The Future of Applications
While catching up on some of my latest industry news today on Twitter I found a very cool web application that pretty much takes the term interactive website to a new level (thanks @bongobrian). SUMO Paint is a fully functioning image manipulation and painter program. What sets it apart from other such software is that the entire app is available online, and it’s free! With this free image editing software users can use many of advanced features, including:
- layer effects
- layers with blending modes
- shape tools
- symetry tool
- clone stamp
I’ve seen many websites with picture or video editors before, but this is something new. SUMO Paint offers us a glimpse of the future as far as I’m concerned (and it’s only in v 1.0). Why should we need to have heavy applications installed on our computers when you can build all of the necessary functionality into a fast and efficient web application? It seems like bandwidth and technology is finally getting to that point where the Internet can actually serve as a delivery tool for your daily needs.
Imagine a workstation where all of your desktop publishing is done on a remote server. Back-ups are automated and routine. Redundancy is the responsibility of professionals running a data center, and you won’t need to cry if you experience an unfortunate hard drive failure. If you’re worried about the security of your file, I’d like to remind you that the majority of tech savvy individuals do banking online these days, so the encryption on your illustration is probably safe.
SUMO Paint is one dimension of this. Google docs is another. In our office we frequently collaborate online with spreadsheets and word documents that are shared amongst staff. Versioning is controlled on the server, and version history is always available for reference. We can see who’s using a doc in realtime, and users can actually chat as they collaborate.
Not only do application like SUMO Paint and Google docs get the applications off your computer, but they also allow you to collaborate in ways never before imaginable. SUMO paint’s website even features the SUMO Paint Community which invites artists to share their work, not only for public viewing, but also for public editing. This is unreal. As a designer I can not only see all the amazing art that my peers create, but I can also see how they built their file. As a Photoshop user the only way I ever got advice like that was to hang around the studio and look over the shoulders of some of our veterans. With communities like this users can advance their skills faster and learn the tricks they want, when they want.
Now I haven’t put the SUMO Paint program through any professional tests yet (I only just discovered it today) but from the experimenting I did I was most impressed with how fast it loaded, and the fact that once it was loaded it was literally as smooth as running a local application.
Many of these applications are created using Adobe Flex RIA (Rich Internet Applications). The web developer in me is very excited to experiment with this technology and see how ordinary websites can be transformed into intelligent, and highly functional applications that offer users more than just information and entertainment, they can now offer utility.
As a business owner I also salivate at the idea of being able to save the thousands of dollars per employee we spend annually to keep our agency on the cutting edge of the latest technologies. I guess that leads to my next question: what the hell is funding these applications? Is it purely a traffic play? Build the followers and then sell your database to the highest bidder? Or is there a hidden ad model that’s lurking under the surface?
Only time will tell how (or should I say when) web applications are truly embraced by the masses. When it does happen, I just hope I don’t have to “skip this ad” to read my PSD files.