Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Web apps or desktop apps, which is better?

A simple question with no really easy answer. We went for the desktop app, there are a multitude of reasons why its better for us and our application but the same may not be true of someone else.
We needed to mesh local content with server based content. What does this mean? It means running a search on local content and Hub content at the same time and displaying the results alongside each other. It means tagging local content in the same way as Hub content. It means dragging a local file directly into the Hub so it can be backed up or shared. All these actions would be impossible with a standard web app without a pretty sophisticated client app embedded somewhere, and in the end I bet the weight of functionality would be balanced in favour of the client software, which is precisely why we started with the client. There are disadvantages of course, expense is one, time to market is another and its not supposed to be very cool, judging by the amount of investment thats being poured into pure .com social networks. Personally I think the fickleness of consumers makes some of the social network investments look risky. I'll bet Facebook or even Flickr would argue that users 'invest' time and have a 'stake' in the content they have created with tagging and uploading pictures and music etc. I'm willing to bet however that the reality is different, and that only a small percentage of users have a lot of content, if that is the case then the majority have very little content with a correspondingingly small 'investment' meaning it costs very little for them to switch to the latest newcomer.
i-Sho users on the other hand have local content organised and tagged, they own this 'structure' they can export this organisation to another pc or to a friends machine. Users really do have a stake in their content if its organised in the same way both on and offline. Neither do they mind putting in the time if they can archive the content in some way because the time isn't wasted, there is no perception that what they are doing is only a temporary online thing. This is why from a commercial perspective its much more attractive for us if we can reduce the likelihood of churn, we want our users to stay.
I daresay if you believe passionately in the brave new world of 'all online' then you'll disagree but this means you have no legacy content and nor do you keep anything locally which is unrealistic.
So, web apps are great for some things but they aren't the answer to everything for i-Sho. As we extend our offer they will allow us to extend our software but the core of what we do has to be client based for the forseeable future.