Thursday, May 31, 2007

WebBrowser + Embedded WebServer + Embedded DataBase = Google Gears


Today I found out about a new Google project, Google Gears... a new browser plugin... that adds an SQL database and a local, only for that browser on that machine "Web Server" (oh, and an external WorkerPool for threaded asynchronous proceseses)...

So... now the that WebBrowser has an SQL database... a Worker Pool ... and a WebServer... it can run disconnected applications... you can save you emails locally... or your blog entries... or your RSS (I believe that is what google reader does)... WebApplications are now... Desktop applications... (or RIAs as they are called now).

So... now... what is the real advantage of  a RIAG (a RIA with "Google Gears") vs a Desktop App? Well, lets look at its features.. the RIAG... is slower (interpreted)... needs a plugin like Flash to do  real graphical stuff... it can't access anywhere on disk  (we could say it has its own SQL based filesystem)... therefore it is still not better for graphically intensive applications (I don't see a Photoshop or 3dStudio killer in the near future) ...  but could be a nice idea for desktop like stuff (for example a disconnected mail reader, or perhaps even a disconnected wiki). But wait... we already have disconnected mail readers...  (well, but they are not multiplatform.... mmmm... wait, Thunderbird IS multiplatform... and of course we have Java to create those multiplaform mail readers if we need to do so)... okay, but we can create a multiplatform Office like system (yes, a revolutionary idea... wait... what about OpenOffice?) and of course building an Office in a technology like JavaScript will make it really fast in standard hardware (like the very successful Java Office built by Corel a few years ago... wait... never heard of it? mmm, maybe it wasn't that successful... I wonder if that was because Java was really slow on hardware back then... )

Of course... none of that is going to stop Google Gears... people are just hypnotized with building stuff in the "web way" (even if can be done easier on the Desktop)... the way I see it.. with all this stuff, as the "thin client" of the WebBrowser becomes a "rich client" it is also gaining weight, becoming fat, becoming a fat client... so... by this logic... adding a plugin to all available browsers... it is better than a Java applet... but I can't find a logical reason for that... the new RIAs are just applications that use the browsers as the platform.... the  difference with windows applications? that there are many different browsers following the HTML/JavaScript standard, and only 1 windows (of course every browser follows the standard on its own particular way)... the difference with Java? (there isn't, but RIAs are slower... and sliced in pages... that seem to be faster to download... but in fact they consume even more bandwidth than classic fat clients with their proprietary binary protocols ), perhaps the key here is the "openness" of HTML & XML and JSON as protocols for communication (but that can also be done in Java, or in .NET & Mono)

So...  I just don't get it... what it is so great about adding a database plugin to the browser? by following this path all that we are doing is reinventing the wheel (everything that can already be done outside the browser is being re-built inside it... until RIAs become as Fat as Fat-Clients... and then someone else invents the new Thin-Client... and the story repeats again).

I guess the software industry is really, really iterative... we need to go back to an re-try stuff from the previous iteration... to realize it wasn't such a bad idea... enhance that idea... and from there, realize that the idea from 2 iterations ago, was the solution for the drawbacks of our current problems...

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