Are we "done" with rich Internet applications?

Are we "done" with rich Internet applications?

Summary: This week I've been putting together slides and preparing for my talk at Web 2.0 Expo New York City.

TOPICS: Servers

This week I've been putting together slides and preparing for my talk at Web 2.0 Expo New York City. I'm doing one titled "Making Sense of Rich Internet Applications" so it's more of a general talk covering everything from Adobe's stuff, to Microsoft Silverlight, to the mobile world, and now of course, Chrome.

Over the past couple of years we've gone from rich Internet applications being a loosely defined buzzword to a de facto standard of web development. It's almost easier to describe things that aren't RIAs than it is to describe things that are RIAs. Technologies like Flash and Silverlight get most association with rich Internet applications, but any technology that is pushing the boundaries of user experience - including Ajax - should be counted among the rich Internet application population. And Tim Anderson makes a good point that what we're really seeing is the next generation of the client.

I'm not saying that we've arrived in terms of "success", but I think across the web there is broad acceptance that a good client side experience is important. In a lot of ways this makes the RIA space even more exciting because there are a lot of new battles to be fought. How will HTML5 evolve and compete with technologies like Flash and Silverlight for animation, video, and richness? How can developer and designer tooling come together to make it easy for designers to craft a great experience for the client side? How do traditional server-side web developers come to the client? Or do they? One of the great enablers of RIAs has been a pretty clear separation between server and client. People are creating web services on the server side and freeing them up to be consumed by basically any client technology.

As we continue to move forward, from both a Google Chrome/Adobe AIR delivery perspective, as well as a HTML/Ajax/Flash/Silverlight runtime/technology perspective, developers end up winning. I don't know that client side programming has ever been more interesting or more powerful.

Topic: Servers

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  • Rich Internet Application

    One issue to be considered is people like me who for
    security reasons, and to avoid distracting material, is to
    disable popups, Flash and Javascript. I run two browsers. The
    default (which is called by email links) is Safari with RIA
    switched off. When I need RIA I use Firefox which has it
    switched on.
    Basically this means that advertisers that rely on RIA are
    wasting their time.
  • Just the beginning

    While websites with RIA technologies can be annoying and distracting, true web based applications like I develop at my work can highly benefit from the RIA revolution. There are so many things we can do now to make the user experience a better one.

    RIA is the future of SaaS, let's see where the ride takes us
  • RIA is great for enterprise apps

    RIA technologies, such as Adobe Flex, are
    certainly excellent for building the latest
    generation in enterprise apps:

    Zero-install deployment (95% plus already have
    Flash player and it installs in seconds on
    broad band anyway).

    Web-app style 3-tier architecture for database
    connection pooling and both high availability
    and easy horizontal scaling by just adding
    blades to the middle-tier.

    Because is RIA technology, can still build the
    interactive forms apps that enterprise-ware
    requires, while adding in very nice charting
    and multi-media features when/where needed.

    With RIA solutions like Adobe Flex, there's no
    fighting with the not-so-standard web standards
    of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript across browsers
    and OS platforms. That saves time, immense
    frustration, and of course money for enterprise
    development efforts. (And is easier to support
    with users.)

    I could go on and on with benefits of a web RIA
    approach for enterprise app development. So I
    think that case is rather overwhelming. As to
    the public-facing Internet...Google Apps is
    gaining some traction. Google came out with GWT
    to make javascript-based RIA apps easier to
    develop. Adobe now has similar public-facing
    RIA apps built using their Flex technology.
    Their word processor is much better than

    It's still early days for that side of RIA but
    I think in time this will become the dominant
    model of how most software (short of OS kernel
    and driver stuff) gets built.
  • RIAs Don't Even Have the Basics

    When the RIAs have ALL the functionality of native Windows apps, I'll be interested.

    That means a proper menu at the top of the screen below a proper title bar. It means context menus, clickable column headers, drag and drop customization of menus and toolbars, proper dialog boxes. Keyboard shortcuts for everything, MDI interface, .....

    Show me one RIA that has ALL these standard UI features.
    • Curl has those basics

      Curl has all those things you mention, although you would have to write the menu customizability yourself. You also might want to use Curl "detached applets" which run without a browser, if you don't like having all that browser window and menu baggage. And Curl is supported on Windows, Mac, and Linux.