on Apr 9th, 2007Push for offline web applications
We have come full circle with regards to the web. The work offline option in IE that was used in the dial up era has resurfaced because of unreliable broadband . Unstable wireless connections have made offline availability of applications very critical, at least for productivity apps like spreadsheet and mail (mind you, these apps have asynchronous write backs for every space that you type).
So, whats all this buzz about? Its about making web applications work even when you are not connected to the net -think of it as pulling an outlook in web applications. This area has seen a lot of action recently with the launch of many products and technologies that help achieve the cause. Om Malik has called it the age of the hybrid apps.
The biggest problem, of course is the availability of ubiquitous broadband, without which even the smartest web application is as bright as Paris Hilton -Om
There have been a flurry of launches int his space starting with the Adobe’s hope for the future, Apollo, which was released in its early alpha stages to users, downloadable here. The other releases like Yahoo Widgets 4 which offered desktop widgets which were available offline, and Joyent’s slingshot which allows offline capabilities on rails applications. Some of the early products that gave offline capabilities include Zimbra mail and now released desktop, Zoho office suite and some other productivity apps that I cannot recall. We even have Dekoh a sub continental player in this space that allows for developers to build collaborative webtop based apps on their platform. The newly released Live mail service could definitely use an offline offering to maintain its monopoly in the market.
Firefox 3 is also adding a storage elementÂ , sort of like a datastore for applications to access and store data to be sync’d later with the server. Apollo solves this problem by allowing filesystem access which is a rare commodity in web technologies.
One project I followed closely throughout its development was the Dojo offline toolkit that has been released now with some minor bugs. If you are a developer interested in building offline apps, then I suggest you use Dojo as there is none simpler. With the advent of more widget based applications, webtops and other concepts of the future,we will be seeing a lot of activity in this space.