Web apps as a replacement for desktop apps11 Sep 2015
I’ve been using Ubuntu for a long time, and there were good days and there were of course bad days. However in most of the cases Canonical had a lot of great ideas.
Today I would like to focus on one awesome idea, at least it looked awesome on the paper. It’s web applications. It’s been several years since I started using those and I’ve had enough data to establish opinion on what would fit my needs. Idea is pretty simple you should be able to interact with web application in a similar manner to what is available for real desktop apps and then OS would guarantee seamless experience for web app. I was so happy to see that idea coming alive with 14.04. My expectation especially around Google services was that you should be able simply create an Online Account and system will keep me logged in for as long as I want.
Enough with expectations, let’s try it, I was thinking to myself. First try disappointed me a lot, Online Accounts was not working seamlessly, web applications required login every time I run it, for some reasons it won’t store cookies properly. Browser part itself is quite weird, for example Gmail detects it as some sort of Safari and downgrades experience. It conflicts with Firefox, and if it is Firefox(as I am guessing) it runs in sort of safe mode without any extensions, and extensions is what making Firefox a good browser. Fast forward quite some time and now cookie problem is fixed, at least I don’t have to enter credentials every time, however it still some how conflicts with Firefox. It feels ok for the most of the parts and simpler app/website is more chance for success such app would have. But there is lack of user experience, for example Amazon app which comes with Ubuntu lacks one simple thing, it’s “back” button. I know it’s not Ubuntu, but since it’s installed by default most of the people going to think it’s part of OS.
I have started looking around for alternatives and surely decided to go with Chrome. Chrome’s concept is very close to what I was looking for, your could run an app in a separate windows and if you are using particular extensions everything is available for you, so AdBlockPlus saves from ads and LastPass remembers all the passwords. On top of all of that Chrome supports native desktop notifications, even in Linux, and looking at what is coming out from that camp with every stable release I feel good about decision I made. It helps that Chrome runs each tab in a sandbox and crash of one tab/app won’t crash rest of the browser. Down side of that of course memory usage is quite high. Also app makers for most parts care about users using their apps as apps, and in most of the cases those leave pleasant experience. As a result Chrome’s App Launcher found it’s constant place in my Unity Launcher.