Five reasons I’m a Browser

The next decade will see the continued rise of the browser as the platform, and I’m ready to ride the wave. Here’s a look into five reasons why I enjoy the web and all that it offers us.

Install Not Required

Open a brand new computer, start the browser, access a website, and finally close the browser. No more 5-hour reformat process, only to then have to install ten or more applications which can each take quite a while. Now you just access the application by URL and login. That’s it, nothing to install, no keys to enter – just register, pay if required, and login. Now you are not tied to a single machine, but instead can use any computer device that has a browser. Also, beyond just not needing to install anything, you also always have access to the latest and greatest version of the application, even if this does allow companies like Google to keep their apps in perpetual beta.

View Source FTW

The internet would not be as fast and open if it weren’t for the simple fact that HTML – and its modern partners CSS and Javascript – is delivered to the user in its source format. Most web developers even today get their start by looking at other sites, learning from them and copying their markup and code. I seriously hope that the web continues to stay open with the majority of websites and web applications using plain-text (not binary) markup and code. While I am one who appreciates the capabilities that Flash, Java, and Silverlight give developers, it seems that having a single, open environment that every device implements will be extremely useful. Hopefully a concept of viewing the source is still available amongst the changes and innovations.

Google and their Apps

Google has really redefined how we think about the web, especially for developers as they have pushed HTML 5 forward and Javascript to new levels of performance. While I do think Google will be visited by the Department of Justice in the next year or two, I still can’t help but love every successful solution they have created. Their office suite is decent, but its killer feature, of course, is the ability to collaborate in real-time, and it’s extremely useful. Google Voice has changed how I receive voice mail and text messages, the chat history in Gmail chat has come in handy more than once, and I have been using Google Reader to easily read through hundreds of blogs. It’s undeniable that Google will remain a leader in the browser ecosystem.

Cloud Computing and Synchronization

It’s great to be able to post my photos to Facebook and share them with anyone in the world, or upload a document to Google Docs and edit it with another person. Keeping a local copy of your data is not only smart, but is something I think will be a standard practice even if others say you’ll just store everything in the cloud. I believe that synchronization is key ingredient and differentiates from the cloud computing of the past – namely thin-clients and dumb-terminals – by utilizing computers as smart-clients. Applications have started to utilize these mechanisms to bring offline capabilities. Solutions like DropBox or Microsoft’s Live Mesh are bringing synchronized storage solutions to the world. With these solutions you now have access from any connected computer to applications and data, but also high performance computing from your synchronized machines.

Javascript and its Frameworks

Coming from an academic background, I found Javascript to be a little under-powered when I first started developing websites, but now realize that it’s mostly the DOM that’s the problem. Even five years ago it was still just a scripting language. However, it has matured and grown up into a very powerful language that is breaking out from its dynamic HTML past. Incredible frameworks have been written – jQuery being my go-to tool of choice – that abstract away browser differences and make working with the DOM mostly tolerable. After Google came along with V8 in Chrome, the other browsers followed to make Javascript fast enough to emulate Flash. Even server developers are testing out Javascript end-to-end to allow writing functions that work on both the client and the server. Overall, I’m surprised how much I enjoy the language and it only gets better each day I use it. There is still a long road ahead for HTML, CSS, and Javascript to catch up to the performance that Flash or Silverlight can bring, but it’s catching up quickly with Canvas, <video>, local storage, and even 3D APIs that can be accessed using Javascript. It’s time to embrace the fact that Javascript is here to stay and one must either get on board or watch as the train leaves the station.