There are Web OSes springing up on the internet left and right these days. The web operating system, in its broadest definition, includes everything from complete browser based operating-system-like environments to terminal access-like services. I've been keeping a keen eye on the developments, partly because I think it will become one the next big raves on the internet and partly because I find such a services quite useful.
The currently active Web OS services all have free sign up available or at least demo versions for try-outs. Here are a few I've jumped through:
I quite liked the looks of Oos although I must say it is very very basic and very much incomplete for the moment. However, their interface loads fast, is clean and uncluttered. They've gone to lengths to copy the Windows looks and styles though and may not settle with die-hard users of other OSes.
- Oos homepage
EyeOS is an open source project towards the development of a web operating system and has the source available for download, allowing you to install it on your own site or intranet. The basic package has office, PIM and some utilities bundled in the download. They have a separate website EyeApps
where further "applications" for EyeOS can be found.
- EyeOS homepage
This is one of the more famous of the current bunch of WebOSes despite not being the best. There are a few applications available on it - a text editor, an instant messenger, notes app and a couple more utilities. The interface isn't too pleasing and the menu systems aren't that user friendly either. That said, it is quite usable though if all you want is the very basics.
AstraNOS failed to impress me a single bit. The interface was ugly and cluttered and lacked any decent feature. Their approach seems to be more towards amalgamating existing independent web services and applications and provide links for those services. Seems like just another WebOS attempt which totally fails to hit any mark, in my humble opinion.
- AstraNOS homepage
DesktopTwo is definitely one of the better web OSes around. There is a number of simpler web-based applications (e.g. an instant messenger, mail application, address book, mp3 player) available in addition to the full OpenOffice package and Acrobat Reader applications which seem to be instantiated separately via VNC connections. The interface uses Adobe Flash and is quite pretty and usable. They also offer 1GB of storage space for free to get started.
- Desktoptwo homepage
This WebOS is totally based on the Windows looks - Windows XP to be more exact. There are a few applications such as a HTML editor, a text editor and some utilities available already. This is a commercial product, although I can't really see why anyone would want to purchase this... Ahem.
- Fenestela homepage
Glide is definitely one of the better and more feature rich WebOSes around. A text editor, music player, email, calendar, contacts and even a photo editor application are available. They also provide 2 GB of free storage space. I'd use this as soon as I get over my disgust for their appalling interface!
- Glide homepage
An open source project that seems to be producing a quite impressive platform. It is a multi-user web OS software that is available for download and comes complete with user management, access control as well as a content management system. It maintains separate user directories and individual desktop environments. It is quite feature rich with office applications, calender, development applications and has a number of settings for controlling the operations and looks of the desktop environment.
- CorneliOS homepage
Goowy is far from being gooey and sports a pretty and very nifty interface. At the moment is has instant messenger, email, calendar, contacts and files management features available. Sadly, it is missing an office package which I reckon should be essential to any web OS. They have a feature called minis, which are basically widgets/gadgets that perform little utility tasks or as information displays. Goowy makes itself less lucrative thanks to the lack of the office package and may well be gooey for now feature-wise.
- Goowy homepage
One of the worst Web OSes I've come across! It's done in all Adobe Flash, extremely slow and buggy. Nuff said.
- SSOE homepage
DoD takes a different approach to a web OS in that theirs is not browser based but rather provides a remote terminal access to a hosted OS environment - one based on Linux and Gnome. Personally, I think this is the best approach to go for creating a Web OS as browser based OSes can be notoriously slow and makes the mistake of relying on the stateless (and inherently vulnerable) HTTP protocol for communications.
The DoD approach provides access to the OS via any NX client and has the option of using a browser based Java plugin as well. They provide 1 GB of free storage and the data can be accessed without entering the OS by using their web based file manager. NX technology uses compression on its data communications and achieves surprising performance. The DoD desktop was as fast as, if not faster than, using any of the browser based web OSes listed above, atleast on my broadband connection. DoD also benefits from NX's use of SSH encryption for data communications making it a very safe way to browse. It won't leave any discernible logs, can't be sniffed/tapped easily and you can store data and browse/chat without leaving any traces behind on the computers that are used to access it. These are great plus points when considering using a practical web OS that is can be accessed from anywhere and is safe.
There is a useful set of applications available as well: office apps, GIMP, instant messenger, browser, video/music player etc. This is my favourite for now and I reckon many others will like this one - especially the Linux fans!
- DesktopOnDemand homepage
CosmoPOD takes the same approach as DesktopOnDemand by providing remote terminal access to a KDE-based Linux desktop. CosmoPOD provides a lot more applications bundled in with their service: there is the complete OpenOffice package, IRC/IM clients, mail/newsgroup readers, project/money management software, web development package, a programming IDE, raster/vector graphics editors and a bunch of the usual KDE utilities as well. This alone makes this one of the most desirable web/online OS services around!
CosmoPOD also provides 1 GB free storage and an online browser based file manager that can be accessed without using the NX client.
Sad thing is the free offering is annoyingly slow and also shows advertising banners on the desktop. They do offer the option of switching to a premium service that gives fast access, more applications and control.
- CosmoPOD homepage