The Web's Most Useful Sites

Web Operating Systems

The YouOS Web-based operating system provides you with applications, a notepad, a Flickr-based image feed, and chat.
The YouOS Web-based operating system provides you with applications, a notepad, a Flickr-based image feed, and chat.
The idea of a Web operating system hearkens back to the model of dumb terminals reliant on a central server that runs every program. Though that model was largely supplanted by PCs, powerful server farms, such as the one feeding Google's search, easily surpass any home system. A Web OS, paired with a PC's ability to install specialized programs locally, may well be computing's future.

Winner: YouOS, launched in 2005 by refugees from Oracle but still in alpha mode, lets you surf the Web via a browser-within-a-browser window, read RSS feeds, create text documents, and use a Nintendo game emulator to play titles like Donkey Kong.

It's mostly a playground for developers right now, and it isn't very fast, but it is free--and running, say, Zoho Writer inside a Web browser that runs on an outside server through a browser running on your PC is oddly thrilling.

Runner-up: EyeOS is an open-source, free application that comes with a full-featured word processor, a basic calendar, a rudimentary Web browser, and an RSS reader. You can use the hosted version of EyeOS or install it on any Web server. Like YouOS, however, it runs slowly.

Also-ran: By contrast, Desktoptwo relies heavily on Flash and Java to pull off its desktop imitation. Though it supplies no browser, the desktop includes a full suite of OpenOffice applications, an MP3 player, and Adobe Acrobat Reader, and it offers a 1GB virtual hard drive.

While Desktoptwo may be the most useful of the three services--thanks to its full-powered applications and its potential role as a document-and music-storage center--its dependence on Flash and Java puts most of the computing burden on your PC, while the others rely on the computing power of servers.

Subscribe to the Daily Downloads Newsletter

Comments