Offline radio, a wobbly analogy

It’s 1981.

You want to listen to music while you’re at home. So you go out and buy a cheap radio with a power cord. You take it home, plug it in, and listen to some music.

But what if there’s a power cut, or if you want to listen to music while you’re away from home? You go out and buy a new radio, this one with a battery compartment. You can plug it in when you’re at home, and use batteries when there is no other power available.

But what if there’s no radio signal, or there’s interference, or none of the radio stations are playing music you want to listen to? So you go out and buy a new radio, this one with a battery compartment and a cassette recorder, so you can record your favourite music when it is available, and listen to it on those occasions when you happen to be in the middle of the Sahara with no power and no signal.

Note that the device you have ended up with is more complex, bigger, heavier, and more expensive than the one you started with. Is this a trade-off you’re happy with?

It’s 2011

You want to take your web site offline? Yes you can. But understand that you’re going to end up with something more complex (harder to design, build, and test) and more expensive than a web site that assumes and relies on a network connection. Do you need that? Are your users constantly complaining that they can’t use your site when they’re in on their yacht in the middle of the Atlantic with no 3G? Is this a trade-off you’re happy with?


  • The analogy is wobbly because you don’t actually need a power supply at all to make a radio receiver. The power is there for amplification.

  • This stuff won’t stay hard and expensive forever. The libraries for building (and browsers for consuming) sites that work offline will get better.

  • No points for being the first to say, “Daddy, what’s a cassette recorder?”

One Reply to “Offline radio, a wobbly analogy”

  1. Daddy, what’s a LaserDisc? Daddy, what’s a MiniDisc?

    There, I avoided the trap.

    I don’t see much of a point in taking an HTML *document* offline, because you can just store it locally, and/or your browser will keep the tab open anyway if you let it.

    As for *web apps*, I’m still of the opinion that the whole web stack makes for a very poor technological basis for developing applications. The upshot is that I just don’t care. This is not to say that I didn’t find this post interesting, I just find myself thinking that if you want to take an application offline, use a more sensible technological basis.

    But that’s probably just me. Ceterum censeo…

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