Browsers are everywhere and nowhere, they are getting built into applications so that soon one will not need a stand-alone browser, you can just use whichever app you have at hand or your file browser. The most recent example is Coda from panic software, but it by no means is alone. Coda may be a little different from other apps in that it is purpose built as a web development tool, and it looks to be a mighty good one at that, still lots of applications these days are network-aware and/or have plugins to the network to get data. In fact nearly all of the apps open on my Mac right now have a network component; the Dashboard apps, iCal, iTunes, and Terminal, not to mention Safari.
It is an interesting development that browsers as well as network-aware applications are starting to proliferate since it offers us a counter-weight to the view that applications are migrating from the desktop to out on the network. What if the network is migrating to the desktop?
These applications are breaking down the binary opposition of ‘desktop’ and ‘network’ applications, the distinction in computing between ‘local’ and ‘remote’ resources. They can do this because of two chief reasons;
1. Apple has provided the software to build browsers easily with WebKit
2. Network connections are becoming faster and ubiquitous
Are Coda and other applications, not just Shiira, the logical outgrowth of Apple Open Sourcing WebKit? Is this the kind of innovation that keeps Apple at the forefront of usable computing? If the answers are yes maybe Apple should open up more. I think Apple should continue to share important parts of its proprietary technology to allow innovation that gets incorporated back into the OS in the form of third party applications. Look at Coda and iWeb, they are similar aren’t they? Which one would you like to have? Wouldn’t Coda be a persuasive argument for buying a new Mac if it was bundled in? I think so.
Another thing that makes this possible is the ubiquity of network connections and the seamless way they integrate into desktop applications. Now you can unplug your apps and the network appears to remain, all the functionality is there, the data is just time shifted to the point where the network connection is active again. This makes the network irrelevant, or at least transparent in the sense that you do not need to be “online” to get your work done; you will be “online” eventually and your work will propagate to various servers once your connection is live again so one can just work without worrying about network presence.