This is a pretty old write-up, but I left it on the Web site simply because it reminds me of a time, not too long ago, when what we were doing with the Web, software and apps was really in a transitional period that ultimately lead to what we see today.
Local storage? Really? That was a big deal? In fact it was. Now it’s implied when you develop just about any digital product. Here’s a glimpse back to a different time.
I’ve worked on a variety of AIR projects, including eBay’s “eBay Desktop” AIR application. In relation to eBay, we tried to define all of the possible user scenarios where an offline mode would be helpful, or make sense to the business. While some were interesting, none were terribly compelling. (Some were pretty cool though, like being able to head to a storage unit with your laptop and a web cam to photograph items and create listings offline, that would then be fired up to eBay’s Web Services once you reconnected to the Internet.)
Just like with any new technology (or application of technology), time seems to shake things out and separate the good uses from the bad ideas. I think that many applications could benefit from the ability to work offline. We haven’t put much thought into it as experience designers, because until now, it hasn’t been a realistic possibility for Web-based applications.
I love the fact that Google is now announcing that they’ve baked in offline capabilities into Google Docs. It is obvious at this point that more and more applications are going to start leveraging the ability to work offline and embrace the whole idea of being “hybrid” between desktop application and Web application.
Change is good! (and so is being able to sit on the beach or in a park and work a little, and not have to worry about your wireless connection being available.)
For many US-based users, this is becoming less of an issue, especially with more and more people adopting wireless “aircards” from their mobile provider and the push to offer wifi everywhere. Until then…