Nowadays we often see software being distributed as web-based applications, especially in the cloud (SaaS). Heck, even my own startup, Datazenit, is a web-based application, however not currently in the cloud. So what are the benefits of web-based applications over the good old traditional desktop software?
First benefit that comes to mind is convenience. In most cases web-based software does not need installation or configuration, it is really easy to just start using it. I remember the times when I used Windows as a youth and installed all kinds of games and software, and there were often issues, complicated installation steps and I often needed to search for workarounds online to get my apps working. Of course a lot has changed, but web apps are more user friendly in this regard. You do not need to worry about compability or whether your hardware is capable enough to run the app (with exclusions). This is also related to the next benefit.
Web-based apps run cross-platform by default, you just need a decent web browser. If app is available in the cloud, your data is accessible everywhere you go and all you need is an internet connection to access all your apps and data. There are some drawbacks, but benefits often outweight them. If you were to develop a desktop software for all major platforms it would cost way more than a web-app that runs in a browser.
This is not true for all web apps, but they often feel more similar with each other than traditional desktop software. Users are familiar with web, because that is the primary things people are doing nowadays on their computers and mobile devices. They feel at home no matter what operating system or device they are using.
Web applications enable something traditional software often struggles with - easy collaboration. Most web apps leverage the fact that they are online and has centralized database by enabling team work and sharing with other users.
I would argue that a web developer is easier to find and hire than, for example, an experienced C++ developer for a medium to large software project. The amount of web developers is raising rapidly, and it is hopefully for the best. A developer can get fluent with a web application faster than a desktop app, but that can be highly subjective.
Revenue model for the company
Companies love SaaS model, because monthly revenue is advantageous and more predictable than a one time fee. However I think that this is less admired by end users, because in long term it means cashing out more money.
What is better?
I think that there are apps that are better off being web-based/in the cloud, but some are more useful as a traditional software, especially those meant for teams and those that require a lot of computing power. Datazenit is a standalone app, that is downloadable and can be run on a personal computer or any server. It fits right in the middle between desktop software and cloud apps. This way users have more control, feel safer and truly own the product while receiving all the benefits of a web app.