Simplicity and ubiquity matter (or, How reality mugged Joel Spolsky): This a good post that discusses how Joel Spolsky changed his mind about user interfaces. I knew Spolsky was very thick-client oriented for a long time, but this post has some interesting insights and information on how and why he changed his mind, starting with CityDesk, his desktop Web site editor.
But a funny thing happened to CityDesk. It wasn’t that successful, despite the enthusiasm of a core group of loyal users like me. In two and a half years it has not taken the world by storm. Spolsky’s firm, Fog Creek Software, is better known for its FogBugz problem-tracking software, a classic piece of Web-server-based software with – yes – a browser interface.
“CityDesk never really succeeded in selling to organisations with more than two or three people,” Spolsky told me in July 2004. One reason: most Web sites are maintained by a group working from several locations. “If they’re all on a LAN, fine,” notes Spolsky. “But once someone wants to use it at home … Web-based software is better.”
Much as I hate to say it, a huge chunk of developers have long since moved to the web and refuse to move back. […]
None of this bodes well for Microsoft and the profits it enjoyed thanks to its API power. The new API is HTML, and the new winners in the application development marketplace will be the people who can make HTML sing.
I’m going the reverse direction these days, actually. I’m more convinced daily that richer interfaces are required. Additionally, I think owning the container is really the way to go for a product that people use often.
The bottom line is that we could really use a middle ground between the two extremes. To this end, I’m becoming interesting in Web-enabled thick client editing apps like Ecto and RocketPost, though I haven’t found one that has really blown me away yet — they’re too blog-centric right now, limited by the API with which they have to interact.