An app is an app, right? Well, not quite. Web apps, desktop apps, as well as native apps, mobile apps and so forth all offer functions for users across different platforms. The bottom line? For potential software developers, all apps aim to serve the user in various capacities, making the user’s life easier, more efficient, and hopefully more enriched. However, not every app is created equally. Let’s start with web apps and desktop apps, to explore the idea that different formats of apps solve different sorts of problems better or worse. Web apps and desktop apps are two types of software applications that each have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to functionality, security, availability, and ease of installation. In this introductory blog, we will explore the basics of web apps and desktop apps, as well as the occasions in which you might choose to use or develop one or the other.
What is a Web Application?
A web app is a software app accessible through the internet. In most cases, you will reach the web app through your web browser on your smartphone or computer. Rather than storing your files on your desktop, a separate server stores the files you work on in a web app. For example the documents you work on in Google Drive exist on a remote server. The web browser and the web app, though similar, are different entities. Every smartphone or computer has a web browser: whether it be Safari, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome or (for those who remember the early 2000’s) Internet Explorer. Through these browsers, you can visit various web apps available on the internet. For example, when you use email services, check out your bank account balances, message your friends and so forth, you are using a web app. Computer games that you access online and don’t directly download are also an example of web apps. Web apps play a central role in the conversation on cross-platform technology. Because users can access web apps through their smartphones, laptops, tablets and so forth, web apps naturally must render on multiple platforms. Therefore, web apps must have flexibility in the backend of their code to work on these multiple platforms.
What is a Desktop Application?
A desktop app is an app which you download onto your desktop or laptop. If you are using a computer right now, the icons or logos you see at the bottom or side of your screen are separate desktop apps. When you click on one of these logos, you open the desktop app. The desktop app runs separately from other apps and stores its own memory. Its presence on your computer takes up space on your hard drive. Here’s the tricky part: your web browser is a desktop app, whereas the sites that you visit on the web browser are web apps. For example, Google Chrome is technically a desktop app which you download onto your computer, but it is also the medium through which you reach web apps like Google Drive, Messenger, and your online banking. Examples of desktop apps include Microsoft Office, the Adobe Suite, many downloadable computer games, and music streaming platforms like the Spotify app. At their essence, desktop apps are apps which you install onto your hard drive and provide some sort of functional service
The Situational Strengths of Web Apps
Web apps are easier to upgrade. When you upgrade a web app, you simply need to update it on your own servers, and once the upgrade has gone live, all of the visitors to the web app get to use the upgraded versions. On the other hand, to upgrade a desktop app each individual user must download the new version separately. Accessibility is another key advantage of web apps. Even if you are using an old, beat up computer or smartphone, you can still access the same web apps as anyone else. However, each desktop app exists in a single, static location. If for example the device with the desktop app crashes or is stolen without your backing up your files remotely, then you run the risk of losing all of your files on the app. You can reach web applications across multiple platforms, making web apps flexible and versatile. And finally, because web apps exist remotely of any single device, you can save space on your computer by saving your files on a web app.
The Situational Strengths of Desktop Apps
As desktop apps do not rely on internet connection and/or server size to operate, they often perform faster and more consistently than web apps perform. In fact, you do not need internet connection to be able to use most desktop apps – think about how you can use Microsoft Word anywhere with just your laptop. Also, using the processing capabilities of your computer, desktop apps generally perform more quickly and accomplish more sophisticated tasks, like rendering three-dimensional graphics and models for computer games. Because you are often not relying on the internet while using them, desktop apps tend to be more reliable security-wise too. Exchanging sensitive information like credit card and social security numbers over the internet can be nerve wracking, and desktop apps have greater embedded security within them than web apps have. Finally, desktop apps do not carry high server costs. When you run a web app, you must invest in a strong server that can securely process information and handle higher bandwidth. However, desktops often run independently of any online server, and therefore do not put as much pressure on the servers. If you are a developer thinking about server costs, you might opt to make a desktop app to save your budget. A Final Word Web apps and desktop apps offer different advantages to potential businesses: web apps are more accessible and easy to upgrade, whereas desktop apps offer better security, lower server costs and high-level performance for specific tasks like file-saving and graphic-rendering. Both are essential for browsing the internet, but web apps play a more flexible role whereas desktop apps are static and steady. If you are a business hoping to reach a wider audience you may opt for creating a web app, and if you have a specific, complicated functionality like a video game or movie player, a desktop app may be the best route for you. If you need assistance choosing whether to develop a web app or desktop app, you might contact OpenSource, who offers experience developing both. You are likely using both a desktop and a web app to read this article, so hopefully you now have a greater appreciation for both.