In the latest issue of Communications of the ACM Magazine, faculty member Alex Wright suggests “a new generation of browsers may finally herald the long-awaited convergence of the Web and operating system.” Below is an excerpt.
Back in 1995, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen predicted that his fledgling Web browser would one day render Windows obsolete. Fifteen years later, Netscape is long gone, and the traditional desktop operating system (OS) remains firmly established on most personal computers. Meanwhile, Web browsers still look a lot like they did in the mid-1990s, running inside application windows. In hindsight, Andreessen may have spoken a bit too soon. But history may yet prove him right. The hegemony of the desktop OS is starting to fracture with the emergence of a new generation of browsers that may finally herald the long-awaited convergence of Web and OS. An enormous amount of Web OS development is currently under way, with the development of Web standards, such as HTML5, to add richer capabilities and features; new technologies like Microsoft’s Xax and Google’s Native Client that make browsers and their applications as capable and powerful as desktop applications; and architectural changes to browsers, making them process oriented, which increases their robustness and security.