Web Applications seems to be the only thing people are talking about these days. Designers, back-end programmers, or just people somehow involved in the world of web design most likely have heard about this. Yes, the current stage we are in has been dubbed "Web 2.0," but what the future holds for us is still pretty vague, even though we're already seeing the "Web 3.0" term jumping around.
Okay, down to business. We've got Web 2.0 packed with technologies like PHP, MySQL, AJAX, and Ruby on Rails. These are the technologies that have existed for a long time, yet they still make up an entire majority of what these online/web applications are comprised of. We've got the plethora of items over at Google's side, Flickr, Digg, and a whole bunch of things are worthy of the Web 2.0 title.
Not too long ago, Adobe debuted its "AIR" framework for creating and distributing applications that would work seamlessly on all operating systems including Windows and Mac OSX. These applications are developed using, once again, current technologies of the web such as AJAX and Flash. This makes it easier than ever for many developers/designers to take advantage of this type of a platform and be able to reach mass audiences. More after the jump...
Now, the main question that we should (at least I am) be asking is, will these Adobe AIR applications be truly "web" applications? They are designed to run when your machine is offline, and synchronize with the online portion/database/etc. right when you connect to the net. This can be extremely helpful for things like keeping data backed up, but that's not "new" by any means. What would be interesting is if every application you installed on your computer also came with an online interface - which would be accessible from any other machine.
If you're wondering what's the point of having the applications installed on the hard disk if it's all doable online, the main reason I could think of is performance and stability. Web browsers today still manage to take up a lot of unnecessary system resources, and until Firefox 3 or 4 fixes this issue down to it being seamless, web-only will not happen.
I strongly encourage the growing use of current technologies to create online applications, because as far as we're concerned, we still have yet to discover the limits of them. Maybe a couple of years down the line, a new method of online development will be created that'll incorporate so well with us designers and coders, that it'll create another whole new Web X.X fad. This will of course, have it's benefits, but I guess we can't really do much to prevent "bad design" from happening.
Looking amazing is a whole new chapter of the book, but it's worth mentioning anyway! Education in design and development is an extremely important factor of what the future will grow to be. Rather it's taught by Universities, or people learn on their own, those who already know or will know, should take the sincere responsibility to make the future of our precious internet, enjoyable. Like I said, we probably can't avoid 12 year old kids stealing business from those who actually make a living off of design work, but we can do this: Talk to your clients about this business. Tell your clients to talk them about it. Blog about it. Whine about it. This way, people will notice the skill and dedication that is required by web creators, and hopefully help make things straight.
What's Next in Part 2: Online Image Editing, Audio Editing, 3D, Desktop publishing, Word processing, and more!
Also: The future of web applications on mobile devices! Yes, that poor $700 thing you just bought may start serving a purpose - but not yet.