I just had a discussion with a friend about the difference between online and offline software, and the differences are pretty clear cut:
- Online software is just that: online. Quite a few (more than expected) websites support Google Gears, and hopefully offline syncing will become the norm.
- Security? Privacy? They’re all second thoughts so far in the world of web applications. Many tech websites are pushing for developers to put extra thought into privacy and security, but it’s one of those things that don’t provide a direct return in profit, so it will take longer to catch on. In the meantime, we users are exposed. Now, this is where it all becomes subjective: is privacy and security really all that important for the data you’re uploading? Most services provide SSL logins, and that’s generally enough to protect the account from hackers. Beyond that, there’s not much over-the-”air” encryption going on, and just about anything can be sniffed and tracked. So, do you really want to hide family photos or phone records, or do you really care if someone gets a hand on those? Like I said, it’s subjective.
- Nothing can beat free. With Web 2.0 (am I allowed to use that term?) came the advertisement model, in which ads pay for the services. In some ways, it’s a win-win. You get the services free, and perhaps even discover new websites you didn’t know about via the ads, while the company gets their revenue. Sometimes a website might present offensive advertisements, but the upstanding ones are usually pretty good about what they let in.
As for offline applications…
- It’s offline. Internet goes down? No problem. Service is down? No problem. Nothing is keeping you from firing up your software on your computer.
- The feature-set and UI for applications is a well-trodden terrain for offline applications. Everything you could do with online software you can do with offline software, and in a consistent interface.
- Everything is saved on your hard-drive, and you can encrypt, lock, wipe, or otherwise mangle your data in whatever way you please that makes you think it’s safe. You can’t get that kind of control over the storage of your data with other online services.
- However, this usually comes at a price. Unless you pay, you’re pretty much guaranteed a sub-average experience. For example: I admit OpenOffice is nothing like Microsoft Office. That’s not to say Microsoft Office beats OpenOffice in all areas, but Microsoft Office can certainly throw a heavy, if not critical, punch in features and ease-of-use. Then again, you can’t get this experience online either, so you pretty much have to pay period if you want all the features.
Before everyone starts advocating open-source, let me explain myself. Read More