Web app sprawl

This post is mainly going to be a half vent, half collection of disjointed ideas. I hate how modern computing has become.

Suburban sprawl from above. Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on UnsplashPhoto by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash

I’ve noticed that two things have become quite more prevalent since 2020:

  • Many productivity apps, apps that would’ve typically been native to your computer even as recently as five years ago, are now web apps. They run in a browser of some kind, as much as some try to hide it.
  • These products are real. Billboard ads are displayed for them beside freeway overpasses. It’s almost impossible to escape them in a modern-day business computing environment.
  • Almost each and every one of these apps want to drop their own instance of Chromium onto your computer, whether it be Electron, CEF, or some other incarnation. “Download our app.” “X is better in the app.” (Spoiler alert: it’s exactly the same in the app, instead you now have 400MB of RAM chewed up by yet another Chromium instance.)

I played this game for a while. I downloaded the apps and placed them in my Dock. I tried to collect them into groups that made the most logical sense depending on what I was doing in my work day and what hat I was wearing. This works if you only have to use one, maybe two of these. If you’re unfortunate enough to be required to use four or five however, you essentially end up with five different hyper-specialised web browsers sitting in your Dock or taskbar. I’m calling this ‘web app sprawl’.

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