data export feature properly built?
Silicon Valley is chock full of fly by night web app startups, but all my favorite desktop tools I’ve been using for a couple decades.
It isn’t all gold that glitters!

I guess that’s your experience? Maybe it’s the browser that crashes, maybe processes in another tab, maybe the post_max_size was reached, maybe they had poor error handling, maybe the antivirus or some plugin caused it. Maybe the magical hotfixes got applied in the middle of your work being saved? There is nothing magical about a web app that makes it more robust. It’s built on a splathering of disparate tools all trying to work together, all applying hotfixes at random times :wink:

Yes, it can, but I find that companies who write desktop apps perhaps do a little more beta testing and review before release, since they don’t follow the Zuckerberg model as much, hoping future bug fixes will save us all. Hoping the “community” will “contribute” to their product by submitting bug reports and even code as well. It seems to be mainly in the web apps department where companies are asking their users to do the programming and bug fixing for them.

And it’s been said, make stuff simple, but not simpler. Maybe you can hit F5 in a browser, after it loses all your data you just typed, but in a desktop app, I don’t have to hit anything.

Bottom line I suppose, web apps aren’t for everything, as you mentioned. But the quality and care needs to improve greatly. Until web app developers treat their software with the seriousness of robust desktop developers, they will continue being plagued with these issues.

No, it’s complex and a fully featured IDE complete with it’s own micro-VPS instance to run your code. It’s quite the work of engineering.

I don’t use it, but it exists and it is very good.

From being an educated professional developer and a deep understanding what software applications are capable of and what they aren’t. :wink:

Maybe I’m alone then? Who knows? But right now web apps annoy me.Only when they are packaged up in a frame pretending to be a desktop apps that is.

I for one don’t look forward to a day where operating systems are just glorified browsers. Where your entire life and work exists in a cloud and everything disappears when the Internet shuts off.
Well, what am I saying, that day is already here.

Rant over

Not sure where this mindset comes from. Anything is possible with programs, one way or another. There can easily be crummy, spammy, thieving, poorly written, or destructive web apps just like there can be desktop apps. Maybe they don’t secure your data, maybe they steal and sell your data? Maybe they don’t encrypt on the user side and thus all their employees have full access to everything? No guarantees.

Then stop using computers, period. Not just the internet / web apps. lol.

With desktop apps, you tend to get a solid product from day 1. Patches are few and far between

That’s… amusing. I, and everyone I can remember that I have interacted with in an IT role or assisted with such, experience far, far more crashing with desktop and native apps than web apps. And I’ve not seen a software product in years that I’ve used release without immediate patching of problems.

It’s built on a splathering of disparate tools all trying to work together, all applying hotfixes at random times

… proving you have no idea what you’re talking about, as that’s a really random blanket statement that definitely doesn’t apply universally to “web apps” in general.

Only when they are packaged up in a frame pretending to be a desktop apps that is.

Web apps pretending to be desktop apps can be annoying, especially when they’re literally framed in a native program, but most of them aren’t pretending. Why would they want to be desktop apps :wink:

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History repeats itself. This is not the first time that cloud services get really big… and then companies decide to run their own servers, not using web apps, etc… and then, some other day, cloud services will be big again.

I wouldn’t worry too much :smiley:

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It’s kinda funny that we are sorta reverting back to the old old old terminal only computer days.

But for now, it makes sense.



History repeats itself. This is not the first time that cloud services get really big… and then companies decide to run their own servers, not using web apps, etc… and then, some other day, cloud services will be big again.

That’s an interesting outlook. I guess I see nothing but expanding cloud services. Individually I’ve seen a business here or there revert to private hosting of software or whatnot, but overall… the trend globally definitely seems to be steadily upwards towards web apps and “the cloud” - and not going back and forth, at all - at least from where I’m standing. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a different question, as discussed up there ^ lol.

To be fair I’m often not standing where I’m supposed to be :wink:

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While I do not agree with most of what you’ve been saying, so far, I must chime in total agreement on one thing.

This is what Bill Gates has as a vision of the future: no one will have an actual computer, just a dumb-terminal that is connected to the internet, all your documents and programs are cloud-based, and you pay a fee to have access to “programs” and your data. No local operating system outside of whatever BIOS is used to connect to the cloud, and that will be updated/upgraded when THEY want it to, not you. You will have no control over that.

As soon as I heard Gates make that statement, red flags and loud sirens started going off in my head. MAJOR concern.

The first issue I have with this scenario is that the government will not require a subpoena or warrant to search your data. At any time, on their whim, the contents of what you have in the cloud, whatever you’re working on can be accessed and scrutinized.

Don’t give me the “well, if you aren’t doing anything illegal you have nothing to worry about” argument. It’s still a massive violation of privacy, regardless of the legal, moral, or ethical status of said content. Period. If you live in a country where this is the norm, then you’ll be fine with it. I live in the US. There is a Constitutional amendment against unreasonable search and seizure that will be promptly ignored, if Gates gets his way.

The second issue I have with this scenario is - I’m not able to control physical or network access to my programs or data. If someone drops the ball and my stuff is hacked, I have no recourse. On my personal network with my computers, I’m the one responsible for preventing unauthorized physical or network access. ME. If someone hacks my stuff, I’m the one to blame.

Okay… off my soapbox.


For the reasons you outlined, is exactly why the world will never truely accept that vision. There will always be the need for entirely sandboxed in-house systems in places like Medical, Military, Government, and DoD, as well as the people who just like to host their own stuff (or are overly paranoid).

For instance, I’ll probably be installing Own Cloud on a VPS this weekend, mostly just because I want to and I heard it’s good. (and I’m also hoping to get access to my 400mb Wallpaper collection at work since Dropbox and Google Drive are blocked :wink:)

I tried out Own Cloud awhile ago and basically gave up bothering. It’d probably be fun to tinker with though.

I heard it’s pretty easy to install, like installing WP.

There is also an Own Cloud Digital Ocean Droplet, which I’ll probably do if I really like it. For now I’m going to throw it on a utility VPS I rent.

I will keep my fingers crossed, but I will not hold my breath.

We now live in a day and age when the younger generation has zero concept of privacy. Many/Most will post just about ANYthing about themselves on (anti-)social media and network. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would probably postulate that this was intentionally started by either government or corporate interests who want to control the masses by slowly getting everyone used to living in glass houses; so gradually that no one notices. We are, sadly, going in that direction.

I much prefer Robert Heinlein’s view of the future, where there is a public sphere and a private sphere, and ne’er twixt the two shall pass. What is public is public, what is private is private. But there are too many people who are not happy unless they are dictating to everyone else how to live their life. Sad.


Well the idea that “if you aren’t doing anything wrong you have nothing to hide” is wrong for more reasons than that it is a violation of privacy. In that situation it’s not your definition of what is wrong and right that is being utilized. It is the government’s definition. Which is completely out of your control. According to some burearucrat, who you voted for or something you posted on social media is worth violating your rights over. Whether you think what you are doing is wrong is irrelevant these days.

Not all non-native desktop products are the same. Some use a lot of native code and are pretty light on the use of Javascript or other scripting. Something like Titanium just hooks JS into native APIs. Which isn’t that far from some native apps which provide scripting for automated tasks in terms of what code does the most work. Others go more toward hooking a browswer engine into custom native code. Still others bundle a server and all the files one would normally deploy to for a web site into an executable bundle.

Something like Haxe gives you a familiar ECMA script foundation which can then be compiled into native code (albeit slightly larger). I think it’s not just up to the developer to write good code, but pick the right tools and I think all of those have their place. Use the wrong tool you are going to have issues.

Being able to do things offline and have access to native OS features is a big plus for some of this stuff but it sounds like the OP has come across some apps made with some of the more limited tools. Most of the products like this I’ve used have a lot of native OS access. The company I work for currently uses XUL runner as the basis for their main app. The entire business is dependent on it’s success and it works very well.

I’ve been playing with doing an app with JRuby and JavaFX and I haven’t found it to be buggy or espectially slow for what I’m asking it to do.

You might need to get out more! This is exactly where web apps are heading. No more BYOC (bring your own code) and the “don’t reinvent the wheel” philosophy. Apps are moving in the direction of being lego castles built up of other people’s lego blocks. Ever heard of Composer and the Vendor folder?

My point is that a nice solid desktop application, written FOR that OS using native tools, creates a strong, independent, tightly coupled code base. Modern apps are build on a foundation of general 3rd party classes whose full feature sets may or may not even be used. To me, this leads to much bloat and unnecessary code, and needing to manage a dozen different project updates from 3rd party programmers who may or may not actually maintain their classes over time. And whose updates may or may not break your app as well.

Bottom line is just that I like desktop apps best, end of story. That doesn’t mean I don’t use a zillion web apps; Mint, Trello, Facebook, banking, invoicing, email, sitepoint forums, etc. But I’m not ready to switch any of my power and productivity apps to websites-in-a-frame any time soon!

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