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The Desktop App Challenge

This is post no. 61 for Kev Quirk's #100DaysToOffload challenge. The point is to write many things, not to write good ones. Please adjust quality expectations accordingly :)

Once upon a time, people were using their computer by running programs written for said computer. Word processors, games, e-mail clients. Some of these were displaying various sorts of documents.

At some point, "web browsers" ended up being a thing. They could open HTML documents through a network connection; it was the way of browsing the Web (which, obviously, wasn't a thing you were doing all the time. Dialup was expensive). Or you could open local HTML files with it.

Fast forward about 20 years. Browsers somehow became an application platform and took over... basically everything. There is an actual operating system consisting of a web browser and not much else. Most people write emails through them; many people edit documents through them. Many services call their web version the "desktop" one.

We started from browsers sometimes being open; we ended up with them being open most of the time. And yet... although they are a great application platform from the perspective of portability, updates and sandboxing, they're a fairly bad application platform from many other perspectives: simplicity (it's yet another VM layer, after all), user experience (why does everything behave like a document?), performance (why does everything have to be written in javascript), choice of tools (likewise), and... overall, isn't it weird that HTML document viewers are taking over everything?

The challenge

Here is a proposal:

let's try using actual desktop apps for everything.

Web browsing itself is okay. If it works with javascript off, it's probably a page, not an app. If you could port it to Gemini, it's a page, not an app.

Electron apps are... borderline. They're technically running in a web browser, but... they're at least trying to pretend they aren't. So they're allowed regardless.

On the other hand: can we do email in a desktop client? Can we use LibreOffice instead of Google Docs? Pidgin with various plugins instead of web-based messengers? There are quite a few desktop Fediverse clients, too!

Can we learn something interesting from this?

... comments welcome, either in email or on the (eventual) Mastodon post on Fosstodon.