David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Ruby on Rails and partner in 37 signals, went nuclear on the official 37s blog in a profanity-titled post called You’re not on a fucking plane (and if you are, it doesn’t matter)! – (37signals). Now, I’m not a prude (feel free to search this blog or come out drinking with me), but leading a post on your corporate blog with the f-bomb is, what’s the word, dumb.
But I’m not here to lament David’s immature way of titling a post, but to take issue with the content of his post. Essentially, David argues that there’s no need for offline components to web applications because connectivity is so ubiquitous. Which is true, if you live in a major metropolitan area, such as David does. But here in the uncharted backwaters of suburban Detroit (Ann Arbor), there’s no such thing as ubiquitous WiFi. Sure, I could pay another $80 a month to get an EVDO card, but do I really need that? Not really, certainly not for business.
From a business standpoint, I know that my customers (professors and researchers) like to go to places that, ding, no one has been before. I wonder if they’ve laid lines that can handle 10mbps internet connections or cell tower that carry EVDO. I’m going to guess not. So, when I want my customers to interact with the web application we’ve built for them to get their research reviewed, how do they do that without an offline component? The answer now is paper, fax, and time.
So, why is 37 signals being so shortsighted? Apollo. Yep, that old chestnut called competition. Can’t access your Basecamp account from the airplane? Build your own app that let’s you update your project information offline and then synch that data when you do connect to the Internet. Sure, it’s a stretch but the threat to 37 Signals and RoR is there.
As one of the commenters to the 37s post said, “Distortion field at work here, folks.”