Apple has launched its official directory of Web apps for iPod touch and iPhone. Web apps are websites that are designed to "extend the functionality of iPhone and iPod touch." Apple does not allow software applications to be loaded on iPod touch and iPhone, forcing developers to use Web apps instead. Note: You can hack an iPhone to run native applications, but I do not recommend hacking. Although Web apps follow the latest web programming guidelines, I've found that many Web apps designed for iPod touch and iPhone often do not render properly on other devices like Palm handhelds and Pocket PCs. A definite disadvantage to Web apps is that they require a wireless Internet connection. No connection = no access to the Web app site.
Over 200 Web apps are currently listed in the directory. Categories include Calculate, Entertainment, Games, News, Productivity, Search Tools, Social Networking, Sports, Travel, Utilities, and Weather. About half of the Web apps are in the Games category. Perhaps we'll see an Education category in the future.
If you don't have an iPod touch or iPhone but want to give these apps a try, many will load right in your current browser. Mac users can download the free iPhoney application. iPhoney shows you exactly what a site will look like on a iPod touch/iPhone, matching the devices' 320 x 480 resolution. All desktop Web users can go to iphonetester.com and to see how a site will look on an iPod touch or iPhone.
Feeling really geeky or have advanced Web programming students? Apple has resources for developing your own Web apps.
Update: Apple has announced they will allow developers to make software programs for iPod touch and iPhone. This is great news as native software applications are far better than web applications. We'll have to wait a while as the kit for software developers won't be ready until February 2008. With useful software applications, iPod touch will turn out to be a very useful handheld computer.
Update #2: Kathy Schrock has posted a nice list of educational web apps she has tried out.