One of the easiest ways of explaining the internet today is by opening any web browser and navigating into a website such as this one. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge are some of the most notable browsers we have today, with Chrome having most of the market share.

Brief History

The World Wide Web (www) is a collection of webpages found on a network of computers, what we now call the internet. It was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and you can find the first-ever website here.

Sir Tim Berners Lee - Inventor of the World wide web
Sir Tim Berners Lee - Inventor of the World wide web | Image source- Cloudfare

To access these webpages, one needs to typically use a browser to visit a website such as www.africanwith.tech which in today’s world, is rare to see the preceding www as it is automatic.

One of the earliest browsers made was called Mosaic in 1993 which was later renamed Netscape. This was a breakthrough since it allowed regular people to access the internet. Even though Netscape was the most popular web browser in the 1990s, it, unfortunately, lost its footing in the early 2000s during the browser wars.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was also a hit and took most of the market share. Today, both the Navigator and Explorer are no more. Why is that? Well, they did not have enough features to handle today’s internet’s needs.

Where is this Importance?

For a specific group of people, all they need are productivity apps such as; Microsoft Office Suite or Social Media sites used in communication. Here are 3 reasons why you may not need to download full-blown applications onto your laptop.

  • Almost every application is online

Google smartly shook the productivity world with G-Suite, a collection of productivity and collaboration tools. With only a browser installed on your computer, you can type up a word document by visiting the Google Docs website. That very document can then be shared with anyone using their email address with a single button click. All this and more can be done on G-Suite. It is no surprise that Microsoft started pushing its online Office Suite.

On mobile, there are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). PWAs, simply put, are websites that are developed to work as native apps. Native apps for the longest time needed 2 separate apps for iOS or Android. A PWA is developed once and is available on both mobile platforms and a desktop version.

twitter PWA prompt
Twitter is an example of a progressive web app.

The point is, for every application you may need, there is an online version that is just as feature packed. Zac Bowden from Windows Central properly shows this use-case.

  • The Cloud and Always Connected Devices

All these applications and services are hosted on different cloud platforms. Services like G-Suite are all hosted on powerful computers, therefore, removing the need for users to use their processing power on machines.

The users only pay to use such services and do not worry about compatibility or on-device maintenance, which is called Software as a Service (SaaS). The primary place of use for such services is an interface such as a browser.

With the increase of SaaS applications, it is a rare occurrence for most people to need a lot of computing power hence the rise of always-connected PCs. There are thin and light laptops which have mobile connectivity inbuilt.

Apart from PCs, Chromebooks iPads and Android Tablets, have also increased in popularity. The beauty of such thin and light devices is that they have long battery life and can be used anywhere at any time.

  • Desktop Apps are using Browser Technologies

Chromium is an open-source project by Google that has the code base for some of the most common browsers.

Google Chrome and the new Microsoft Edge both use Chromium at their core.

Browsers are no longer the only thing built using Chromium as desktop applications such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp Desktop are all built using the same technology.

Examples of Desktop apps built using the Electron Framework.
Examples of Desktop apps built using the Electron Framework.

These apps are built using Electron which allows the development of desktop applications using web technologies. How is it all done? A simple quote from Electron’s website explains it

If you can build a website, you can build a desktop app.

The point here is that these apps are based on the same tech that made browsers so popular.

The downside to Browser-Centric work.

  • Not all workflows are ready to be web based

Video editing, Design work and App development are examples of workflows that require a lot of compute power and little to no latency (delay before data transfer).

The cloud is powerful, but it has ways to go before certain workflows can be done on the cloud.

  • Can Internet Access match up?

In the African context, it is right to worry about the state of the internet? With worrying speeds and hefty data prices, it could be a turn off for some people who need to work even when there is no internet.

Whatever the case, it is interesting to see what the next few years involve.

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