The rise of web apps: games, email on top

Web-based productivity apps like Google Docs are only used by a little over 1 per cent of the population

According to a recent survey, web applications are becoming increasingly popular, with over one-third of home computer users using at least one web app per day.

The survey, which was conducted by Rubicon Consulting, asked 2,000 people if they were willing to try a Web 2.0 app over a desktop software solution. And while many thought they would, Rubicon found that certain applications have trouble breaking into the mainstream population. He also found that users are less likely to use web apps if they feel the program is a security threat.

Web 2.0 apps catching on

"Most industry observers talk about 'Web 2.0' applications as something that's coming in the future, but our research showed that some web apps are already spreading rapidly through the PC user base," said Rubicon analyst Michael Mace in a statement.

"Most computer users are very practical. They don't care if a software program is installed on their computer or built into a website. If it solves their problems, they'll use it. The barriers to adoption of web applications are very low."

Rubicon also found that over 80 per cent of those surveyed have heard of web applications and over half have tried a web app at least once. Even better for web app developers, 37 per cent of those surveyed said they use a web app regularly. "That means use of web applications has already spread far beyond the 16 per cent of the population traditionally identified as innovators and early adopters," Rubicon explained.

For those developers looking to appeal to the younger population, it seems they should continue. Rubicon found that students are far more active in seeking out and using web apps and over 50 per cent of college-aged students stated that they use one or more web apps daily.

Games and e-mail score highly

Rubicon also found that games and e-mail are the favourite web applications. Rubicon attributed this to the significant rise in popularity of Gmail, Yahoo Mail and even Hotmail, which is still in wide use today.

Of course, the news wasn't all good from Rubicon. The research firm found that web-based productivity apps like Google Docs are only used by a little over 1 per cent of the population.

Besides the obvious question of the justification of web apps when desktop software is so ubiquitous, Rubicon found that 38 per cent of those surveyed pointed to security concerns as the main reason they had not used web apps.

According to Rubicon, its results could be a handy source of information for web developers, as consumers will decide on which products will succeed.

"Web app companies need to ensure they solve real-world problems that significant numbers of people care about, and they need to communicate those benefits clearly," Rubicon explained.

Finally, Rubicon expressed its concern with the current state of security, saying web app developers need to be keenly aware of its threat.

"A single well-publicised security disaster in a major web app could discredit the entire category and severely limit web app growth, just as safety problems in a few Chinese products have affected the image of the country's entire manufacturing sector."