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In metacomputing, WebOS and Web operating system are terms that describe network services for internet scale distributed computing, as in the WebOS Project at University of California, Berkeley. In both cases the scale of the web operating system extends across the internet.
However, the terms WebOS and Web operating system have been employed more broadly and with far greater popularity in the context of the World Wide Web, and for many meanings ranging from singular systems to collections of systems. In April of 2002, Tim O'Reilly spoke of "the emergent Internet operating system" as an open collection of Web services. WebOS, in this instance, refers to a software platform that interacts with the user through a web browser and does not depend on any particular local operating system
Common to all uses, a Web operating system is distinct from Internet Operating Systems in that it is independent of the traditional individual computer operating system. This conception of the system reflects an evolution of research in the field of operating systems into the increasingly minimized, distributed, and for distributed systems increasingly defined in terms of the specification of their network protocols more than their implementations.
The WebOS Project is a computing research project started at the University of California, Berkeley to develop suitable software development abstractions for applications that run over a network. The abstractions it provides include:
- a filesystem that identifies data by URLs
- a location-independent resource naming system
- secure remote execution
- secure data access
- fail-safe transactions
Research on WebOS has continued at Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Washington.
The conception of the web operating system in the WebOS project can be characterized as a finite or catalogued collection of services.