The Desktop App Migration to the Browser 

by Talon Research
March 17th, 2022

Well-known companies and services have been busy moving their platforms to the web. Perhaps web applications are not yet as fully featured as their desktop predecessors, but being cloud-based greatly facilitates the collaborative efforts of hybrid workforces. Moreover, the difference between versions decreases as time goes on. 

An ever-increasing number of software companies initially enter their target market via a web app. Familiar products include Google Workspace (a chief competitor to the classic Microsoft Office) and Canva, the latter having finally released a desktop version seven years after its web app debut. 

But security risks abound with web apps being accessed by way of a conventional browser—especially when a global hybrid workforce is accessing your enterprise resources. 

Why the migration? 

One of the first decisions companies have to make when creating a new software product is whether to develop it as a desktop or web application. This is true not only for startups but also for giants such as Microsoft with respect to Office 365.  

It’s a fair assumption that enterprise users prefer using a unified workspace platform, rather than having to constantly switch between several desktop applications—especially those workers limited by a small, single monitor (e.g., laptop). And web apps become even more in demand for WFH workers who need access to critical enterprise information anytime and from anywhere. 

Desktop vs. web apps 

What follows pertains to the differences between a web application and a desktop app: 

  • Web application describes any software accessible through a web interface. When a supplier provides cloud platform access, one interface might be a web application, another a desktop app, and a third a smartphone interface. 
  • While a web app provides instant access, a desktop version requires installation on users’ devices. 

With respect to some key functions, the following compares the pros (in green) and cons (in red) of desktop and web applications. 

Features that make a web app desirable for users include: 

  • It’s usually simpler to connect via a registration/login tab, without interaction with a website owner/sales representative. 
  • Users reach the app via a URL that can be shared between them, thereby facilitating collaboration (e.g., sharing a specific file on a given platform). 
  • It’s integrated with other systems (i.e., consuming data via an API). 
  • Bypasses software installation by anyone restricted from doing so due to enterprise policies (i.e., shadow IT). 

Apps conversion trend – from desktop to web 

As more and more traditional desktop apps move to the browser, some enjoy high rates of popularity. For example, Adobe launched a beta web version of Photoshop and Illustrator, two of its most-used applications. 

The security concerns 

Simplicity is the main reason for the global trend of web app conversion. For example, it’s relatively easy to deploy web applications across the enterprise. And when the discussion turns to easy-to-use, cross-platform software, web apps are often at the forefront. 

But the simpler the web app, the less secure it is. Granting access from any device makes the web app more vulnerable. This is because the browser is highly vulnerable and represents a major security blind spot.  

Moreover, saving data on a remote server rather than a local disk poses additional security concerns. Many web vulnerabilities, such as cross-site request forgery (CSRF) or cross-site scripting (XSS)—coupled with browser vulnerabilities—can provide bad actors located anywhere a way in, whereas the desktop version requires cybercriminals to have physical access to a specific device.  

Summary 

The increasing number of companies switching to a remote workforce has stimulated greater demand for web applications. As a result, the typical user spends more time accessing apps through a web browser. As legendary companies grasp the added value that simplicity affords them and move their apps to the web, it makes sense that security products address this migration.  

That said, up until now web apps have been at a security disadvantage, leaving some enterprises skeptical about their full-scale adoption. But with Talon’s strategic solution to this problem, their decision-making becomes easier. Offering a new approach, TalonWork transforms the enterprise browser into your organization’s first line of defense. It enables enterprise-grade security for workers using any web app on any device, anywhere in the world.  

Based on Chromium (the open source project behind popular browsers such as Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge), TalonWork provides the browsing experience your team already knows. Yet unlike those browsers, it provides highly granular security capabilities built-in. It increases visibility, control, and governance—providing your business with the robustness and flexibility required by today’s hybrid work environment. 

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