Web based operating systems?
27 February 2007 in General | Comments enabled

Recently with all the Web 2.0 hub-bub that’s been going on there is increasing talk about how rich we can make applications in the browser. This has drawn some to start saying that perhaps maybe, just maybe, soon all you’ll need is your web browser and that will be your operating system.

What baloney!

I can only assume people who make these sort of statements are misguided in their understanding of what an operating system actually does. An operating system is NOT the applications you’re working with, it’s what actually governs how the machine and the software interact. No matter how elite a person considers them-self at manipulating the DOM with AJAX I somewhat doubt they’re capable of marshaling interrupts and altering the state of special registers on the chip. A web browser has to run on an operating system.

Applications will always sit on top of an operating system. The richer the applications become in the browser the less likely you are to directly interact with the applications that ship with the operating system however these applications are simply value add and not the actual operating system.

Why am I posting this? It’s been a personal annoyance of mine lately at how much people are buying into the Web 2.0 so heavily that they draw irrational conclusions. Sure there are great opportunities but I wouldn’t disregard rich smart client applications that are simply consumers of core services (composite applications). I’m sure most of you already know all of this but I just wanted to vent some frustration at the whole topic of web based operating systems :)

- JD


5 comments. Add your own comment.

marksy says 27 February 2007 @ 10:06

not necessarily dude. What about Airports & internet cafes & libraries & community centres & crack dens that dont wanna have to buy an OS + office apps, who just want a basic drone that can connect to the internets and do simple web browsering, and lite office dribblings?

i agree that the home user, and of course the work user wont be turning to a web based OS… but it is a good idea for lite users, or users who dont care/need a paid for solution, but a convienent solution that is available to them anywhere – where they can access their documents from anywhere.

… oh and im gunna wait for web 2.0 sp2 before i buy anything, for all those stupid bugs and stuff :P

traskjd says 27 February 2007 @ 10:18

That’s my point Marksy, the fact you use your light weight apps on the net does not negate the need for an operating system to actually manage the hardware of your machine. The web browser must run on something.

Applications != operating system, they are the operating environment of the user.

– JD

Alex says 27 February 2007 @ 13:33

Great minds think alike!

traskjd says 27 February 2007 @ 13:44

Ah yes, I did actually read your post a while back Alex :) Perhaps that’s why it’s been subtly playing on my mind recently. I guess it’s a sign that as time goes on people are so abstracted away from the core of what a computer is they just don’t realise how much work it takes to achieve what they’re getting in their browser.

It’s probably a good thing overall that computers are now this easy to work with but it is a shame because there is some really cool stuff going on under the covers :)

– JD

Jessica says 27 February 2007 @ 13:59

Hehe, go JD! Maybe a browser running over a thin-client setup… but a web-based operating system in itself is absurd. That web-based UNIX-like ‘OS’ was pretty cool, but it still required a real operating system underneath it :P

But then I’m not a fan of web-apps anyway, especially when broadband in New Zealand is still rubbish compared to our neighbours… and then the overhead to run the damn things compared to a traditional application!

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