Part 6 in a continuing series on What Web 2.0 Means for Your Church
The benefits should be obvious for thrifty churches.
In general, web applications are:
- Simple – One of the guiding principles for web 2.0 is to do less. Many desktop software applications are bloated with features, most of which the average person never uses. Web applications ditch the bloat for doing a few simple things right. That makes them easier to learn and use.
- Easy to install – Because you don’t have to. Desktop software usually requires a CD-ROM, or maybe nowadays a lengthy download and install process. But web applications aren’t installed on your computer–they’re hosted on the Internet so you have no software to install. It does requires a trusted connection to the net, which may be the one touchy point that holds some churches back.
- Always improving – Because the application is online, updates can be instant. There’s no need to mail out an upgrade CD or get users to download a new patch. All that maintenance work is done on the back end. By not investing in all that legacy infrastructure, web applications can concentrate on improving. And rather than charge you for an upgrade, it’s part of the package.
- Cheap – With all the cost-cutting measures mentioned above, the bottom line is a low price. Some web apps are even free. And those that do charge usually ask for a low monthly or even yearly fee. Over time the cost can work out to be the same or less compared to legacy software that needs costly upgrades every few years.
Web Applications for your Church
So what software can you ditch? Here’s a run down (hardly complete) of some of the web applications out there:
- Writely – a free word processing program that makes collaboration easy. It was recently acquired by Google and could be an alternative to Microsoft Word. Writeboard is another web based writing app.
- Basecamp – A project management and collaboration tool that lets you assign and track projects.
- Google Calendar – a web-based calendar that can interlink with your friends, family and coworkers.
- Gmail – Some people are already ditching Outlook or Entourage and going with web-based e-mail. Gmail is even testing hosting the e-mail for your domain, which any IT wizard can tell you would be a huge time saver.
- Flickr – It doesn’t allow for image editing, but Flickr does make for a powerful photo storage and sorting software.
- Thumbstacks – There’s even web-based presentation software that could one day rival Powerpoint.
- Jumpcut – You can really push the boundaries of web-based applications and edit video online. Some users report slow downs for big files, but it is a potential free alternative to iMovie.
- Google Maps – It’s not anything particularly new, but online maps have all but replaced the old CD-ROM street atlas.
And that’s hardly a drop in the bucket. Check out a more complete list and look for the software that does what you want.
The naysayers always get their chance. There are definite drawbacks to web based applications. One of the biggest is Internet access. If your church doesn’t have broadband or your connection isn’t reliable it’s probably not worth it. If you’re on the move a lot and rarely have web access to your laptop it may be more trouble than it’s worth. There’s also the risk that all these booming companies could go belly up. It’s happened before. Then you’re back to legacy software.
But for the early adapters there’s definitely potential to web 2.0ify your IT department. 37signals is a company that creates web based software and is big on spreading web 2.0 ideals. They even wrote Getting Real, a PDF-only book that talks about creating web based apps and can give you insight into how they might work for you. For big churches imagine the joy of no more mass upgrades where the poor IT drone has to slump over to each and every workstation to upgrade software. For tiny churches imagine the joy of not having to fork over fist fulls of cash for basic software.