Friday, March 14, 2008


12 years ago James Fallows, in a remarkably prescient article about "Java theory", argued that computing would gradually migrate from the personal computer to the web. Web computing has indeed become a distinctive feature of web2.0, and Mozilla Prism takes web applications out of your browser and lets you run them from your desktop as separate applications (but still using the web, or the "cloud" as some now call it) as its cpu. Why would you want to do that? Chris Kasten has some thoughts on the matter, and I agree with him that it is sometimes a relief to escape the distraction that ever-more open tabs represent. If you're using chat software, for example, it's easier to keep the chat open if it's running in a separate application, rather than shuttling to and fro between many confusable tabs. Another example of the move from desktop to web - and back again - is Adobe's Air. It and the phenomenon of offline web computing is discussed in an article in Technology Review's (March/April) survey of emerging technologies. Web computing looks like a promising development for those of us who work in environments where security and/or bureaucracy make innovation difficult. I wonder, for example, what we might be able to do with something like Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

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