BGR reports that [400,000 cable and satellite television subscribers ditched their service this year](http://www.bgr.com/2012/08/02/cable-tv-subscriber-stats-q2-2012-satellite/). This apparent declining trend is backed up by the [graph over at NCTA](http://www.ncta.com/Stats/BasicCableSubscribers.aspx) (NTCA is a cable provider trade group). You can see from that graph that the number of cable television subscribers peaked in 2001. So where are these folks getting their entertainment?
Even more interesting is the graph of [cable internet subscribers](http://www.ncta.com/Stats/High-Speed-Internet-Customers.aspx) over a similar time period. It looks like cable internet started taking off at about the time television subscribers peaked. The graph below uses the data from NCTA/SNL Kagan.
Berislav Lopac thinks that “the browser is going away, and native applications connected to web-server backends are the future”:http://berislav.lopac.net/post/615858128/the-future-of-web-browser. I feel the opposite. I think native applications are headed the way of the cli. The browser is the great equalizer. Think about it like this: what barriers prevent you changing operating systems today? What barriers prevented you from changing operating systems 10 years ago? Our daily computing lives are dominated more and more by web-based applications. We can use these applications anywhere. It’s one of the primary reasons mobile and tablet devices have finally gained traction.
Not too long ago, our mobility between operating systems didn’t matter much. No one really cared if they could easily switch from Windows to Linux, because switching didn’t achieve a specific goal that they were interested in. That is, the tasks they could accomplish were too similar. The introduction of mobile and tablet devices has created a new incentive for operating system mobility. Users want to be untied from their desks, and they want to bring their experience with them.
The browser is already an application platform. It is its own execution environment. Ironically, Microsoft’s early vision of the web browser was that it would be a platform to which native-like applications could be pushed over the wire. ActiveX and proprietary browser features were an attempt to leverage existing developer toolsets in a browser environment. This failed (for a large number of reasons), but the persistence of IE6 in corporate environments is a testament to just how close they were to succeeding. As browser standards advance, we’ll see a surge in the development of fully in-browser frameworks that use design patterns like MVC. I don’t mean V and C in the browser and model on the server. I mean M, V, and C within a browser, where the model reaches out (sometimes) to a server for data-sync or specific execution. Apple’s guidelines for iPhone web apps are a great example. Their entire framework is built atop an open-source browser, which is seeing widespread adoption in the mobile and tablet space.
The balance between client and server based processing runs like the tides. Not every application will become a web application, but the number and broad importance of native applications will diminish. Web standards will continue to advance, supporting more native-like applications in the web browser. Projects like “Fluid”:http://fluidapp.com/developer/ will allow users and developers to package browser-based apps in launchable containers on the desktop, while mobile devices will continue with the existing trend of abstracting away the difference between mobile and native apps (see iOS and Android handling of web app shortcuts on homescreens). Browser application frameworks like “Sproutcore”:http://www.sproutcore.com/ will put new tools in the hands of developers that advance the way we think and build “web apps”.
The future of the web browser is bright.
Browser plugins are a security risk. There “are arguments”:http://www.infoworld.com/d/security-central/are-all-browser-plug-ins-security-risk-449, of course, but I say, why take a risk that need not be taken? If business development has taught me one thing, it is that success is not about taking risks, it’s about mitigating them better than everyone else.
“This HTML5 demo”:http://www.craftymind.com/2010/04/20/blowing-up-html5-video-and-mapping-it-into-3d-space/ shows just how powerful HTML5 is. Click anywhere on the video while it is playing and prepare to have your mind blown. This kind of thing is difficult in Flash, and yet the author has achieved this effect using only his standard IDE that was never designed to support this type of special effect.
“Time O’Reilly on the internet as an operating system”:http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/03/state-of-internet-operating-system.html:
bq. When you type a search query into Google, the resources on your local computer – the keyboard where you type your query, the screen that displays the results, the networking hardware and software that connects your computer to the network, the browser that formats and forwards your request to Google’s servers – play only a small role. What’s more, they don’t really matter much to the operation of the search – you can type your search terms into a browser on a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine, or into a smartphone running Symbian, or PalmOS, the Mac OS, Android, Windows Mobile, or some other phone operating system.
Abstraction is a powerful thing. Every day, we perform actions that require thousands of “moving parts”. They’re not really moving, because we live in the age of of solid state, but the complexity exists, none the less. Never has the concept of _Wu Wei_ ben more pervasive.