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10 Web Operating Systems Reviewed 113

Stan Schroeder writes "Waiting for GoogleOS? Why not try some of the WebOS applications that are already available? Believe it or not, there's already over 15 of them, and here you can find a review of the 10 most promising WebOSes. Most of them might not make you want to ditch your desktop OS just yet, but some are very good and can be used on a day-to-day basis. Highlights include DesktopTwo, Goowy, YouOS, EyeOS and Glide. You can find the whole bunch here." Note: for the purposes of this article, "WebOS" is defined as "a set of applications running in a web browser that together mimic, replace or largely supplement a desktop OS environment."
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10 Web Operating Systems Reviewed

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  • what use? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bedonnant ( 958404 )
    I still don't get what actual use of these can be relatively to other existing options.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sure you do, but then you wouldn't get first post if you bothered to devote 10 seconds of time to saying so, would you?
    • by HerrEkberg ( 971000 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @01:42PM (#17360556) Homepage
      Ever heard of those computers that come pre-loaded with a ROM containing only Microsoft Bob and a web browser?

      Well... me neither, but it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      The main use is that it's a new area to explore. It's a growing application, that doesn't have many uses today, but you never know when it'll finally have a good use. As webos's develop, people might find new innovative ways to use them.

      Imagine a company that had a Webos, and hundreds of thin clients, which would probably be a operating system whose user interface is only the web browser window pointed at the the webos. You could probably load it up all to ROM and have no hard drive, making the boot up tak
      • by mlk ( 18543 )

        operating system whose user interface is only the web browser

        The Sun Ray (I think) thin clients already come with this, but also a X client, and a Windows Remote client. Both options are better than "WebOS"es for "remote desktops".

        You could probably load it up all to ROM and have no hard drive, making the boot up take all of about a second.

        Then add the download time + flash start up time etc.

        While "WebOSes" are a intresting toy, I don't think they will ever be any more than that

      • by FLEB ( 312391 )
        I think you've hit it about as close to my feeling as you can without just calling it useless. I see the "WebOS" as a solution floundering for a problem. Right now, the technology and methods are still in the "wow" stage, and people aren't doing much more than using new tools to make copies of existing applications that end up straining to wedge themselves into relevance in areas where they're not needed. Eventually, someone will come up with the niche that rich Web applications do fill-- uniquely and adept
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by partenon ( 749418 ) *

        The main use is that it's a new area to explore.

        Funny to read that. Some time ago, we had "dumb terminals" (in a literal translation from portuguese to english). Applications fully running on a central computer via network isn't a new idea. The "new" factor here is the internet. How cyclical our market is...

        By the way, if you wonder about having a box that only boots and get everything from network, you'd be surprised to discover BootP (bootstrap protocol) and others, used for diskless workstations.

    • Nobody seems to be able to think of any use at all for these, which is surprising to me (although i guess it isn't useful if you never leave your house, which might explain the slashdot reaction). Lets set aside for a moment the fact that these systems are slow and may not work particularly well, and assume that we live in a perfect world and they are feature-complete and snappy and have all the programs you need and even a way to add more programs or what not. I can head down to the library and simultane
      • There is nothing new about remote access to one's computer and there have been many solutions to this problem for many years now that all perform better or no worse than the web browser approach. There is X windows for NIXes which supports remote login sessions, there is remote desktop for Windows XP and 2003 and terminal services for Windows 2000, not to mention the numerous third party products which have been available for just as long including VNC, Timbuktu, PCAnywhere, and many others. The WebOS conce
        • by tomazos ( 992364 )

          There is nothing new about remote access to one's computer and there have been many solutions to this problem for many years

          The difference is that the necessary client software (the web browser) is preinstalled and ready-to-go on every machine.

          Zero deployment is a big deal.

          • X Windows, or something like it, comes with just about every version of a NIX OS and Windows XP comes with remote desktop client. If you want to go back more than six years then you can point to Windows 2000 Pro and other 9x Microsoft OSes not having this functionality pre-installed out of the box, but most people already have the tools they need with their base OS install (they just don't know that they have them). I cannot speak about the MacOS support during this time since I mostly didn't use MacOS duri
            • by tomazos ( 992364 )

              X Windows, or something like it, comes with just about every version of a NIX OS and Windows XP comes with remote desktop client.

              Are these pre-installed clients interoperable? Are they as easy to setup and use as typing a URL at an Internet Cafe, a friends computer or public Internet terminal? There is a big difference between making something technical possible and making it ubiquitously "click-run" and "mum-can-do-it". I would like to be able to login (in one step) to any machine and have the same interface that I have from home and work. My experience of using a computer should be dictated by me and not by my physical locatio

          • There is something that scares me.

            Just like web-based applications, web-OSs seem like something that can be taken from me at any time. Let's say there is a change in subscription prices that prices me out of the game or the fact I have to keep paying for something over and over again. Let's not even bring up the specter of no standards.

            I am comfortable with control over my machine. There may be some amazing uses in the future that compel me to adopt the use of a web-OS but I cannot see what those uses ar
        • The problem with current remote access solutions that in my eyes Web OSes address better than the solutions you mentioned is a problem of simplicity. Specifically, you essentially have to set up a server and keep your computer running to use these services. This isn't a problem for many people, and probably isn't much of one at all for the slashdot crowd. However, I do feel that the WebOS concept is much more appealing because you don't have to worry about the server end of things. It's just so easy to
          • While these "WebOS" things do remove the need for keeping your personal machine configured to run the backend, the servers running them could just as easily be running more practical applications that are accessed remotely. Remote access to a centrally administered server is a neat (if somewhat old) idea, but the web is distinctly the wrong delivery mechanism. It's not even like these products are truely 'web based'; the overwhelming majority of the systems in the article use flash to get the job done. Why
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      This might be interesting to use on the Wii, which has a browser but no real 'OS' to speak of.
    • There are pros and cons to Web apps just like there are pros and cons to Desktop apps.

      This article [] does a good job of explaining the pros and cons of Web & Desktop apps.

      Here's the full text:

      Pros and Cons to Web and Desktop Applications
      by S. Housley

      There has been a long running debate about web applications replacing desktop software applications. While some functions are better suited to web applications. It is my belief that security concerns and legacy systems will prevent desktop software from becomi

    • by Dabido ( 802599 )
      They're a huge step up from WebDOSPrompt. :-)
    • Until very recently, I would have agreed with you 100%. However, consider this scenerio:
      • You are a geek, and so YOUR laptop is setup exactly the way YOU want it- OS, apps, icons, mouse sensitivity, etc etc.
      • You are so spoiled by your laptop that the thought of touching another machine fills you with dread. You call into work sick to avoid it.
      • You and your laptop are off on a business trip, vacation, or multi-state police chase.
      • Your laptop breaks. You do a recovery dance, then cast CURE 4. No dice.
      • You ord
  • A "WebOS" is defined as "a set of applications running in a web browser that together mimic, replace or largely supplement a desktop OS environment."

    How are you looking at this without using a browser? Or do WebOS include browsers. That would make so much sense.
    • by Tx ( 96709 )
      Who said you're not using a browser? Of course you're using a web browser to access a frigging WEB OS! Think, dammit!
      • Yeah. I would even assume that if you had this, you could even use a PC that is just a browser to access a server that has the WebOS on it.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by H3g3m0n ( 642800 )
          There are also browsers in some of them :) This actually does make sense, things like bookmarks and history can be kept online without requiring any bookmark synchronizers or needing to be accessed from a special bookmarks site, other than the initial webOS connection, also you could enable access to the bookmarks through such a portal site and enable synchronizers to get the best of everything. With that said, I think that webOSes them selfs are kind of pointless. It would be much better to have a web ba
    • by Fett101 ( 810894 )
      "Or do WebOS include browsers."

      Viewing web pages in a browser via WebOS running in a browser. My mind boggles.
      • We call it iframes.
      • Definition (Score:3, Insightful)

        by matt me ( 850665 )
        Surely we now have a Turing machine equivalent for webOS.

        A sufficiently advanced webOS is able to run itself.
        • by Poltras ( 680608 )
          Thus, by definition, all WebOS implementing a way to browse a page are able to run themselves. I don't see it mind blogging, since the machine (browser) needed to interpret the language (HTML) is the same (client browser...) and as such is as powerful.
          • I dunno, how many of these "WebOSs" have Flash support? These aren't exactly web pages, or even flashy Javascript.
    • I think they really meant "supplant" rather than "supplement", for one thing.
  • Shame that he didn't say what environment he was using to test. OK: I know that they are based on flash, but it would have been nice to know what browsers/... it ran under.
  • by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @01:42PM (#17360548) Homepage
    I'm sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for "the call".

    Yeah joe ?
    Uhhh, I registered for a Web OS, you know so I don't have to use Windows, then I deleted Windows, how do I get my new Web OS to connect to the internet ?
    • by miro f ( 944325 )
    • After the herculean effort to control your laughter, tell them that if they send you $5 + shipping, you will send them a wondrous CDROM called "Knoppix".

      You could get richer than spammers!
  • One simple answer: shared documents. Sure, I have five+ computers at home and one of them is a dedicated linux machine that I use for file storage and whatnot. The problem is, it is a multi-step process for anyone living in my house to access these files at work. While I have no problem of whatsoever establishing file shares and so forth, not everyone is as comfortable with the idea.

    Luckily Google spreadsheets solved at least one problem for me - maintaining a shopping list. I can pop on any computer with i
  • Argh. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 25, 2006 @01:51PM (#17360618)
    It's a desktop environment or, at the very least, an application suite. Not an operating system. Until some website is handling process and memory management, it's no OS.

    But I guess "Online Desktop Environment" doesn't quite sound as cool does it?
    • by ettlz ( 639203 )
      Aye. Ye cannae do interrupt handling with AJAX.
    • Online Desktop Environment = ODE. Surely someone can make marketing hay with THAT one.
    • BOOT from...WAN? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by msimm ( 580077 )
      I'm sure the current crop of WebOS solutions are silly or novel (or both). But I do see potential for things to move in this direction. Assuming hardware can be considered essentially an appliance (you don't seriously think custom, clunky, incompatible rigs are going to be gold standard forever?) whats really important? Your environment, your applications and your data.

      But aside from laptops (which you have to lug around, break, etc) as far as the average person is concerned their data is tied to their ha
    • Actually, it's a floor wax and a dessert topping!
  • Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by strags ( 209606 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @01:54PM (#17360632)
    I can see one reason for a Web OS, and that's that it makes it easy to access your desktop from anywhere. However, from a technological point of view, the web browser has to be pretty much the worst choice of interface - the only compelling reason for using it is that it's ubiquitous.

    Browsers were never meant to do this sort of thing - AJAX is a hack that's hard to get working 100% reliably across all browsers at the best of times - just look at the hoops one has to jump through to get the back-button working properly, not to mention handling the differences between Firefox and IE. Why on earth would you want to base an entire desktop on such a shaky foundation?

    (Bearing in mind that 74% of all statistics are made up on the spot...) I suspect that 99% of internet users access the internet from the same machine (or at most 2 machines) 99% of the time. The cost in increased bandwidth, sluggish response, lack of high-bandwidth media support seems to me a heavy price to pay for portability. Even if we do decide that it's worthwhile, there are technologically better ways to do it.
  • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @02:05PM (#17360696)
    How is this an operating system?

    I guess "WebOS" sounds a lot sexier than "crappy useless Flash programs that just barely work".
    • by rs79 ( 71822 )
      "I guess "WebOS" sounds a lot sexier than "crappy useless Flash programs that just barely work"."

      What he said. It's nice to see people working in this area and I can see they've put some thought into it.

      But the first two I tried didn't work at all and the third was mildly interesting.

      I think they've all missed the boat (or maybe I have) though in that moving your desktop out there to the net is not I think what's going to happen. Rather than use some server out there I think your desktop will be the server.
    • by NotFamousYet ( 937650 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @03:48PM (#17361062)
      Again, like "Web 2.0", this is just a term coined by bloggers to hype a new kind of feature.

      For most people, an OS is nothing more than a collection of software which comes with a computer. So a WebOS is basically the equivalent of these apps, but online.

      A better fitting name would probably be Online Desktop, but since those failed in the previous bubble ( anyone?), I doubt people will be calling them that :)
    • It is not a joke. Drug abuse does horrible things. Say no to letting tech journos write when they are on drugs.
    • by shish ( 588640 )
      How is this an operating system?

      Ummm, did you not read the summary?

      Note: for the purposes of this article, "WebOS" is defined as "a set of applications running in a web browser that together mimic, replace or largely supplement a desktop OS environment."
  • WebOS (Score:5, Funny)

    by DA-MAN ( 17442 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @02:06PM (#17360702) Homepage
    Sounds like the spanish word for testicles...
    • by Joebert ( 946227 )
      You're thinking of "huevos", which is actually translated to "eggs".
      "Testículos" is testicles.

      So, "Don't put all your WebOS in one basket" would have worked better.
      • "huevos" does literally mean "eggs" but in slang it is the testicles.
      • by moco ( 222985 )
        It is the same as "balls". It can be used as slang for testicles. In spanish you can use huevos (eggs), pelotas (balls), tanates (???), gumaros (???) and, my guess is, many more words to refer to the testicles. Any other spanish speaking slashdotters care to complete this list?

  • by cunamara ( 937584 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @02:09PM (#17360714)

    Back in the day, one of the arguments for the "personal computer revolution" was to free computer users from central control. The idea was for the user to own their own basically self-sufficient computer, rather than sharing that stuff. But as time has gone on the the Internet has become ubiquitous, computer users are voluntarily being re-centralized with things like GMail, IMAP, web-based applications, etc. Are we voluntarily surrendering the freedom of personal computer ownership?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by x2A ( 858210 )
      No, we are exercising that freedom by running different things in different ways to best suit our needs.

    • by moco ( 222985 )
      Centralized, distributed and personal computing each have their own advantages and disadvantages. The advances in technology make either of them "cheaper" at times and the market adjusts.
  • I just don't understand how this is promising. To use the OS, you must already have an OS. You can't install it yourself either... And you also need a browser to access it. How is this an OPERATING SYSTEM at all?
    • I am sorry, but these are not operating systems. These are nothing more than pretty user interfaces running on top of a web browser that is running on top of an operating system. The use of operating system in this context is a retarded misnomer and we should stop doing it.
    • How is this an OPERATING SYSTEM at all?

      It isn't of course, I'd call it a Web Desktop Environment but that's wordier. There's also some wiggle room when deciding where an OS ends and "Applications" begin. KDE, Gnome, Explorer, etc. are technically applications, but I'd still consider them parts of the OS. Konquerer/Nautilus are a little tougher to draw the line at whereas OpenOffice/KOffice are pretty definately applications in their own right.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @03:04PM (#17360932) Homepage
      Well, because Windows and OS X users rarely if ever have needed to separate between the OS and Desktop Environment, if they at all understand what Windows is then it's as an operating system. So when you make an online desktop environment, you call it WebOS people actually think right even though it's technically wrong. It's the same way people think a 10/100 Mbit Ethernet connection would be "broadband", when it's technically not. But in their minds they get the right idea of "fast internet". Still, if I wanted anything like a WebOS, I'd much rather have a remote login to a real desktop.
  • by jlarocco ( 851450 ) on Monday December 25, 2006 @03:41PM (#17361052) Homepage

    I don't even know where to start.

    First off, these aren't "operating systems." An operating system is the system of software that interacts with the hardware of the computer and provides an interface for regular application software to use and share that hardware. Most operating systems do quite bit more than that, but at it's heart, that's what an OS is for. These "Web operating systems" don't do anything like that, by any stretch of the imagination. At best these would some kind of user interface.

    Second of all, they're SLOW. Way to go, guys, your "WebOS" makes my 2+ Ghz Athlon 64 and gig of memory run like a slow 386.

    If that's not bad enough, there's really no use for these things. At best they're remote desktop for people who are too stupid to setup a regular remote login or VPN. I mean, shit, I can tunnel X over ssh and log in to one of my home machines from work, and get full access to a regular X session and all of Linux. It's not as fast as being logged in locally, but it's still much faster than these "Web OSes"

    And finally, it's an abomination of the underlying technology. Somebody really needs to have a little talk with these people about using the right tool for the job. This isn't even like using a hammer to pound in a screw, it's more like using a jack hammer to to fix a watch.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      First off, these aren't "operating systems." An operating system is the system of software that interacts with the hardware of the computer and provides an interface for regular application software to use and share that hardware.

      To the credit of slashdot, I had to scroll most of the way down the page before someone waved their amazing knowledge around to impress us all. We know what an operating system is. And no, we don't really care that you know. Neither do they. Get used to it. Oh yeah, a hacker b
  • personal favourite: Windows RG []?! You know, familiar user experience has always been a key element to success.
  • They do everything a desktop can do but they they do it in a browser, do it slower and hog a lot more resources. Wow, how innovative!
  • Are they some kind of expensive Internet speaker system?
  • BS (Score:2, Funny)

    by slashthedot ( 991354 )
    The term "Browser System" or BS suits them better, I'd say.
  • Because writing an "OS" in a language designed for document markup is such a great idea.
  • Since you already have access to common (windows) desktop app's such as spreadsheets, word doc's, and even low-time-budget games on Google Personalized Homepage, it appears GoogleOS has already been released. Though its interface is minimal, it's clean and straight-forward... without the hassle of cutesy icons that make you do what you don't want to do.

    imho, whoever wrote the blog doesn't know what a real O/S looks like... that, it's not the pretty icons and "windows-gui-like" interface that makes somethi

    • I have to agree with you here
      GoogleOS is already here in functionality, just not officially.
      With Personalised Homepage, i have pretty much every Google service i use linked on it.
      We have Docs & Spreadsheets, calenders, e-mail, chat, maps, image manipulation (to an extent).
      And this is only the beginning (and this is not my words either, Google Blogs words, the official one)

      The next year for Google will be getting more stuff out of beta (gmail for sure) and start to unify more of the interfaces.


  • The day they take linux/X/fvwm/gnu away from me, they'll have to pry them from my cold dead fingers.

    Sure, having your desktop run remotely from a web serve means your desktop follows you everywhere you go, but that also means you have to trust another party with your data.

    And that ain't happening, not with me.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Sure, having your desktop run remotely from a web serve means your desktop follows you everywhere you go

      Most people here probably already know this - but you can do that far better with X and ssh - even vnc is a half decent compromise and can work in a web browser (eg. the nice variant x11vnc).

  • For SSOE 1.0a, from TFA:
    SSOE might not be the biggest OS, but it eats CPU like nothing else around.
    For the best experience, ensure your computer meets the following basic requirements:
    # RAM: 256MB or Greater
    # Hard Disk: Unimportant. Have 4KB free for all it matters.
    # CPU: 2.6 GHZ absolute minimum. The faster, the better. Dual core if possible.
    # Graphics Card: Have at least 64MB VRAM. Hardware T&L preferred.

    Good grief. Blows Vista away.
    I'll stick with some flavor of Linux and be able t
  • I've seen several posts which come close to explaining the WebOS, but think of this: Imagine having devices (TV/PDA/Cellphone/future PADD ala Star Trek) which can connect to a network (LAN/WAN/WiFi/etc). These smart devices won't need to have a full OS installed in order to function. All you need is network access. You could then have full access to your desktop 24/7 no matter where you are. In the home, you will be able to work in any room without the need of owning several computers. I realize that many
    • OMFLOG!!!


      1) Pandering to "non-techies" is a bad idea. There should be a barrier to entry... the whole Ian Malcom, standing on the shoulders of giants thing... People should be required to earn a little knowledge for themselves before they get to use a computer... or a gun, or a car

      2) In a perfect StarTrek world, where everyone is trustworthy, I suppose being able to just call up your Desktop on a PADD is fine... It's bad enough the NSA can sniff my Internet connection... with a "WebOS" they can sniff
  • I'm rather impressed with this []
  • "WebOS" is defined as "a set of applications running in a web browser that together mimic, replace or largely supplement a desktop OS environment."

    So in other words the definition can also be "not an OS at all"? I guess "WebDeskTop" is not as catchy...
  • The current state of Javascript and Web browser technology makes it impossible to efficiently implement memory protection and/or preemptive multitasking between multiple "processes" running in a web based OS. I have tried myself to get around this problem by implementing a virtual machine in Javascript and running the processes on the virtual machine, but this is slow and messy. Until we have web browsers which are actually designed to run this sort of stuff, a web based OS will never really be able to appr
  • The whole point of this is to be able to work anywhere. Most computers have all the software anyone will ever need installed on them. The challenge of being able to work on large documents at different locations is virtually nonexistent with usb drives and even free online storage solutions. Why would I work on a spreadsheet program within a browser if the Excel icon is behind it?

Have you ever noticed that the people who are always trying to tell you `there's a time for work and a time for play' never find the time for play?