The Role of Web Browsers

Friday, July 11, 2008

I found an old blog post from a greggles. I don't know who he is, or what he does, but he has a good point. The web application inside the browser is ideal for simple applications, but starts to suffer with higher complexities. Now, you could argue, any number of client side frameworks(AIR, Silverlight 2, Gears, etc) would solve this problem, but it still raises a question on the role of web browsers as a whole.

History Lesson:
The web browser was designed as a document viewer for files on a remote server. Every browser and standard was built to support that. With time, people grew tired of bread and water. So, now we have a "rich" ecosystem of web applications hosted at every point on the globe.

If you generalize enough, the browser, as it stands today, is a platform for developers to write applications that are compatible with multiple OSes, have built in deployment, change management, and sandboxing,
and are ubiquitous. As a programmer, I know all the features listed are surmountable with existing programming techniques and focused effort.

My Question:
Should the web browser continue to take on this role as programming platform?

My Conclusion:
The logical path is to have the web browser evolve into a pure data format viewer component and run applications inside an isolated virtual machine. With an automated system for synchronizing code and data, all the points from above can be solved while allowing for the full use of libraries, tools, and languages available to system programmers.

Now I just have to figure out how to make it easy to use and build it for free.

[Edit] (2008.07.20) I just read the wikipedia entry for application virtualization expressing a better point. Oops. Next time I will think about researching something first.