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Show HN: Neverinstall – A platform to bring desktop applications to the browser (neverinstall.com)
138 points by igniteram on July 22, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 104 comments

EDIT: I feel I really must edit again because I've just done some simple math and realized how completely absurd/predatory this offering is.

So they don't offer any pricing on their website until you sign up. Cool.

But anyway...

You rent this £ per hour (seriously) with a maximum single payment of 100 hours. For their max spec (7gb ram and 7vCPU) it costs £68.38 for 100 hours.

If I'm an actual power user (which this seems to be targeting as it constantly goes on about power hungry apps) then I'll assume I need 40 hours a week.

That would cost me £1422 a year. For that price, I could purchase a laptop (and only need to pay once) with 16GB ram, Ryzen 7 5800H and an RTX3080. To boot, I could probably get it on finance at the same monthly cost.

Why would anyone not just do that?


Useful for people running extremely low power machines I guess but this is is literally about as far from what I want as possible.

Not content with creating every bloody application in electron or some other web technology, we're now trying to move even the native apps into the browser and require an always on internet connection too.

God help us.

EDIT: just an additional point - I initially thought this could be really cool for schools etc, buy low power machines and run effectively thin clients. However, that actually would be even worse because of the insane network bandwidth you'd need to run hundreds of instances at the same time. I literally do not see the point of this.

If a machine is too weak to run an app compiled to native code, how is downloading a JS version and running that any better? If anything, it would need more RAM and more CPU, not less, apart from the additional network bandwidth.

> how is downloading a JS version and running that any better?

That's not really what this app seems to do. When you run an application on this neverinstall product, it doesn't magically transpile the native app into JavaScript. The app still runs natively on a real virtual server on a server farm somewhere.

The only JavaScript your browser downloads & interprets is the networking & rendering code necessary to connect to what is essentially a VPS.

But yes, I agree. This is a network bandwidth (+ privacy!) nightmare.

It's Remote-Desktop-as-a-Service

This is not running the code on your browser instead it is just live streaming the frames and then rendering the pixels on your your browser.

Yeah ironically browsers insane RAM consumption means your 'thin clients' would need to be reasonably powerful to run this anyway.

Not to mention that to run multiple apps and have them be visible means you need multiple instances of the video streaming active...

I can't speak to this particular implementation, but I have set up thin clients for schools using VMware's Horizon suite and Xen's XenApp before. Properly configured and with the right types of applications, their respective protocols can be very efficient.

Does that cost £1400 per year per user, though?

No. If it did it would make more sense to just buy the hardware like you said. I was only referring to your last point on network bandwidth.

It’s because nobody making a startup nowadays knows how to do anything but pay 4000x margins to AWS.

On the flip side, if you know how to not do that it's a competitive advantage.

That is a pretty underrated take.

We are blessed with a platform team who know what they're doing even with their small resource budget.

As a PO I am sure that deliver us value for money when it comes to how we execute our codebase.

I think people that have low power machines will also have slow internet (with exceptions, of course)

I stick to underpowered laptops that are easier to lug around and run all my resource-hungry stuff in the cloud, and I have decent internet connections, so that niche exist I guess. I'm still not in their target market of course (and no good idea who might be)

I think the key difference is yours and mine concept of 'underpowered'.

Their cheapest seat has 5gb ram. If I had a laptop with 8gb RAM I would consider it under powered.

If I had 4gb, as low as tolerable, why would I pay a premium for 1gb extra with a likely probably throttled CPU.

It's not so much about raw specs for me, but how I can utilize what I have. I use a GCP instance that usually is set to a bit weaker specs than my laptop (I can resize it pretty quickly, so that's not always true), but I can run it at 100% utilization for hours, use all of its RAM without worrying about browser tabs swapping, use TBs of storage, yet my own device stays nice and cool and battery doesn't get drained as fast. It's not about what I can torture my laptop hardware into delivering, but what it can handle easily, and what I do could be done completely locally on a beefier laptop (it's not that resource-intensive), but I'd rather not have anything bulkier than a 13" Macbook (and would rather downgrade to something even more nimble) than upgrade – maybe a 12" M1 fanless?)

So I guess this may be aimed at a similar niche – laptop not enough to run everything well, but the most important things, and use such a service for the occasional peek into a CAD file or the like. Pricing would still turn me off, but I'm certainly not their target audience.

In a single instance of 4GB RAM and 2vCPU only one app is running as opposed to entire desktop applications running on usual 8GB machines. We are not saying the platform will and should replace your desktops or laptops, infact we feel both will co-exist together. Users could do activities specific to cloud apps like - use the browsers as VPN, leisure activities, testing their weekend fun projects, conducting interviews on the dev tools they use in their companies etc.

It's like Rent-2-Own, but for software! And no ownership!

Is their offer better than a $40 / month VPS?

Not comparable because its not a VPS. I.E its a hourly billed system you can run GUI apps on. It is not a web server.

Also its not £ /month. It's hourly. To run 24 hours a day the cost would be 3x more.

It is a VPS though, just one with a preconfigured remote web access portal. It's also perfectly possible to compare the services even though one is price /h and the other /m - it'd be equivilant to rent an equivalently specced windows VPS as what they list for 1 month as it would be to use this for ~25 hours in 1 month at first glance. Less and it'd be cheaper to use this, more and it'd be (far) cheaper to use a standard VPS. There are probably even better VPS rates, that's just based on the first one I checked.

The sell of this is the preconfigured web access portal, for which you pay a hefty premium.

It's a VPS with a config OS and RDP.

To emphasise, a £40 month VPS is so astronomically better value if you can config it.

I'm not really sure how I feel about this. An issue that immediately jumped out at me is privacy, especially when they advertise web browsing (Brave, Chrome, Firefox) as a good use of this product.

I wouldn't feel OK doing around 90% of my web browsing on what is basically someone else's machine. I wouldn't feel safe logging in to websites, exchanging cookies, secure tokens, and just being in control of my browsing history. It's kind of akin to doing your everyday browsing on a library computer—it's a no-no.

We don't know how secure their VMs are, the VM-to-VM separation (can other instances use exploits/loopholes to peek into my home directory?) and at-rest data protection (encrypted at rest? can the owners see the saved data?).

All apps on our platform are either ephemeral or persistent as the user chooses. Ephemeral workspaces by nature are short-lived as long as the user is using them and would be deleted (along with all the user data) immediately after the session ends while persisted workspaces will persist user data across sessions with multiple layers of security. Please read the faqs and privacy policy.

I am curious as well with the last questions: Encrypted at rest? And can the owners (service maintainers) see the saved data? Scanning through the faqs and privacy pages, the only bit I found relevant is in Privacy Policy section 14 "Data Security" which, as most privacy policies, is quite vague on details. I'd say I would be wary about putting in my Github key to download my repo to use Android Studio or IntelliJ, or credentials/keys to access services for testing my codes, whether the session is ephemeral or persistent. It's hard to tell.

Hello HN folks, we are super excited to release the public beta version of neverinstall.

What is neverinstall?

neverinstall allows users to access & run native applications like - Android studio, Chrome, VS Code, IntelliJ, etc. through a local browser.

How does it work?

We run these applications in cloud-native environments with virtual displays and stream the video directly to the browser while the user's input context (mouse, keyboard, etc) is forwarded to these applications in near real-time. The platform has a very generous free plan for all free applications and as we improve our cloud we intend to make all free applications fully free always. The paid applications will have a BYOL or a fully-loaded pay-as-you-go model. Of course, these might change in the future but keeping the free applications with a generous free plan will not. We believe as access to good and cheap high-speed internet grows everywhere, accessing and using software should change and be a lot more optimal than what it is now.

Some key problems we are trying to solve -

Saving hardware resources

Modern-day applications are becoming resource-heavy, users often need to make the decision on whether to upgrade their devices or seek out a new one. This is expensive and wasteful.

Real-time collaboration

Our favorite desktop apps often lack real time collaboration, we are trying to bring these applications to the web so that we're able to bring more flexibility into app workflows.


A lot of apps are not accessible on multiple devices especially the developer apps. We solve this by bringing these apps to your web browser and make them truly accessible from any device or OS.

A tiny suggestion, a better responsive layout for the page would be better, my page is fixed on a zoom-in 125%, the page get messy when I open the page.

Nice to see this product. I can see myself (and orgs) paying for a butter-smooth development experience.

That said, both compute and bandwidth are expensive. How can you afford such a generous forever-free plan? Is there a catch?

There is no catch, think of us more of a google, apple app store equivalent to desktop apps where we intend to make money through the desktop apps publishers as we grow.

Why would publishers pay us? They dont have to worry about piracy and users environment as everything is sandboxed.

With us they can give on demand pay-as-you-go option to users as opposed to expensive annual licenses.

I signed up, but I don't see a hook to spawn any of the listed applications.

For example, opening https://neverinstall.com/apps/intellij on Firefox just shows a low-resolution screen shot with a list of features, and no CTA.

How do I use neverinstall?

There should be a launch button in the left section. Are you still not able to launch the app?

Signed out and signed back in. No "launch button" still.

EDIT: I was able to launch an app after disabling my ad-blocker, but

- the latency for clicks/keystrokes was > 1000ms (despite choosing a server within the same country)

- the video resolution was poor (despite fast.com claiming 240Mbps)

- the app window was stuck to the bottom right corner and I could not get it to fill my screen

- the app kept picking up ghost key strokes ("key" would result in "keeeeeey")

All this aside, I appreciate the intent behind creating this product. From an engineering perspective some improvements are warranted, and I'm sure you guys will get there. All the best. :)

Hi, thanks for posting; is there a demo? Really not about to link my github or google for an unknown company, sorry

Hi, We totally understand your concern. Please look at it this product video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In5JPInooxM

We have a strict privacy policy and support multiple login providers.We do not access or share users data to any third party.

It doesn't seem to actually do anything yet?

Once signed in, clicking apps just opens the marketing page for them. How do I actually launch one?

Also your customer support messaging system is limited to a _very_ short message, ~150 characters or so.

You will see a blue launch button on that marketing page.

Not if you have an ad blocker and block the request to the IP data API that you use.

Seems interesting. I used to live with an abysmally slow rural broadband connection and so this kind of thing was impossible to imagine.

What is my escape hatch for my workflows and data if your startup dies, though?

We are a funded startup and are working really hard to grow and never shut shop. Even if things dont go well we will provide all our users an option and enough time to backup their data.

It seems I can't signup with my own email?

We will soon add support for direct email signup.

But you also hide your pricing/plan page. So now we can't even see your pricing/plan info without giving away a platform account id?

We are positioning it as a free platform for free apps and currently all apps are free on our platform. As we are running single app on a instance of 4GB RAM and 2vCPU, we feel it's more than enough to run a single app compared to multiple apps running in your usual 8GB laptops.

What’s your pricing, and how powerful the paid service?

In the paid plan you have a list of options to select. Custom RAM, VCPU and the number of hours. Please visit the plan section from the platform. https://neverinstall.com/plan

I can’t access that because it requires you to be logged in.

I’m not creating an account without knowing pricing.

What does it say?

It is a free platform for free apps with 4GB RAM & 2VCPU, only if you need custom RAM and VCPU you can explore creating a custom plan with prices as low as approx 2$ for 5GB RAM and 3VPU for 5 hours usage.

Paul Graham funded another product like this claiming it's "the future of computing"

What a bleak view of the future. Imagine 20 people in a cafe, absolutely wrecking the free Wi-Fi so they can design something on figma and send some messages over slack.

The future of computing should be smarter, faster architectures for CPUs and software, not the enablement of shoddy web development practices.

Vscode is a weird example since anyone using vscode should be capable enough to setup a remote server and use vscode remote. The actual app isn’t that power hungry and it offloads everything remotely. If you can run a browser you can run vscode. Having a system basically stream a vscode GUI session is silly.

Also why would anyone run chrome remotely? You already have to have a browser open so…???

You can use your chrome as a VPN now, you dont need to install a vpn now. Also you can co-browse now.

> 11. Retention of Information

> All Information provided by you, save and except upon withdrawal or termination, shall be retained in locations outside the direct control of the Company (for instance, on servers or databases co-locates with hosting providers). We will delete Information based on a request received from you within a reasonable period and latest within thirty (30) days of receiving a deletion request. However, we may retain such portions of Information and for such periods as may be required under Applicable Law. Notwithstanding anything contained herein, Company may retain data after account deletion for reasons including but limited to the following purposes: If there is an unresolved issue relating to your account, or an unresolved claim or dispute; If we are required to by Applicable Law, and/or in aggregated and/or anonymized form, or Company may also retain certain information if necessary, for its legitimate business interests, such as fraud prevention and enhancing Users' safety and security.



If I understand it right, information is kept for an unknown period of time unless the user sends a deletion request. I am not sure pressing the "delete" button at the end of a session acts as a deletion request, but I hope so.

Yes, you are right all the workspace data is deleted once the user requests for it to be deleted. This includes everything the user may have done in that workspace.

Also, specifically around the browsers unless the user opts in for save session the workspace along with its data is auto deleted after the session ends.

Furthermore if the user is inactive for more than 48 hours we send a reminder that their workspace will be deleted after another 48 hours. Apologies for lack of clarity in our privacy policy, we will soon update it.

Oh, good grief.

I can see how this is part of an industry trend, but it's a bad trend. Please don't.

Could you explain why it's a bad trend? I've had crap laptops in the past that have struggled to run the desktop apps I need, and something like this would have really helped me out.

Personally, I'd prefer to pay up front for a machine that offers all this performance that I will own and can do whatever I'd like with for years instead of renting. I lean towards this for most things (housing is a bit different because of the size of the purchase). A computer isn't the kind of thing I wouldn't be sure of it's use to me, so I'd definitely pay up front, get better specs, and save money within a year.

If this didn't have the minimum hours of usage, the concept would be neat if you only spend 8 hours a week in some intensive software. That would be a great use IMO. I bet there are already a handful of those offerings though.

Things like this move more and more of our data and usage of computers into centralized hands. I'd suspect your typical HN user prefers to maintain control over that.

You can rent a paperspace or amazon vm with a high powered GPU if you want to play games from a cheap netbook. This is just that, except with less power and no control over the machine or OS you're using. In other words, overpriced and unsafe.

This would not really solve your "crap laptop" problem when it comes to cost. The service will cost you more than simply buying a really powerful laptop that will lead to much a better experience.

The landing page doesn't use the terms "DaaS" or "Desktop as a Service" but it seems like the product fits in that category: https://www.google.com/search?q=daas+%22desktop+as+a+service...

It would be helpful to readers to explain how your product differentiates itself from the existing offerings.

Interesting as the pendulum swings back to thin clients. I couldn't get it to launch Chrome though, hung on "loading your stream" (app id d5f47344-16d1-4410-ba8d-8a7e7472e114).

It requires min internet speed of 5 mbps and ideal speed of 10mbps.

I'm on fiber, ~1Gbps

You have a pretty good connection. Are you still facing any issues?

No pricing at all on the main page = goodbye.

We are postioning the platform as a free platform for free apps, that is the reason we have put it separately in plan section.

There’s usually a “pricing” top section to make things transparent and easy to find. Also, there’s no free lunch. You should be clear about how you plan to sustain the business long-term.

Enough people have expressed opinions on your product. I have a comment on the your hiring: good luck hiring people with those salaries. Paying 16K USD annually for product designer and zero equity - that is just terrible. And please don't play the "but we are a startup" card. Shell out some equity, nobody likes cheapskates.

Looks like most of the positions are remote positions in IT hubs in India: https://angel.co/company/neverinstall/jobs

As someone who has lived and worked in those cities, their salary offerings in INR aren't worth considering, especially when:

- The pay is average (poor for a startup even) - The equity range is 0%-1%?

How does e.g. Android Studio work? Can I use USB debugging with a device connected to my local device for example?

If not, this seems pretty much useless.

Also, I don't really see the advantage of this compared with full Windows cloud workstations offered by Amazon and (soon) Microsoft.

Are they giving it for free?

Working with Android Studio on a 2core/4gb ram machine sounds like hell on earth. Not sure how this is relevant.

Looks cool!

>When you choose to save a session, our automated >servers handle your session data objectively. We >dont have acceess to this data and have protocols >in place to ensure data privacy.

Can you provide any more details on this? For such an important area, I'd like to know a bit more first. I don't understand what it means to handle my session data "objectively" and would like to know what you have in place to ensure privacy. Thanks!

(Also, there are a couple of typos to fix in the copy quoted above--"access" and "don't".)

I seem to recall this is how Paperspace[0] started (though they now seem to focus more on ML workloads from the look of their front page).

If you only occasionally need an app or are travelling and don't want to carry even an ultraportable then I suppose its great. I can't see any scenario where this can see mass adoption (at these prices anyway!)


I’d be curious to see how this stacks up against something like a virtual pc on azure? You can make an azure virtual machine in like…8 or so clicks. And you can install whatever you want. Then just rdp or whatever you want in and you’re good to go. Interestingly enough, sometimes my laptop doesn’t let me view the data factory tool, so sometimes I use a virtual machine just for that :)

Sounds similar to cloud gaming, where you run the resource intensive game/app on a cloud server, stream the inputs to it and stream the display back. The UI experience would depend heavily on having consistent low latency, which is hard to achieve for many.

I would consider using this to avoid running resource pigs like MS teams on my local machine.

We are working very hard to reduce the latency and think we could reach there.

Interesting but no way is it faster!

I agree, for most day-to-day apps the downloading and decoding of the video stream definitely takes longer than running the processing locally. Most apps that you are using daily are also idle for like 90% of the time, not actually doing anything, unless you are playing a game, compiling code or rendering video or 3D stuff.

I remember a few other similar services discussed here before;



Exciting to see this space evolve. Looks like a formidable competitor to Mighty

Glad you liked it, thanks for your feedback

I like how the first example of "bringing your desktop applications to the browser" is Figma, which is already a web app that just runs in Electron. Very trippy lol

Nice launch, congrats!

Tried running IntelliJ, not working. It just shows snapshot of IDE.

Please reload your page, it could be due to network issues.

It works after disabling ad blockers. Turns out the page attempts to access an IP address profiling service to fingerprint or something – it gets a bunch of data like your ISP etc. If that request fails you can only see the marketing page (no error).

do this types of services pause the video stream once your screen is idle? like if you were reading an article and only scrolling a bit every minute. that seems like it would take up a ton of bandwidth, especially if everyone in your house/street/town/city/country was also streaming video to their devices all the time

Interesting stuff. Very useful for me due to low laptop configurations and limited network bandwidth.

Because of your limited network bandwidth you want to your applications to be livestream videos?

Because of this I'll have a constant medium network consumption unlike my local apps that will show sudden purges and affect my work.

I’m curious what you call “limited network bandwidth” and “constant medium network consumption”. Video uses a lot of bandwidth. Ultra-low-latency live-streamed video uses even more. They recommend a minimum of 10Mbps, and they’ll use that much. Not many things are able to chew up bandwidth like video, and things like pictures and videos will typically use more bandwidth fed through a system like this, to produce a worse result.

most of the heavylifting will be done by their servers

I'm sorry, but their servers are not doing the heavy lifting. Thats like saying steam can do the heavy lifting and allow me to download a 100gb game as if it was 20gb. That's not how the internet works.

Well doesnt it depend on where you download it. WHat if you dont need it to download it on your local machine and just run the game on the remote desktop

> I'm sorry, but their servers are not doing the heavy lifting.

That's pretty much the entire point of a thin client. If you've got a device with, as the user said, "limited network bandwidth", then downloading hundreds of megabytes or even gigabytes of Docker images or npm packages or whatever within a reasonable amount of time might not be doable but streaming at 10 Mbps might.

You're missing the point.

You still need enough bandwidth to stream the video. That is not up for debate. Their servers do not magically mean you can stream things from their servers to your client as if you had a fast internet connection if you do not.

> Their servers do not magically mean you can stream things from their servers to your client as if you had a fast internet connection if you do not.

Nobody is arguing that they did. The point is that you don't stream things from the server that require a fast internet connection, just video of the server.

Streaming high quality video (enough to render small text on GUI applications) requires a 'fast' internet connection.

On mobile I’m getting a “Oops! Something went wrong.” page.

Ah… I figured it out… I was blocking cookies which breaks the whole thing.

Browser as an app has its use case: Collaboration. I will never trust third party (SaaS) completely. Period.

I don't like Figma. I use it for remote work. And feel really uncomfortable, training some "automation" behind the scenes is always a reality. In my view for the companies this is like free petrol. We all work for them and pay monthly and devalue our work by the hour.

Intellectual ownership. Security. If you are professional the idea of not owning a computer is nonsense.

Its obvious that someone is getting "big VC funding" to bring browser as a replacement of computer OS. It will not work. Hopefully.

Those who don't understand the idea of freedom and personal computing didn't know the history. We live in the past. Not in the future.

Encryption and personal computing are pillars of democracy. Using one use case (collaboration) as universal reason for moving everything in the browser is not the way forward.

If one would be cynical about it, one could say that companies see this a bit like: "Learn that one weird trick to create a monopoly" — a strategy which of course boils down to money in the end.

Giving people software thattheycan use on their own machines is not without problems (e.g. updates, incompatibilities, ...), but ultimately it is the more logical solution. If you buy a hammer you expect it to work as long as you don't burn your toolshed. You don't expect it to change shape while you are using it, you don't expect it not to stop working once the manufacturer decides to give up on the design or once they go bust. Change being in your hands instead of the manufacturers is a feature, not a bug.

Thats one of the reasons why I am quitting Figma. I like native app feeling and the "revolutionary" idea that my files are on my own computer. I don't use "templates", I don't follow design "trends" and I like to build real code based prototypes. For my big surprise Adobe XD is even cheaper.


What’s the modern day equivalent to Acid3?

The correct tagline for this is 10x more susceptible to hacking.

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