Jonathon Schwartz wrote the following in a recent blog post on The Value in Volume:

Or finally, as I did last week at a keynote, ask the audience which they'd rather give up - their browser, or all the rest of their desktop apps. (Unanimously, they'd all give up the latter without a blink.)

I have no doubt that you could repeat those results in any number of conferences. It's pretty clear that there's way more useful stuff "out there" than "in here" (my desktop).

My 30 Day Webmail Challenge is part of a larger goal. I'm very interested in knowing how little software I need to install to live happily on a computer. The more I can do online, the happier I suspect I'll be most of the time. It turns my computer into just another appliance.

Don't get me wrong. There are tradeoffs here. I can't do email offline anymore. But I'm finding that it doesn't matter. The fact that I'm using web based mail now exclusively changes the way I handle email. (more on that later)

Now there will always be a few applications that I need to have available to me, but I'm hoping that I can get them all onto a single USB "thumb drive" that I can carry around.

Maybe the network really is the computer?

Posted by jzawodn at October 02, 2005 08:23 AM

Reader Comments
# Ernesto said:

But what about portability of the apps in your USB "thumb drive"? If you get somewhere and you have at hand is a linux box (or mac) what will you do with your windows apps?

Anyway, I agree. The more we are able to achieve online, the better.

on October 2, 2005 09:30 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

The only apps I need to carry around are those that *are* platform specific. SeeYou is a good example:

It's avilable only for Windows.

on October 2, 2005 09:34 AM
# Jonathan Johnson said:

I've switched all my email to Gmail and haven't looked back. I glanced at Yahoo's new offerings, but I prefer Gmail still.

I used to use BlogLines for online RSS reading, but I have switched to NetNewsWire -- a desktop Mac OS X application. It provides synching to a FTP server or .Mac, so it keeps me happy and reading only new items.

For pretty much everything else, I prefer desktop applications. I think desktop applications can't be rivaled in their UI design. Web UIs are getting better, but so are desktop UIs. The ideal situation for me is where I can save preferences and other data that I want to be synched on a server, and use the well-designed apps on my local machine whenever I'd like, and know that I'm operating with the most up-to-date data.

on October 2, 2005 09:36 AM
# rick gregory said:

Jonathon asks the wrong question - I wouldn't... couldn't... give up either because there are things I have to do that require functionality only available on the web and other functionality that I can only get in desktop apps. I suspect that if most of the people who raised their hands thought about it, they'd realize that there are application on this desktops that they flat out NEED to get their stuff done.

These either/or debates are ultimately too simplistic to do more than highlight the most obvious points about the subject under debate.

on October 2, 2005 10:35 AM
# Nicole Simon said:

If I would believe, that man kind is good hearted and my data would be safe online and nobody would data mine my data, yes I would go for online, because obviously others are so much more specialized in task like backups etc.

One might even think of paying for those features like everywhere access.

But it starts of with that I only trust companies to a certain extend (especially when they are US based) and one has to worry about the connection to the hopefully secure haven.

The realistically me sees a problem there, which why it will take a lot of time before these issues are out of the way.

on October 2, 2005 11:30 AM
# Mike said:

Well, I don't have an irrational fear of US companies. The network isn't the computer - I know of no place online to store and access my gigabytes and gigabytes and gigabytes of data. That's why I run desktop (well, server actually) programs (created by US companies - OMFG!!) that allow me to FTP, etc. my data from elsewhere.

on October 2, 2005 12:11 PM
# Pete Cashmore said:

Maybe the network really is the computer?

What do you mean "maybe"? :)

Anyway, good luck with your 30-day webmail challenge. I'll be interested to see how Yahoo! Mail stacks up against GMail - I've heard it's pretty darned good...

on October 2, 2005 03:27 PM
# Nicole Simon said:

Mike, you are free to call it irrational fear of US companies, I call it different laws regarding privacy and how a country has an interest in storaging them and using them.

If you feel comfortable with the laws US companies are under and what they can make of your data without even breaking their own terms, that is fine with me. But please accept that there are people used to better laws which do not cry "jipi" on every application coming their way.

on October 3, 2005 05:41 AM
# Ben Metcalfe said:


If you run the majority of your apps via browser/remote storage, are you not at all concerned about the conesequences of all that data that's going to be sitting on someone elses servers?

You don't need me to spell out the argument to you, but obviously if you choose to host your email with the same company who hosts your calendar, your blog/news subscriptions, your photos, your financial portfolio, etc...

Well, there's loads of risks. Security. Privacy. Redundancy. SLA/on going commitment of maintaining the service, particularly if it's free.

Of course one of the companies that offers all of the above, and you are trialing in your 30-day email challenge, is your employer. But doesn't that concern you even more - I wouldn't want my employer having physical access to my personal email (even if legally they weren't supposed to "look").

I'm not quite down the road of the whole "googlezon" meme, but there must a point where the concerns become credible?

on October 3, 2005 07:02 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


I actually have copies of ALL my mail stored elsewhere, so there isn't much of a lock-in issue. I guess I never said that explicitly, though.

And on the Yahoo! side, my employer gets my work email only, not my personal mail. I'm also using the "premium" (paid) version of Y! Mail, so there are probably better SLAs and backups in place, but I've never verified that.

on October 3, 2005 07:42 AM
# Manu Sharma said:

> I can't do email offline anymore.

And soon you won't have to. Kind of funny how there's no comment on your blog on 'the news of the moment'. Particularly since you're right in the middle of it, both geographically or in terms of being the competition.

on October 3, 2005 11:30 AM
# grumpY! said:

for all all of your privacy freaks commenting above concerned about "your data" living elsewhere...your most important data already does! its called your bank account. not only do you trust this data (and in a fiat currency it really is just data) to someone else, you have likely already agreed to them lending it to other people with no absolute assurance you will get it all back (see: fractional reserve banking).

compared to this, who cares about your pics of your dog????

now i expect you will all reply that you in fact live off of krugerrands you bury in your yard, just to stay consistent.

on October 3, 2005 11:55 AM
# Mike said:

Actually, I don't trust my data to ANYONE. That's why I use encryption. Look at what Yahoo did to that Chinese dude ;P

What's does "jipi" mean?

on October 3, 2005 01:11 PM
# Alexander Kirk said:

I think that there are only a few web apps ready for web-app-only use. Gmail is definitly going the right direction.
Talking about speed and usability, it's not only about Ajax (I think that it is largely misued anyway) but also about keyboard shortcuts which make apps move as quickly as you are.

Eventually we could end up with thin clients where the operation system is regardless (just a good browser needed), but we yet need technology to have the user's data stored at the user's location (i.e. a USB stick), as mentioned above, for security and privacy reasons.

on October 4, 2005 04:08 AM
# Portable Apps said:

For portability of apps, why just take the storage with you? It's not quite there yet, but one of my biggest goals for gumstix is to basically provide a device which you can carry around which is the thumbdrive *plus a computer* in a thumbdrive form-factor. Stick it into whatever host computer you're at, and run the apps on the thumbstix while viewing the UI on your host.

on October 4, 2005 01:24 PM
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. My current, past, or previous employers are not responsible for what I write here, the comments left by others, or the photos I may share. If you have questions, please contact me. Also, I am not a journalist or reporter. Don't "pitch" me.


Privacy: I do not share or publish the email addresses or IP addresses of anyone posting a comment here without consent. However, I do reserve the right to remove comments that are spammy, off-topic, or otherwise unsuitable based on my comment policy. In a few cases, I may leave spammy comments but remove any URLs they contain.