Something’s Changed — The Browser May NOT Be King

A little over three years ago, I was pretty much convinced that I could live my computing life in a browser.  At least my personal computing life.  At that time, I was saddled with a Windows XP environment and Lotus Notes 6.5 as my day-to-day tools at work.  My home computing experience was centered largely around Ubuntu because I’d gotten completely sick of XP’s sluggish performance.  At home, pretty much all I needed a PC for was iTunes — so that I could get my music on my iPod.

At that time most of my activity was in a browser:

Email:  Gmail
Social Networking: Facbook.com and Twitter.com
Docs: Google Docs
Photos: Picassa, Flickr
Banking: Online Banking &  Mint.com
Blogging:  Wordpress
News: Google Reader

In 2009, virtually none of my web activity was through a mobile device.  I had a flip-phone with no data plan until November 2009 and when I got my first Blackberry it was a Curve with crappy performance and a tiny screen.

Since then, so much has changed.  I got my first iPhone in 2010 and it revolutionized my mobile experience.  I soon found that apps were easier to deal with than mobile safari — especially on sites that required java or flash.  In 2011, I got my iPad and then my Mac.  I distinctly recall using my browser on the Mac for a lot of things even then.  I used it for mail, flickr, facebook, etc.  But, that would change quickly…

Today, I use the browser mainly to browse sites, not for apps.  Pretty much all other things, I use an app.  Gmail has been replaced by Postbox.  Reader has been replaced by twitter and instapaper, and sometimes Reeder.app.  Photos, are dealt with in iPhoto.  I use Office for docs (though I hate any doc that could be a simple text file or an email).  Social networking, I use tweetbot for twitter and the browser for facebook.

So what happened?

It would be easy to say that this is what happens when you move from an unstable computing environment to a stable one.  Or when you move from one where user interface is second or third in line in terms of priorities.  But there’s something more to it.

I think it comes down to a few things.  First, I ditched Windows and Linux for an Apple ecosystem.  Second, is that I became accustomed to using apps on the mobile devices and I liked their interfaces enough to get their counter parts on the Mac.  Third, Google royally screwed up with interfaces with their ugly new red color scheme — it reminds me of Lotus Notes 6.5.

I tweeted about my experiences this morning.

It’s always interesting to me how my brain comes to terms with things at just the right time.  Today Google announced the death of Google Reader.  I’m not mourning it, but I will miss it somewhat.  The truth though is that, Google Reader has been dying for a while.

Another truth is that when you depend on the cloud, you are at the mercy of those who offer the services.  Google in particular has a history of creating useful “products” for that help them “learn”.  Google Voice helped them with voice recognition.  Gmail, helps them with search.  Google+ helps them in ways that we don’t even understand.  We think of these things as products, but if they are free, they’re not products.  They are either ways for a cloud provider to learn from you or you are the product.

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