Browser vs. desktop

The browser has become the preferred way for delivering many applications because it allows easy deployment across operating systems and simplified application maintenance. Plus, the modern programming languages used in the browser enable rapid application design and development.

The Adobe® AIR™ runtime complements the browser by providing the same application development and deployment benefits while adding desktop integration, local data access, and enhanced branding opportunities. An emerging design pattern for rich Internet applications (RIAs) is to deliver a browser-based version of an RIA in the browser for all users and an RIA on the desktop for more active users.


RIAs in the browser

RIAs on the desktop


No application installation is necessary.

Applications install seamlessly from the browser or download and install like a traditional desktop application.

Application delivery

Applications can be easily discovered, explored, and used.

Installed applications have more persistence, power, and functionality.

Application updates

Applications are updated by pushing new content to a website.

AIR provides APIs that allow applications to be updated as easily as pushing new content to a website.

Multiple operating system support

Applications run on multiple operating systems and browsers.

AIR applications are cross-platform, so they can be installed on and run on multiple operating systems.

Programming languages

JavaScript is provided by browsers and ActionScript™ is provided by Adobe Flash® Player.

Integrated JavaScript and ActionScript virtual machines are compatible with the browser.

Background capability

RIAs can run only in a visible browser window.

Applications can run in the background or provide notifications like traditional desktop applications.


Activity is limited to the browser session. When the browser is closed, information is lost.

RIAs are installed and available on the desktop. They store information locally and operate offline.

Desktop integration

Applications are sandboxed, so desktop integration is limited.

Applications can access a desktop file system, clipboard, drag and drop events, system tray/notifications, and more.

User interface control

RIAs run within a browser window that has its own controls, branding, and integration with the desktop.

RIAs have a customizable user interface and desktop integration, enabling branded experiences.

Data storage

Applications have limited local storage, which the browser can destroy.

Applications have unlimited local storage and access to a local database, plus encrypted local storage.