Software application development began with desktop applications, which could be used on standalone machines only. However, with the advent of internet and online commerce, web application development gained importance. Word processors and media players can be considered to be typical desktop applications, while an online shopping cart on an ecommerce website can be considered as a web application.
By definition, a desktop application means any software that can be installed on a single computer (laptop or a desktop) and used to perform specific tasks. Some desktop applications can also be used by multiple users in a networked environment. Web application development, however, soon started replacing desktop applications for reasons of portability and better functions from usability point of view. Web application development is usually made on client-server architecture and use a web-browser as the client interface. This is one of the reasons why web applications are so widely getting popular. Though web applications offer a slight advantage over desktop applications, there is a very narrow chance of desktop applications becoming outdated. The primary reason for this could be the security issues and legalities associated with web based applications.
Following is a basic comparison on desktop and web based applications based on certain parameters:
- Maintenance - web based applications need to be installed only once where as desktop applications are to be installed separately on each computer. Also updating the applications is cumbersome with desktop applications as it needs to be done on every single computer which is not the case with web applications.
- Ease of use - desktop applications are confined to a physical location and hence have usability constraint. Web applications development on the other hand makes it convenient for the users to access the application from any location using the Internet.
- Security - web applications are exposed to more security risks than desktop applications. You can have a total control over the standalone applications and protect it from various vulnerabilities. This may not be the case with web applications as they are open to a large number of users in the Internet community thus widening the threat.
- Connectivity - web application development relies significantly on Internet connectivity and speed. Absence of Internet or its poor connectivity can cause performance issues with web applications. Desktop applications are standalone in nature and hence do not face any hindrances resulting from Internet connectivity. Connectivity also significantly affects the speed at which desktop and web applications operate.
- Cost factor - web application development and its maintenance involve higher costs and mostly recurring in nature. Desktop applications are purchased one time and there are not continually occurring charges. However, in certain cases, maintenance fees may be charged.
Having considered the basics of desktop and web application development, the selection of a suitable type will depend on the business needs and factors discussed in the comparison given above.