The Web, the Desktop, and the Google between

Chrome OS is Google's proof-of-concept for a future where everything - both data and the programs and services that manipulate them - will live on the wide web. I don’t personally find it a very appealing path either, and the things I’ll be talking about below will probably explain why.

Innovation on the browser has been relatively slow despite there being multiple parties working on it, and the browser today isn’t exactly a fundamentally different creature from the first Netscape browsers that we used – we just got more tabs and better ways of remembering and revisiting favourite sites. The thing that has really been changing and enhancing our web experience is changes in the wide web itself – the evolution from static web pages to having guestbooks and then the appearance of forums and blogs and wikis and now powerful social networks. However, the influence of web-bound technologies will always be rate-limited by hardware – network bandwidth, speed, reliability – as well as Internet availability, which is still atrocious in some countries, and doesn’t look like it’s improving in too much of a hurry. In other words, it’ll probably take a looong time before we have the infrastructural power needed to support a truly ubiquitous computing platform that exclusively relies on web technologies. In yet other words, even if Google wants to diminish the desktop and ‘replace’ it with the browser, it’s not gonna happen soon. So the desktop is gonna be sticking around – what does it do in the meantime? Sit around and wait, maintaining an awkward relationship with the browser?

I think the desktop can do better.