What are Rich Internet Applications?

Summary:Rich Internet Applications are the next step in web development. They're something beyond "web 2.0" and focus very heavily on the user experience as well as delivering content in a variety of ways. People want more and more control over their content and Rich Internet Applications are going to step up and provide that in new and exciting ways.

Web 2.0 has many doubters.  It’s become a word so filled with hype that it is more the province of marketing agents and spin doctors than it is the people who build the web applications that espouse it.  This is a shame because “Web 2.0” has shown us that people like to have control over their data and that they enjoy contributing en masse so that data has a more human relevance.  If Web 2.0 has done anything it has hit home the fact that content is king.  While AJAX has reinvigorated web applications, Rich Internet Applications will break the boundaries of the web browser and present content in new and exciting ways across a variety of devices.

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AJAX is a great technology, but it is still a web technology.  At the core of Rich Internet Applications is the idea of building a universal desktop.  It is about applications that allow you to take content from place to place, device to device, while enhancing the user experience.   The rich internet brings together mobile phones, PDAs and game consoles as well as traditional PCs and can seamlessly tie in multimedia.        

That’s why RIAs are so exciting.  Using technologies like Microsoft’s Avalon and Adobe’s Flex will allow for a more sophisticated user experience while opening up a range of mediums from which we can deliver content.  Content that is driven by the ubiquity of the web but free from the restrictions of a browser.  AJAX works well for 75% of what is happening on the web right now, but with more and more devices across more platforms combined with the emphasis on multimedia, RIAs are poised for tremendous growth.

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There is also a significant business case for RIAs as the point of entry to the web moves from the PC to devices.  Companies like Sony and Microsoft are betting significant amount of money on home entertainment systems that will connect the home to the internet in new and exciting ways.  Mobile phones are creating markets across the globe and connecting people in new ways. Being able to deploy applications to these devices opens up a larger market for content distributors. RIAs provide a way to deliver content to these new markets while maintaining a consistent user experience regardless of the point of entry and adding to the underlying brand.

My goal here is to follow the technologies that are helping create Rich Internet Applications as well as track the growth and philosophies behind RIAs.  I think there are some very interesting synergies with RIAs and Microformats and I plan on exploring those.  There will be case studies which take a look at people building Rich Internet Applications and why they’re doing so.  A better user experience is also big part of building RIAs and will be a big part of this blog.  It’s going to be a lot of fun.  If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or send me an email.

Topics: Browser

About

Ryan Stewart holds an economics degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is now a Rich Internet Application developer and industry analyst. After graduating from Penn, he spent two years developing applications for the Wharton School and pushing the idea of the web as a platform for learning. Ryan now lives in Seattle with his wife... Full Bio

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