Getting rid of the browser…

Following on from Andys chance meeting with Aral Balkan, a prominant Flash developer, he wonders whether the “new Flash” is coming from the same angle as the usable web application community.

Like Andy, I used to do Flash. Like a lot of web designers, I was lured into the … flashiness of it all, and spent months on end making animated menus and, like, rilly, rilly, sooooo coooooool loading screens. I have since learned my lesson and repented of my sin. However, it has to be said that Flash has its uses, and some of the new Flash things I occasionally see are amazing visually, and seem to have got rid of that “look at me! look at me!” attitude of the early days.

However, Aral raises an interesting point about the browser being, effectively, a plugin to the operatring system. And I see his point. In an ideal world we’d not have to load anything to use an application, let alone run an operating system AND browser. Useful applications would just Be There, much like a mobile phone is Just There.

However I don’t think we can get away from usung operating systems (they are pretty integral to the whole computer thing), but maybe we can get away from having separate browsers. And I’ll explain how.

Some clever people are developing a portable version of Firefox, that king among browsers. Portable as it you don’t have to install it, can run it direct from a CD or USB memory stick. Portable as it you could (eventually) just release a single executable, which is preconfigured to display only the chrome (status bar, menus etc) you want, and to connect to a web application. Without an address bar it would cease to be a standard browser, and instead just be a wrapper for a web app.

This isn’t a new idea, my good friend M@ and I have been talking about building a “web app wrapper” application, a light .exe that could save configuration information and other data in XML files on the client, for a long time now. However using a stable, web standards-compliant, and very powerful browser such as Firefox as this wrapper would solve a lot of the problems that we could have encountered using the IE capabilities of .net.

Anyway, if the aim is to get people using web apps as easily as possible, this is one way to do it.

And I haven’t even mentioned Flash projectors yet…