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The Internet: time to leave the browser

Tweet I’ve written about this before here on Studiowhiz, in fact I was involved in early beta tests with the Macromedia team to create a way to allow developers to drive internet based applications without the need of a browser. Kevin Lynch was then one of the top dogs at Macromedia, he coined the term [...]

I’ve written about this before here on Studiowhiz, in fact I was involved in early beta tests with the Macromedia team to create a way to allow developers to drive internet based applications without the need of a browser. Kevin Lynch was then one of the top dogs at Macromedia, he coined the term “KevinCloud” and was probably one of the first to think of the internet as a cloud.

Today GigaOM and the New York Times both talk about how Adobe is gearing up to release AIR to the public. Of course this is a good thing and I for one am happy to see this come about. After all I’ve been saying for years it’s time for the internet to operate outside the browser.

I thought I’d do a quick primer here for those of you who are unsure what all the fuss is about. There are a number of companies currently pushing to deliver a solution for the”internet aware” application market. That is an application that can be aware of the presence of the internet, it can hold information in an off line state and share that data once reconnected.

These applications are not really applications, they are files containing scripts that operate within a defined framework. For example: Adobe AIR requires a download of the AIR runtime before any AIR app can run. So too does Prism, Google Gears and JavaFX.  This is no different that a web browser needing the flash player before it can play flash. A term often bandied around these files is RIA or Rich Internet Applications.

So why do I care?
I’m glad you asked. What this potentially means for the average joe or jane, is that true data portability will be achieved, in that potentially, your data (lets say your personal todo list) can exist independent of any fixed solution. Say Studiowhiz started offering the ability to store your todo list & we stored it in an open standard format. Then say dontcom.com develops an AIR app that allows you to read, create and update your todo list from your desktop, and maybe Page92 build a mobile application that allows you to also read, create & update your todo list.  Suddenly you are no longer tied to Studiowhiz, but have your choice as to how you will consume your data.

Another great feature is that these ‘apps’ can share data with each other and with other applications you may have running. Your todo list application may have access to your address book. Meaning you can link up contact details when you put in a “Meet with Bob” todo.  You could potentially from the one app have it link to your address book, your calendar, another AIR mapping application and instantly see what you need todo, who you need to talk to about it, when it is scheduled and where you are meeting.

AIR apps are just HTML, Flash and Ajax (javascript), so instead of needing to know a full programming language (C, Delphi etc) any web based developer can build an application to run on the desktop. This will open up the desktop environment to many people who have wanted to write apps before but never have. Because the AIR app is aware of the operating system you get all the features of file system access, resource access allowing you to build things that can drag and drop from one app to another.

So what does this really mean?
Well to be honest, not a lot. It’s nothing new, it’s nothing revolutionary – or is it? The iPhone was just another mobile phone and look, Google were surprised that over 50% of their mobile traffic is from the iPhone. Sure it’s nothing new, but it’s opening up new opportunities and that, that could finally see the internet no longer bound to the browser and finally, finally we might actually attain “cloud” status for data & applications.

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2 Responses

02.26.08

I’ve already tried a few AIR apps. They seem quite good so far, although the Adobe player download is very hefty (about 18 megs!) which may put some people off. I think the whole reason Macromedia did well is they made the flash player less than a meg, so almost anyone was prepared to download it.

02.26.08

Hmm I didn’t think the AIR Runtime was quite 18 megs, but then I’ve not downloaded it for ages.

The smaller the better is always best in the case of downloads