Online desktop

I wonder if you could build a Linux distro where the only program installed was Firefox? You make it look like an ordinary desktop, with “Word Processor”, “Email Client”, “Web Browser”, etc, but the word processor is Writely and the email client is Gmail, both of which come up in their own chromeless window so they seem like a separate application, and the web browser is a stock Firefox window. You might not even need X for this. Obviously it’d be about as much use as a chocolate teapot without access to the net. File storage is online, and each “web app” you use has been hacked (with GreaseMonkey or similar) to save to your online repository; you get a “file manager” which is probably some Ajax thing to manipulate the files on the remote server and to open them in an appropriate application (where the URL of the remote file gets sent to the local host, which then opens one of its “applications” like Writely and passes it the URL of the file to open). Not sure how useful it’d be, but it’d be pretty small, and it’d genuinely prove that the web really can be your apps. What’s missing from this picture? Assuming you’re prepared to live with Flash (which I personally am not until Gnash comes along) then multimedia isn’t really a problem. There’s no web-based equivalent of, say, Jokosher, but there wasn’t a web-based equivalent of MS Word either until fairly recently either. Your apps probably wouldn’t be as good as desktop apps, because we’re in an early stage of development of web applications, but that’s only a matter of time, and maybe it’s outweighed by the convenience of having your fully working desktop on a 16MB USB stick. (Look at how many people use webmail, despite its UI being worse than desktop mail apps; even if you think that new webmail clients like GMail or Yahoo Mail are as good, people still used Hotmail in their droves before the whole Web 2.0 thing.) One more project I probably don’t have time to build…

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