Introducing the Online Desktop

Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Firefox,, and countless other organizations are changing the software we use by shifting applications from the desktop operating system to the web.

Microsoft will move too slowly. The next version of Windows may be well-integrated with Windows Live, but there's a big difference between Windows Live and the Internet. Open source doesn't have an agenda like this; our online desktop will be integrated with anything and everything users want to use.

As people and organizations realize they aren't really using desktop operating systems anymore, except to launch their web browser open source will be there with a free-of-cost, free-as-in-freedom and super-simple alternative.

This is the right strategy for the open source desktop community. It's time to remix GNU/Linux and GNOME into a completely new take on the desktop for an online era.

Slides from GUADEC

At GUADEC we held a talk with slides.


This is not a web-based desktop or "webtop"; we are trying to create the ideal experience outside your browser. The fact is, you need hardware drivers, and the browser itself can't be web-based. The computing environment of the future won't be "turtles all the way down." But neither does it need a bunch of complexity designed for a pre-web world.

Imagine an OS that keeps all its information online, so you can use a live CD as easily as a full installation. When you start up a newly-installed computer, or visit a friend's house, your whole environment will be waiting for you, with no setup to redo. For the techies, think Stateless Linux Desktop; your files and settings are somewhere else.

Because our desktop is open source, it will work with all the best-in-category web sites and services that you use, no matter who owns them. It can also support a diverse "long tail" of sites and services for every interest and geographic location, as long as someone interested in a particular service takes the time to add support for it.

Online Desktop is a Timely Idea

Quotes from around the web.

  • The top technology official at the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that he is considering a permanent ban on the Microsoft software in favor of a combination of Google's new online business applications running on Linux-based hardware. In an interview, FAA chief information officer David Bowen said he's taking a close look at the Premier Edition of Google Apps as he mulls replacements for the agency's Windows XP-based desktop computers and laptops. Bowen cited several reasons why he finds Google Apps attractive. "It's a different sort of computing strategy," he said. "It takes the desktop out of the way so you're running a very thin client. From a security and management standpoint that would have some advantages.

Information Week.

  • So can you give us an indication of what the next Windows will be like? Well, it will be more user-centric.

    What does that mean? That means that right now when you move from one PC to another, you've got to install apps on each one, do upgrades on each one. Moving information between them is very painful. We can use Live Services [a way to connect to Microsoft via the Internet] to know what you're interested in. So even if you drop by a [public] kiosk or somebody else's PC, we can bring down your home page, your files, your fonts, your favorites and those things. So that's kind of the user-centric thing that Live Services can enable.

Bill Gates in Newsweek

  • What I discovered was that - with the caveat of a necessary network connection - life is just fine without a disk. Between the Firefox Web browser, Google's Gmail and and the search engine company's Docs Web-based word processor, it was possible to carry on quite nicely without local data during my trip. I had already stashed my almost 4,000 sources and phone numbers on a handy web site which I had access to, and so I found the only things I was missing were the passwords to online databases and my files of past reporting notes and articles which I occasionally refer to. Bouncing between hotel rooms to Wi-Fi-enabled lobbies and conference rooms, I was easily able to stay online and file my stories without incident. Afterwards it made me wonder why there aren't more wireless, Web-connected ultralight portables for business travelers. Somebody, it would appear, is missing an obvious market opportunity.

John Markoff of the New York Times


The "Online Desktop" name was coined for one attempt to implement these ideas, which includes, a sidebar called BigBoard, and other elements integrated into the GNOME desktop.

However, there are many projects trying out the general idea of a web-integrated desktop: Zonbu, gOS, PyroDesktop and Gimmie are some examples.


These are an old version of the BigBoard stuff.

Google Login and Calendar Integration (ogg format) Installing an Application like Pitivi (ogg format)

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Attic/OnlineDesktop/Vision (last edited 2013-11-22 20:34:51 by WilliamJonMcCann)