Why Google Gears and Yahoo Browser Plus Don't Change the Game Yet

Hank Williams over at the Why Does Everything Suck blog is saying Yahoo Browser Plus is a Game Changer, but I don't think so. While I agree that Yahoo Browser Plus is more well put together than Google Gears, both in terms of downloading and installing modules, and that their model for designing new modules is more open-source and organic, they need to get their software on computers.

Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers

Getting this Browser++ software on computers has already been shown to be quite difficult. Until these add-ons get close to the market penetration of flash they are going to have a particularly tough time attracting developers. I was also surprised that while Yahoo Browser Plus seems to be better than Google Gears in a lot of ways, they have no version targeting Ubuntu Linux, something that Google Gears has been serious about since the beginning. If you want to attract good developers to your product, you need to run on Linux.

Socket Applications Won't Suck as Much

A web application that I'm working on would particularly benefit from the widespread penentration of the Browser++ software. I'm making a browser based MUD client. Right now the only way to reasonably do this is to have a persistent socket server on the web server that is hooked up to the browser via AJAX. This works pretty well, but an version built similarly to Yahoo's IRC chat, would shuttle most of my server load to the users computers, where they have typically resided for socket based clients in the past. This seems like it would be a great candidate for a Browser++ application but there are a couple of hangups so far.

Future of Browser++

I am particularly hesitant to use Browser++ tools to develop my web applications, because the web is supposed to work everywhere. If the software doesn't have enough penetration it doesn't make sense to build a solution that you want to work everywhere on these tools. The unfortunate problem with this is that it is a chicken and egg problem. Macromedia solved this problem by integrating Flash over many many years. They didn't just release Flash and then say "okay now the game has changed, everyone can run streaming video on the web." This happened over time. The game hasn't changed, it is changing.
published 2008-05-30

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