06 January 2009

Web browser: lousy universal client

I think the iPhone is reïnforcing for me is that web browsers still aren’t a good universal client, despite how far they’ve come and despite their success in that area. I almost always prefer a stand-alone iPhone app to accessing the site itself via Mobile Safari. Even sites that are optimized for Mobile Safari. Heck, I sometimes prefer the iPhone app to the site on my desktop web browser.

While I haven’t tried my hand at writing an iPhone app, I suspect they’re often easier to write than the web app itself.

There’s also the observation that the optimized-for-Mobile-Safari version of a site is often better than the site itself. So how much of it is that web browsers make lousy universal clients and how much is it that they merely aren’t well used?


Philotomy said...

I develop applications for the medical industry. A few years ago, almost all of our development targeted the browser. As an experiment, I duplicated some of our web applications with web-deployed rich client applications (these used Java and Swing, and connected to the same back-end services as the web apps). The response from users was an overwhelming preference for the Swing applications over the web apps. The apps behaved like "real" applications, were perceived as being faster, et cetera.

In addition, the Swing apps were easier to develop, and you don't have to worry about browser versions, doctypes, css, and all the rest of the headaches that accompany web application development.

We're slowly moving away from the browser as our primary client. While all this is anecdotal, and talking about Java Swing apps vs. Web Browser apps, I'm sure the same principles apply to similar technologies and platforms.

Robert Fisher said...

That’s very interesting, Phil. That’s something I should consider for the front-end I work on.

But...but...I like writing JavaScript better than writing Java these days. ^_^ (Anonymous inner classes are a sad substitute for closures.)

A sort-of sister company to mine (founded by some of the same people) have chosen to use Flash for their front-end. I don’t think that’s a way I’d want to go.

Philotomy said...

Yeah, I hear you on anonymous inner classes -- ugh. And Swing code is littered with them.

Have you looked at Groovy? I've used it for embedded scripting, but I know that some people have coded entire apps in it.

One of the guys I work with has been playing with Flash. I looked at it, briefly, a few years ago, but it wasn't my cup of tea.

Robert Fisher said...

I haven’t really looked at Groovy. Odd, since I spent a lot of time around 1998–2000 experimenting with similar ideas.

Rhino might be an option. I think one of the other groups in my company uses it. I should look into the Scheme’s that target the JVM too.

I’ve been so happy to not be using Java and the JVM since I left my last job, I have tended to avoid them. ^_^ Not that I necessarily have anything against Java. Just that I’ve done a lot of it. It was nice to get away from it to C (on the one hand) and Javascript (on the other).