Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Monday, July 16, 2007

Web-Based Operating Systems: Take Your Desktop Inside Your Browser With

The web operating system is evolving as a form at a rapid pace, promising to free us from Windows once and for all. If you want to take the desktop to your web browser, one contender is well on the way to making it possible.


Certainly the last couple of years has seen a flourishing trade in web applications, providing Internet-based alternatives to everything from video remixing and document editing tools to advanced presentation authoring and live video broadcasting services.

But as it stands, you need to set up accounts with each service, and access these various tools from separate websites. The notion of the web operating system attempts to unify your web applications to some extent, providing you with a single point of access through which you can utilize tools and services, store your files, read your RSS news alerts and return to and from any computer on the planet.

Just as you can store your Google documents and spreadsheets on the web, and access them from any terminal, irrespective of its operating system, a web OS attempts to make your entire desktop and file repository accessible wheresoever you might be.

One offering in the growing web OS field comes a long way towards creating a viable web-based alternative to your local operating system functionality, even if it is likely to complement rather than wholly replace Windows for the time being.

Here are the details Overview

Ghost_Logo_150w.jpg - the Global Hosted Operating SysTem - is an attempt to take your desktop, files and favorite web services and combine them into a single web-based platform. What that means is that just as you can access your documents from any computer using Internet services like Google Docs, allows you to access a complete OS from anywhere in the world. So you can have a truly portable desktop and explorer featuring your files and web-based applications, a control panel that lets you set your desktop background, and single sign-on access to a number of web services brought together by the team.

Want to search through Flickr for photos and YouTube for videos, write Google documents and use Meebo chat from a familiar Windows-like environment? Not a problem. Want to make use of widgets, RSS news tickers and even games in a number of genres? makes it happen.

As all of this takes place from your browser window, you can access your virtual computer desktop whether you are subject to network restrictions, checking into an net cafe on holiday, or using an airport computer while you wait for your plane. The idea is simple - wherever you go, your desktop comes with you.

Why a Web Operating System?


Of course one key question that shouldn't be ignored is why we need a web operating system at all. After all, given that is possible to make use of a vast range of web applications straight from the browser window, and store all of our documents, videos and emails online, do we really need to go through an intermediary?

Some would argue not. With the advent of Adobe AIR and Google Gears, for instance, it is now becoming easier than ever to take web applications off-line, edit your work, and then bring them back into an online environment. This kind of flexibility might be removed by services like as they stand today. Which isn't to say that I doubt for a minute that off-line access isn't somewhere on the product road-map.

There are, however, several compelling reasons to take the operating system onto the web. Among the convincing arguments made in favor of and its nearest competitors are:

  • Enabling mobile work - allows the growing number of mobile workers or digital bedouins to take their desktop layout, applications and essential files wherever they go, regardless of the computer they use to access the web
  • Overcoming the firewall - Being stuck behind the corporate firewall, or facing network restrictions at schools, offices and libraries can be frustrating. In principle, allows users to access what has until now been unaccessible
  • Empowering non-PC owners - While some of us take having a laptop for granted, there are others whose main point of access is through Internet cafes or public libraries. For these people, having to 'start from scratch' every time can prove very tiresome. With a web-mobilized operating system, this ceases to be an issue
  • Integrating services - Through effective partnerships with existing service providers, which has been very proactive about forming - it is possible to introduce such benefits as a single sign-on process, taking the pain out of logging in and out of multiple accounts every time you go online
  • Effective file management - Rather than having your data scattered about the web with a vast range of services, the web OS promises to make it easy to store, sort and access all of your files wherever you go from a single networked tool



Since I took a look at an earlier release of much has been added to its feature-set in the Alpha release, and I am looking forward to further developments with the release of a Beta-version later this summer.

To summarize the key features of this fledgling Internet operating system, it has:

  • A Customizable desktop, font-set and color scheme so that you can make your OS look just as you like it. Just like other GUI-based operating systems, files and services can be dragged onto your desktop for easy, instant access of your most important tools
  • Widgets - that range from a simple analog clock to your custom-made RSS news aggregator. More widgets are promised soon
  • Simple 'explorer' based file navigation using a familiar files and folders interface that will be familiar to anyone
  • A fully functional web browser with basic features such as site history, forward and back buttons, and bookmarking
  • Multimedia tools that let you easily,visually search YouTube videos and Flickr photos, among others
  • Accessories such as a calculator, fax service and sticky-notes application
  • Easy file management allowing you to bring files on and off of your file repository from the local computer you are working on
  • An impressive range of third-party integrated services, such as Amazon and Yahoo! shopping, Meebo chat, a selection of categorized news feeds, Pandora music and even a selection of games

While there are obvious major omissions here, such as a suite of office applications, has been built in the knowledge that users will make use of existing web services such as those provided by Zoho and Google in this sphere, and has kept its own offerings as entertainment-based as possible. Over time I would expect to see the breadth of services and tools grow, especially considering that the business model to some extent depends upon affiliate monetization.

In short, though, manages to pack a lot of tools and services into its easy-to-use OS, and provides a pleasantly familiar user experience while doing so.

Interface Design


As a Mac user I was whisked back to my previous experiences of Windows by the interface. From the inclusion of a system tray on the right-hand side, to a 'Go' menu at the bottom left it seems as if the operating system has been designed with Windows users in mind.

Considering the huge market share still held by Microsoft, this is by no means a bad strategy. In 'paying homage' to the Windows environment, will ensure that the vast majority of its users will have a seamless transition, and be able to get to work right from the outset.


Likenesses to Windows aside, and there are too many to list here, the interface is attractive and does a good job of replicating the experience of using a locally installed OS. While the feature-set isn't yet fully rounded in this Alpha release, the overall look and feel of is not made to suffer for being web-based.

File and folder navigation is simple enough, help and support are built into the 'Go' menu, and widgets are easily resized and positioned to taste. While the recently improved browser is no Firefox in terms of features and functionality, it has gained the benefit of forward, back and refresh buttons since earlier versions of, along with bookmarking and a Google search bar.

Everything has been kept simple and easy to use, and this is to the credit of the team who are obviously targeting as broad a user-base as possible if their attention to usability is anything to go by.

Business Model

At the time of writing is free-to-use, and comes with 3GB of storage for your files, which makes for a very nice start even if it isn't quite ready to take on the contents of my hard-drives . For the transferring of key files from one computer to another, however, this will be more than adequate for all but video and multimedia files of any great size, which as yet don't figure greatly in

The business model proposed, and one would assume in action, is based on affiliate monetization from the tools and services integrated into, and this strikes me as a very fair way of simultaneously providing much-needed features, while keeping the OS free at core.

Over time I would expect to add a range of premium services for both home and enterprise users, and among these will surely be the ability to add more storage capability for your files. Perhaps an enterprise edition of the OS might also be a successful means of further monetizing the project, just as Google has launched the pro edition of its online office-style applications.



While is a way off replacing your current, locally installed operating system it is certainly making ground in the right direction. For starters, the interface is intuitive and easy to use, and anyone familiar with Windows in its various versions will have no problems here. In fact, as a Mac user I was reminded more than anything of using Windows XP, from the start menu to the system tray, which feature in the OS under subtly different names.

In many ways this is a wise move, making the transition from Windows to the OS as seamless as possible, which is going to be key in capturing the majority of users interest. Anyone that has seen a newly switched Mac user puzzling over how the operating system works will understand what I mean - the fact is that most people have been weened on Windows.

I very much like the idea of being able to take my complete desktop with me wherever I go, and this is going to be of appeal to the rapidly expanding mobile workforce, as well as to those working behind network restrictions. Nonetheless, I am somewhat doubtful of the idea that will make for a great solution for those without the money or resources to make use of Windows, as the application seems greedy for memory. I personally had to switch from my two year old ibook to a newer iMac to experience the operating system without serious lag.

That said, users visiting Internet cafes may not have this problem, and will have the benefit of being able to make their data truly portable, not to mention the ability to to take advantage of single sign-in access to a number of services.

Considering that is yet to enter Beta it already offers an impressive range of tools and services and does a good job of transplanting the desktop to your browser window. I look forward to seeing how the service evolves in the coming year.

Additional Resources

If you would like to learn more about, you might want to visit the following links

Originally written by Michael Pick for MasterNewMedia and titled: "Web Operating System Takes The Desktop To Your Browser"

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Readers' Comments    
2007-09-09 07:10:31


another web operating system you might want to take a look at can be found at - we would appreciate any comments reviews posts etc :-)

2007-07-17 16:29:48


Excellent review...Thank you so much for this great analysis and evalutaion. At we promise to keep working hard to meet all your expectations, our beta launch is in the fall this year packed with more free applications and new features. Don´t worry about your storage, yes.. you will be capable to add many more GB´s and save all your files, photos and videos without any limitations.

We are always happy to hear your feedback to or please visit our forum at

Rami Abdulhadi

posted by Michael Pick on Monday, July 16 2007, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.




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