If you play online games, use an online photo editor, or rely on web-based services like Google Maps, Twitter, Amazon, YouTube or Facebook, then you’re an active resident in the wonderful world of web apps.
What exactly is a web app, anyway? And why should we care?
App is shorthand for an application. Applications are also called programs or software. Traditionally, they’ve been designed to do broad, intensive tasks like accounting or word processing. In the online world of web browsers and smart phones, apps are usually nimbler programs focused on a single task. Web apps, in particular, run these tasks inside the web browser and often provide a rich, interactive experience.
Google Maps is a good example of a web app. It’s focused on one task: providing helpful map features within a web browser. You can pan and zoom around a map, search for a college or cafe, and get driving directions, among other tasks. All the information you need is pulled into the web app dynamically every time you ask for it.
This brings us to four virtues of Web Appiness:
1. I can access my data from anywhere.
In the traditional world of desktop applications, data is usually stored on my computer’s hard drive. If I’m on vacation and leave my computer at home, I can’t access my email, photos, or any of my data when I need it. In the new world of web apps, my email and all my data are stored online on the web. I can get to it on a web browser from any computer that’s connected to the Internet.
2. I’ll always get the latest version of any app.
Which version of YouTube am I using today? What about tomorrow? The answer: Always the latest. Web apps update themselves automatically, so there’s always just one version: the latest version, with all the newest features and improvements. No need to manually upgrade to a new version every time. And I don’t have to go through a lengthy install process to use my web apps.
3. It works on every device with a web browser.
In traditional computing, some programs work only on particular systems or devices. For instance, many programs written for a PC won’t work on a Mac. Keeping up with all the right software can be time-consuming and costly. In contrast, the web is an open platform. Anyone can reach it from a browser on any web-connected device, regardless of whether it’s a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile phone. That means I can use my favorite web apps even if I’m using my friend’s laptop or a computer at an Internet cafe.
4. It’s safer.
Web apps run in the browser and I never have to download them onto my computer. Because of this separation between the app code and my computer’s code, web apps can’t interfere with other tasks on my computer or the overall performance of my machine. This means that I’m better protected from threats like viruses, malware and spyware.