Unfortunately when explaining AIR I usually fall back on “well you can use it to take your applications offline. People just seem to get offline because they see all of these applications moving to the browser and it’s kind of a pain when you don’t have an internet connection and they don’t work. That’s the easy sell. But for me, the value of AIR has always been much more nuanced. The blending of the web and the desktop opens up some interesting ideas. Scott Karp brings one of those up when he asks “Dear Web Applications: Were Are My Files?” AIR is a perfect use case for this.
Web applications are great. In the browser they’re very, very handy. No install, easy updates, accessible anywhere. Perfect. But there are definite drawbacks. For the most part I don’t think those drawbacks are enough to stop using web applications. They’re just too damn easy. That’s why I want to see AIR help act as a bridge. Think about the file problem. You’re doing all this work online, and as Scott mentioned, you’re generating a bunch of data on a server somewhere. You can’t really extract that in most cases and online the notion of “files” doesn’t fit even though it’s something we expect from most of our applications.
So why not use AIR to create a way to grab those files? You can associate any filetype you want using AIR so you can instantly give your web application some “desktop cred”. What about a .zoho file? A .facebook file that contains your profile info? A .myspace file that contains a link to that crappy music you put on your page? All of these files would contain the important data You can use AIR to actually write them and associate them. You don’t even have to create an offline version of your application; you can run any regular web application inside of AIR using WebKit or create an AIR application that opens up your browser and goes to a site you specify.
The file problem is a perfect example of where you can just use some small features in AIR to create that desktop experience for the web. You don’t need to create an entire offline version or write a bunch of code. You can just create that bridge and tie it back to your normal web application where you can run ads, make money, or give it away for free. But providing functionality that most users expect is very, very important and will be key to getting wider adoption. That’s where AIR shines.Tweet