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SaaS vs. Web Applications

Last year I wrote about the communication gap between the saas (software as a service) and web application communities. The quick summary of the gap is that they’re both dealing with the same technologies — hosting an application on a server and accessing it over the Internet — but from completely different perspectives and even with different vocabularies.

The saas community is enterprise-focused and grew out of the enterprise software industry. The web apps crowd is consumer-focused and grew out of the web community. They don’t talk to each other, and often won’t even acknowledge each other’s existence. Case in point: At a recent conference for software companies, a prominent speaker claimed that there is almost no saas software for consumers. “94% of saas software is sold to business,” was the actual quote. But he said he thought there was a possibility of future growth in saas for consumers.

An audience member asked, “There are a of of web applications for consumers. Aren’t they technically saas products?” “I suppose you could say that,” the speaker replied.

“So, really there’s a lot of saas software for consumers, it’s just called web apps and it’s supported mostly by advertising rather than direct sales.”

“If it’s not making money, I’m not interested,” the speaker replied, and moved to another subject.

Well. Somebody tell Google its business model is broken. But before you web app fans start smirking too much, we’ve also been at web application conferences where speakers declared with a straight face that there is virtually no web application software for enterprise — ignoring the saas development activity underway at most enterprise software firms.

The tragedy in all of this is that the web app and saas communities could learn a lot from each other if they dropped the attitude and compared notes. The saas folks have a lot of experience in providing support and reliability (and charging customers actual money for products), while the web app folks are wizards at fast development, community outreach, and unconventional business models.

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