Wednesday, December 26, 2012

HTML5 offline web applications using ASP.NET MVC

One of the major constraints of web applications has always been connectivity. We imagined leveraging the browser to bring fully competent web applications to the desktop, but failed due to the lack of decent browser support. Although there were some caching techniques available before, they were never really designed with the intention of making web applications run completely offline, making them fragile and complex to set up. HTML5 tries to make up for this missing browser capability by introducing the offline application cache; a more reliable way to make web applications truly available even offline.

Why should my web application run offline?

To be honest, a lot of desktop web applications would hardly yield any return on investment of being able to run completely offline. Desktops are almost always connected, I especially see mobile web applications reaping the benefits of this new feature.

Mobile phone coverage continues to be flaky or even non-existent in many areas. Being able to fluently close that disconnectivity gap would significantly improve the user-friendliness of mobile applications running in the browser.

In more specific scenarios, being able to take the whole application offline could mean the difference between having to build multiple native applications or having the luxury of building one cross-platform browser solution.

Imagine a sales person who wants an interactive catalogue on her tablet to show to her customers in the field. She could use almost any device she wanted, simply browse to the catalogue when connected, then take it into the field offline.

You don't necessarily have to be offline to take advantage of the application cache though. One could use the application cache as a super cache, storing resources offline, so they don't slow down application startup. Updated resources will be downloaded in the background, and swapped with the older ones when the update can be committed. This scenario makes a lot of sense for heavy desktop web applications.

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