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The Future of Rich Internet Applications 187

Can't Get Enough Ajax writes "While Ajax continues to get most of the attention these days in the space of rich Internet apps, the future 'face' of Web applications may consist of a combination of Ajax and plug-in technologies based on the new Flash development platforms or other plug-in models. Why? The challenges of building and maintaining sophisticated software in Javascript and the lack of support for audio and video are just two reasons that any RIA strategy will involve a mixture of Ajax and one or more technologies like Flex, Laszlo, or others. But while there are significant advantages to the new RIA technologies, there are also important trade-offs including breaking the model of the Web, lack of HTML support, and more. ZDNet's Dion Hinchcliffe has a round-up of the latest generation of RIA technologies, pros and cons of each, and why there is likely a 'war' brewing among them."
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The Future of Rich Internet Applications

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  • by overshoot ( 39700 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:11PM (#16090203)
    the fact that AJAX (and XUL, actually, but never mind) are searchable. It's the first time in quite a while that an "RIA" author got past the gee-whiz eye candy to deal with usability issues.

    Of course, none of them want to deal with the disabled-accessability part, despite a recent Court decision [] that's going to make this kind of stuff a very low priority for a long time.

  • by orb_fan ( 677056 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:18PM (#16090264)
    I have to concur.

    While what can be done with Ajax is pretty amazing, the unfortunate truth is that the developer generally has to jump through hoops to get everything working. Simply the lack of stateful information is a major problem. What's needed is another protocol (Application Transfer Protocol?) that would provide state information to the server, true client-server event handling, etc.

  • by sploxx ( 622853 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:37PM (#16090427)
    ... is why they are using the essentially useless HTML/HTTP stack with all the addtional layers (JS, AJAX, flash etc.) at all.

    There are cross-platform thin-client network solutions like VNC [] or Nomachine's NX []. They do exactly what the web x.0 wants to do, they do it fast and they do it without all the bloat and packing/unpacking of (essentially very simple) data. ... and you can use your favourite GUI toolkit to build applications.

    Do not bring up the bandwidth argument before looking at NX first. It runs over really small links.

    I also do not think that it allows additional security breaches in principle, as a web browser with all the additional plug-ins is also similar to a very high-level shell to a remote server.
  • by Randolpho ( 628485 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:51PM (#16090542) Homepage Journal
    Yes and no.

    Rails, Cake, and Turbogears can't provide the sort of rich interaction that flash/activex/java can, no matter how great their frameworks may be. Why?

    The problem is not the stateless nature of the web as much as it is the medium with which the web is presented. HTML was designed as a document language, for the static display of information. It was never designed for any sort of interactivity other than hyperlinking. Everything else that has come along is a hack on top of a simple static display medium. Even arguably solid frameworks like Rails are nothing more than a hack to provide dynamic interactivity to a system that was designed against another way of doing things.

    If we really want remotely obtained rich interactivity, we need to rethink the medium. We need to drop HTML/Javascript and plugins like activex and flash. We need a new platform designed from the ground up to provide dynamic rich interactivity. That includes both the display medium *and* the means by which it is obtained. XUL was a baby step. The concepts behind XAML seem to go much further -- especially in the display department -- but still relies on stateless HTTP.

    All levels of the stack need fixing, not just server-side. We need more than just hacks.
  • SVG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:58PM (#16090598)
    HTML was designed as a document language, for the static display of information. It was never designed for any sort of interactivity other than hyperlinking.

    SVG is designed to fix that. It is an open standard, it looks promising but unfortunately browser support isn't quite there yet...

  • Re:No future! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wildBoar ( 181352 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:09PM (#16090703) Journal
    The web wasn't designed for applications. FULL STOP. The fact that apps run on the web at all is a testament to the sheer stubborness of developers.
  • by drgonzo59 ( 747139 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:26PM (#16090863)
    Java for Visualization
    God help us all. I went there once on a trip... lost my granny, my dog got run over, and I came back with only 8 fingers.

    That's what happens when you are not prepared for travel!

    How good are you Java programming skills? What were your expectations? Have you tried WebStart?

    I think Java still has a place for specialized rich clients. I have recently released a Java3D scientific visualization application that uses WebStart. It automatically downloads all the Java3D libraries it needs and caches them on the user's machine, then it is able to use native OpenGL drivers. All the user has to do is to click on the JNLP link in the browser. The application works on Windows, Linux and Mac with with all the popular browsers. I am not saying it was trivial to write it but it can be done, one just needs to know Java at more than the beginner level. Flash/JavaScript/SVG would not have worked for what I needed to do.

    Will we see major web portals using Java applications as their interface? - Probably not. But that doesn't mean Java is dead and Ajax is a panacea for all the Internet problems.

  • by JoPapaEd ( 763473 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @06:28PM (#16092495) Homepage
    You should check out the discussion going on at ReadWriteWeb []. Ebrahim Ezzy's post is interesting, as are the comments. There's also more followup from industry as they bring Web 2.0 products to market. SharpCast [], TeamDirection [] and x-port []. Hopefully with such interesting ideas, Web 2.0 won't implode like Web 1.0 did.
  • by misleb ( 129952 ) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @06:30PM (#16092515)
    On the other hand, the statelessness is what makes web applications possible. Lets say you have a web application that serves 100,000 different users during the course of an hour. Depending on the demands of your application, you might be able to support all of them on one server because the server doesn't have ot maintain a connection for each and every user for the entire duration of the session. The server just keeps a small bit of the state stored in a session and moves on to serving the next request. But if everyone has a stateful connection, you start running into trouble with resources. Even if nobody is actually DOING anything on the app, you've got these open connections.

    I dunno, at some point I think we're going to have to ask ourselves if the web/browser is really the best way to get the kind of richness people are expencting from internet applications. By the tiem you add statefulness, better UI toolkits, better event model, etc, you don't really have a "browser" anymore. You just have a virtual machine and you find that you've just reinvented Java applets.


  • by Fudgie ( 594631 ) on Wednesday September 13, 2006 @06:45AM (#16095068)
    Using Juggernaut for Rails you can also achieve this with a small Flash applet acting as a bridge. Have a look at [] for a small screencast demonstrating how this can work.

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