In recent years, there’s been a major trend toward moving computer applications “into the browser”—instead of using a desktop email client that accesses a mail server over a well-documented protocol, we use “webmail.” Instead of discussions happening over email or news or on “bulletin board” servers that can be accessed with desktop clients via well-documented protocols, we have a plethora of “web forums” and blogs using various customized versions of a handful of “forum server” and “blog server” packages, to say nothing of Facebook and other social networks. And all this places increasing demands on web browsers, which were originally designed to just let users browse and navigate information formatted as hypertext.
Because web browsers—and, more importantly, the hardware they run on—don’t keep up with the load “web-apps” impose very well, this trend should be reversed. Web application developers should either provide desktop clients for their services, or at least make it simple for others to do so by exposing the functionality in well-documented, stable, protocols and APIs. But because most web-app authors don’t do this, desktop versions of the web-apps I use simply don’t exist, like the other “unwritten programs” I’ve written about.
The web-apps that I most particularly want desktop versions of include:
– Facebook. Having even two tabs open to Facebook pages can slow my laptop to a crawl. (At least Facebook Chat is now XMPP-based, so I can use a desktop client for that.)
– WordPress and Blogger. For posting to this blog I can use a desktop client, as there are well-documented protocols for that. And for reading (the text, but not the comments on) others’ blogs—so long as they send more than just an excerpt in the “feeds”—I can use a desktop blog reader. But for managing and replying to comments, commenting on others’ blogs, reading blogs that only send excerpts to my reader, and (and here is where I’d want the program to be free software, so I can add this admittedly niche feature myself) bookmarking posts (via the online bookmarking services I use) to organize and otherwise deal with later, I have to use the browser.
– Web forums or “bulletin boards”. I know of only one web-BBS server (Backtalk) with a desktop (actually, command-line) client, and that client only works with Backtalk servers, not PHPBB or any of the others.
– Google Docs. Google gets some points, in my book, for making it simple and easy to create documents by uploading files, and to download the documents, in a variety of formats (though one usually runs into formatting issues), but the real-time collaboration and (to the best of my knowledge) revision-tracking features aren’t compatible with the “download, edit, upload changes” workflow.
I know that there are some other web-apps that I’ve thought about using but don’t, or once used and have since stopped, because my computer and browser couldn’t take the load.
But (as I’ve said about each of the “apparently unwritten programs” I’ve wished for) does anyone know of any programs I’m not aware of that can help fill this gap? Or have any ideas of how to begin filling it for myself?