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декември 29, 2013

The problem with on-line apps

Okay, I have to admin on-line web apps are absolutely great. You can use any computer and if you remember your password you can use the tool from anywhere in the world, you don't have to bring your own laptop, you don't have to worry about backups and disk failures and you are always using the latest and greatest version of the software. Isn't it great!

Well, it is great for as long as it lasts....

One after another companies and start-up fail or are being bought and/or merges with another (mostly commercial) product and with a little to no notice are being closed down. And it happens very often, more often than you might imagine.

Lets take Google reader for example. What a great service it was. And it closed down, regardless of the protests, regardless of the on-line groups opposing it. Vuru - financials service also closes now with only a month notice. Half of the applications I have ever installed in Chrome do no longer exist. Half! And the other half are giants like Facebook, Google mail etc. And even they can decide to close down at any given moment. As soon as they decide that it is no longer relevant or profitable there is nothing from stopping the company from closing down the doors and windows and there is no way you can argue with that.

So what does that mean for you? Lets imagine this: You have worked for several days, maybe even weeks creating the ultimate application in Google Spreadsheets. It is NOT portable, because you used all the excellent services provided in the scripting environment so basically your sheets are useless outside of  this company's environment.

But Google is almighty and great, they will not close down. Oh but they will, sooner or later they will shut down services that are not profitable for them. And then what?

I will tell you what - you re on your own. Currently there is no way to write those scripts portable so that they will work with any other known environment. I have data collection and analysis tool written for Google spreadsheet application spawning 24 files. It is working very well indeed and it is hosted for free for me etc. But what will happen when Google decides that the new - improved by the way - spreadsheet application drops some of the services support. Like they actually did? Can you stay on an older version so all your stuff will continue to work? No! Can you take your application elsewhere. No! Can you do something about it? No.....

So next time you agree to fully rely on a free or paid on-line web application remember this - you have absolutely no control over your data. And even if this is not a problem for you think this: you have absolutely no control over the software. And if this is also not bothering you - you have no control on the availability of this software. It can disappear  in just an instance!

I for one am thinking about it. The problem is this: 6-7 years ago when Google started this "the web is the platform" bullshit it sounded like the end of an era - every one can put their application on-line and reach any user on any device and perform outstandingly business-wise. Yeah... and now every and each one of those excellent performers hold you in a grip firmer than any of those other before them. Yes, I am talking Microsoft. The "evil" they was / are, they would NEVER make you loose your application. You had a choice. Stay with the older version and protect yourself the ways you can (Intranet, firewalls, whatever) or upgrade and pay anew once again becoming master of your applications. Now this choice is gone and you are completely at the mercy of those companies. Think about that. You do not own anything. Your data, your software or its availability. You control nothing and have no rights.

So congratulations to you all on-line service and apps users. You have been schemed out of your digital hold o things. What will happen next? Who knows. But the next time someone starts to praise to me the advantages of the cloud and web apps I might just kick him hard.

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