Web App vs Desktop App: A Detailed Comparison

Published On: May 25, 2021
Last Updated: November 18, 2022
Web App vs Desktop App

The world is growing at a never-before rate with the introduction of new technologies & tools. Computers, smartphones, smart watches, etc., have become a companion of people for small to big tasks.

Businesses worldwide have understood the importance of the digital world and have started launching web apps, desktop apps, mobile apps, and more. However, for this blog, we will focus on web apps and desktop apps.

For a long time, there has been a constant debate between web apps and desktop apps. Moreover, various startups and businesses worldwide find it challenging to decide between both.

Also, many businesses have questions like, what is the difference between web application and desktop application? How is a web app different from a desktop application?

Therefore, we will walk you through a detailed comparison of web app vs desktop app.

But before that, let’s go through the basics:

What is the Main Difference Between Web App & Desktop App?

A web application is a software that runs on the web browser and utilizes web technology to carry out different tasks on the web. On the contrary, a standalone application you can install on a computer (PC or Mac) to carry out a specific task is a desktop application.

Web App vs Desktop App: In-Depth Comparison

Here we will walk you through a detailed comparison between the web app and the desktop app based on various essential factors.

Internet Connection

Most web apps are heavily dependent on the internet. This is because the web app’s main framework relies on the internet connection. Besides this, many areas in the world don’t have a good internet connection, due to which people face connectivity issues. For example, if you are using a YouTube Web app, you require a good internet connection to watch a video.

Desktop apps are standalone apps; hence, they don’t require an internet connection. However, you only need an internet connection if your desktop app works with a server. For example, you don’t require an internet connection to work on a Microsoft Presentation. But, you have to connect with the internet to upload the PPT on the drive.

Installation and Updates

Web apps don’t require any installation and updates. You can access them from the URL. However, you have an option to install them on your device. By installing a web app, you don’t have to open the browser and access it easily. Progressive web apps are the best examples for the same.

On the contrary, you need to compulsory install a desktop application before using it. You can’t just download and load it from the computer to use it. Moreover, a desktop app provides you a notification about any updates. Hence, if you have to access new features, you have to download and install the software manually.

OS Features

Now moving forward with the web vs desktop app debate, the ability of both to utilize OS features is highly crucial.

Web apps operate in a browser, and that’s why they have limited access to various OS features and functionalities.

However, desktop apps can access various OS features like the fingerprint reader, facial recognition, file management, etc.

Because desktop apps are built for a specific OS, they can utilize all the device capabilities.

Usage of Resources

A web app requires minimum power as compared to a desktop application. You can open your web app in multiple tabs in a browser, but it requires less processing power than a desktop app. Also, many people don’t possess a desktop, and at that time, they can access the web app from any device through a browser.

A desktop app can access various computer resources. However, the utilization of computer resources relies on the complexity of a desktop app. For example, a complex desktop app requires heavy computational power as compared to a simple desktop app.

Portability

Portability means an ability of an application to be accessed from multiple devices.

A web app is highly portable as all the things get stored on the cloud. Hence, you can access all of your data without any need for synchronization. The only requirement is a stable internet connection.

The majority of desktop apps are not portable. However, you can install it on any laptop and run it anytime you want. The main difference is that you cannot login and start using the desktop app from where you left off, like a web app.

Platform Dependency

Web applications are platform-independent. They function similarly on many devices such as Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, iPhone, etc. The only thing required to ensure that your web app runs smoothly is a stable internet connection. Also, you require a web browser to run a web application.

Desktop applications are platform-dependent. Here, you need to install a specific version to operate on each operating system.

Security

Security is one of the biggest concerns in the internet world. Let us look after desktop application vs web application based on security.

Whenever you are using a web application, you are providing your data to the specific company. Your data gets stored on a web server. Hence, there are chances of security threats because you don’t know what kind of security measures they are taking. Moreover, you have to be extremely careful while offering sensitive data as the web servers are prone to attacks from hackers.

Want to keep your web app secure? We have curated Pro-tips to protect your web app from hackers.

If we consider security, desktop apps offer excellent security. In desktop apps, all the sensitive data is stored on the cloud.

In web apps, everything you access on the internet gets tracked. Hence, there are chances of vulnerabilities & attacks.

From this, we can say that desktop apps offer better security than web apps.

Performance

Web applications offer good performance. However, they can’t deliver top-notch performance as they rely on the browser and its capabilities.

Desktop applications offer an optimum performance as compared to web applications. Firstly, they don’t usually require an internet connection. Secondly, desktop applications utilize the memory & processing power of the local device to deliver enhanced performance.

Moreover, there are exceptions where both web apps and desktop apps offer good performance.

Development Cost

The cost of developing a web app or a desktop app depends on the complexity. Besides this, it also depends on the development agency’s location.

Generally, the web app development cost is low because a web app isn’t able to access all the device capabilities and relies more on a browser.

Do you know how much it costs to build a web app?

On the contrary, the desktop app development cost is higher because one has to create different versions for different operating systems. Also, you need to invest in the licensing fee for each operating system.

However, from the long-term perspective, the development cost of a desktop app would be worth it.

Hosting

Hosting is a web server where all the files of a website are stored.

If you plan to develop a web app, you have to purchase hosting and renew it annually. The cost of hosting depends on the requirements of the web app. Hence, this is an additional cost for a web application.

If you plan to develop a desktop app, you wouldn’t require expensive hosting. You indeed need to build a website to promote your desktop app and then purchase hosting, but it is way less than a web app.

Mobile Accessibility

One of the main advantages of a web application is that you can access it from different devices like desktop, mobile, and tablet. Moreover, they function similarly on multiple devices. On the contrary, you require a computer or a MacBook to access a desktop application.

Payment Model

In the case of the web app, it can have different ways to generate money. It includes subscriptions, paid, in-app purchases, sponsorships, and more. However, after purchasing the web application, you can use it on any device without paying anything extra. The main limitation here is that it works for a specific period only.

Talking about the desktop app, they usually don’t work on a monthly or subscription-based model. You only have to buy it once and use lifetime. The only limitation is that you cannot use it on multiple devices; the desktop app works on the specific device.

Still, confused about what to develop? Let us know your requirements and get a free consultation from our experts.

Web App vs Desktop App: A Quick Comparison

Let’s go through the quick overview of desktop vs web application.

Factors Web App Desktop App
Internet Connection Needed Not Needed
Installation & Updates Automatic Manual
Accessibility Cross-Platform OS-Specific
OS Features Restricted OS Features Can Access All Features
Computer Resources Utilizes less computer resources Can utilize computer resources as per need
Performance Good Better
Platform Dependency No Yes
Security Less secure Highly Secure

After knowing how web apps are different from desktop apps, if you want to develop a web app, then reach out to us. We have been delivering web app development services to businesses globally.

Conclusion

We hope that you have understood the difference between web app vs desktop app.

End-users generally don’t care whether your app is native, web, or desktop; they only want their task to get completed efficiently.

From the comparison, you must have understood that every application has its own pros and cons, and they can be utilized for a specific niche.

For developing any app, you can get in touch with us by filling the form given below. We will understand your idea and get back to you.

Ravi Makhija
Ravi Makhija

Ravi Makhija is an entrepreneur, an IT professional, tech geek, founder & CEO at Guru TechnoLabs - Globally Trusted Web & Mobile App Development Company. He loves writing about new technologies and the latest trends in the IT field.