Monday, May 07, 2007

The ways of the web

Via an essay at Daring Fireball, I have stumbled across an essay by Paul Graham, a techie and start-up entrepreneur, speculating that Microsoft is "dead" in that it no longer has any meaningful power in the programming world.

Gnerally speaking, I agree with Paul's thrust but he repeats a canard that many in web programming seem to be rather keen on.
It now seems inevitable that applications will live on the web—not just email, but everything, right up to Photoshop.

Like many programmers and web-based techs, Paul Graham simply ignores the speed limitations of the web. No matter how fast my pipe gets, it is simply not going to be adequate to deliver Photoshop via the web. Why?

Quite simply, the size of the files makes it prohibitive. Yes, if you are working on web graphics as a resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch), then your file may be a couple of megabyte (MB) and you could probably work over the web.

But the trouble is that far too many people forget about the sheer size of print files, which need to be created at 300 dpi and at the correct physical size. The standard file size of a 300 dpi A4 TIFF is about 16MB. Yes, you can reduce this through sending files as PDFs or, if it is suitable, using vectors but that is to forget that the raw files—the ones, in other words, that you will be working on in Photoshop—are likely to be far larger than this.

As someone whose art involves a lot of multi-layered photo images, I routinely work on files that are over a gigabyte (GB) in size. The last big print job that I did was a 10 foot by 7.5 foot display banner: the raw, multi-layered Photoshop file was a little over 3.5GB.

There is simply no way that these kinds of sizes are going to be used over the web. My spanky new Mac is pretty fucking fast but, at these sizes, even working locally (i.e. on the main hard drive) it simply isn't anywhere near instantaneous; the idea of working on such giant files over the web appalls me.

Sometimes, one can only conclude that these Web 2.0 visionaries predicting the death of the desktop need to actually research outside their own rather tiny sphere.

It may be that print will become less important but it will never die; and whilst that is the case, Photoshop will remain on the desktop. As will the professional users.


Shotgun said...

He's talking absolute utter shite, and typical of the wishful thinking of techies who want Microsoft to go under but are too dumb in the ways of the real world to realise they are talking utter shite.

Software and programming is more and more available via the web...but so what? What about security? What about the fact that people like to have the originals and like that tactile facet to their purchase?

Sometimes, one can only conclude that these Web 2.0 visionaries predicting the death of the desktop need to actually research outside their own rather tiny sphere.


Devil's Kitchen said...

He's not entirely wrong. It's worth reading the Daring Fireball article too, to get the full flavour of what Paul Graham's suggesting.


Gary said...

Well, speaking as a Mac user and occasional web 2.0 cheerleader, I think the web-apps evangelism gets pretty tiresome sometimes. Maybe I'm biased, having spent four days on planes (no network connection) and then four days in a US hotel room where ethernet internet access was 10 bucks a day for speeds barely better than dial-up. Photoshop? I could hardly get Flickr to work. Even email was agonising, and just as I was about to do my Happy Blackberry dance, the network operator decided to stop my blackberry data access for no good reason.

Web apps are fine when you've got a reliable, super-fast network connection - and as you say, when you're not chucking around massive files.

The death of Microsoft stuff's getting pretty tiresome too, not least because it ignores the real bread and butter of MS's business: corporate apps. Apple's iPhone is lovely, but there are *thousands* of business apps for specific sectors running on Windows mobile devices and so far at least, it seems there will be none for the iPhone. Windows is in EPOS machines, etc. It's embedded in industrial devices. And so on.

There's more to computing than office, email and a pretty desktop.

Peter Risdon said...

I'm sure Graham is aware of the file sizes in common use. Bus and network speeds are converging.

Devil's Kitchen said...


The fastest Broadband speed in Britain is currently up to (and that's fairly crucial) 24 megabits per second (Mb/s) and that speed is heavily dependent on how far away you are from the exchange and the contention rate (how many other people use that connection). In reality, you'll be lucky to get two thirds of that speed.

The data transfer rate on my hard drives is 3 gigabits per second (Gb/s) and the chips are running through two independent frontside buses of 1.33 gigahertz (GHz).

Modern communications are going to have to take a quantum leap to get anywhere close to that kind of data throughput, and it will still depend on those numerous other factors.

Then, of course, you'll have the issues of crashing routers, crashing apps, crashing servers and crashing web=browsers.

Photoshop for serious commercial applications will not be online in my lifetime. And I seriously doubt that it ever will be.


Anonymous said...

What a complete fucking cock end. Clearly his progam list consists on MS Paint and Calculator.