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I've been online since 1971 and I like to smoothe the way for everyone else. Among other things I co-founded Sympatico, the world's first easy-to-use Internet service (and Canada's largest).

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How dependent are you on Internet access?

A recent post by David Heinemeier Hansson in the 37signals blog complained that “the idea of offline web applications is getting an undue amount of attention”. (You can see the post here, but be warned that the title uses language that is “not used in polite society”.) That there are 203 comments, most disagreeing with DHH, shows that being able to use computers without having good Internet access is something many people consider important. 37signals makes products for people who have reliable and fast Internet connections and don’t necessarily need access when travelling, and many of the commenters accused the company of being out of touch with those who aren’t that lucky.

I think the situation is that the lucky ones constitute enough of a market that 37signals can be a viable company without having to worry about building applications that will run offline, something that would dramatically increase application complexity and cost. 37signals also knows that the connectivity situation will continue to improve. If it were a public company the shareholders might well have demanded that it make more money by building products for the markets it’s not currently addressing, but it’s not a public company. It can stick to what it does well, knowing that the future is on its side. For other software companies, building offline Web applications may well make sense.

If you’re one of those lucky ones, and if you’re reading this blog you probably are, I recommend that you stay that way: before you become dependent on any online-only applications, have some form of backup Internet access in place. In my case, for instance, if my DSL connection at home ever failed for any length of time I could use dialup instead (my Sympatico High Speed subscription includes dialup, with the first 10 hours/month free and additional hours cheap), and if the entire phone line ever failed I could go to a local Internet café. For businesses whose staff need to stay in one place, one option now available in many Canadian cities is wireless Internet service that uses pre-WiMax technology. For only $25/month, plus $100 to buy the modem, you can have a backup 128 kb/s Internet connection (or faster if you pay more monthly, up to 3 Mb/s for $60/month) that will still work even if neither phone line nor cable works. For most businesses that’s affordable insurance. Preferably, get your backup connection from a different carrier than your usual connection.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Christina said...

On a related note, an update on my Google Docs at work situation: it is no longer a restricted site. Yay! Now, if only they'd give us msn messenger back.

Monday, April 23, 2007 at 10:46:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Rohan Jayasekera said...

Christina, is Meebo.com blocked at your work? If not, it will do MSN Messenger for you.

Monday, April 23, 2007 at 2:07:00 PM EDT  

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