I was kind of sceptical when Apple introduced web apps as the application platform of the iPhone. I was not impressed. And although Apple may soon introduce an actual iPhone software SDK for client-side apps, I think Apple may not be that stupid after all.
Recently I also started to believe that the phone’s web browser may soon become the application delivery platform of the future. Just as it on the desktop. Three developments caused me to change my mind. First of all, the iPhone web apps that people have been creating. Facebook is one of them (you can open this in a normal browser too). It looks great and has very iPhone-like transitions between pages. Second, the recent launch of the iPod touch, which also comes with the Safari browser and wifi built in. So it would really surprise me if the iPhone web apps wouldn’t work on this iPod too. Third is the rumored arrival of the Google Phone.
Of course nobody really knows what this phone is going to be like, or heck, that it ever actually is going to come out. But if you think about it, Google has been doing web apps. Just web apps and some extensions to these web apps on the desktop, such as notifiers, tiny messenger applications and so forth. So what is a Google Phone essentially going to be? A web browser in a mobile device. Probably in the iPhone tradition: big touch screen.
So what is going to be the way to develop applications for mobile phones and other internet connected mobile devices? In the case of the iPhone, iPod and Google Phone it’s going to be web apps. And I’m sure those three are not going to be the end of it. My Nokia N95 has the same web browser (based on Web Kit) built in and can also run these apps (albeit that the screen is smaller). Web applications on mobile devices with unlimited data plans are the answer. Unless you’re roaming and don’t have wifi nearby, then you’re screwed.
But leaving that aside. Here’s where WebFS comes in. Neither the iPhone nor iPod allow you to put random files on your phone. You can load music, video and pictures on them, but what you can do with this data is very limited. This is not very likely to change. The Google Phone is not likely to be any different. When has Google pushed files to your local hard drive? Never. They even prefer you to read Microsoft Word documents and PDFs in their environment — the web browser. So, your data, as with web applications today, on these phones will have to be stored in the cloud, on the internet.
Where? How? How do I not get locked into one application with my data? The answer is already here of course: WebFS. Duh. The model of storing your data with a party you trust and then giving web applications permission to access this data ought to work very well in the mobile (as well as the desktop) space. And WebFS would allow you to do that.
Now all we have to do is actually make WebFS happen.