Top 10 Reasons to Embrace the Rich Internet Application

Top 10 Reasons to Embrace the Rich Internet Application

Summary: In the past couple of months, we've gotten ever closer to high quality Rich Internet Application solutions. As the RIA becomes more and more of a reality, it's important to distinguish them from traditional web applications and figure out what benefits they provide. This is my list of 10 reasons you should be embracing the RIA whether you're working on the next great application from your garage or trying to convince your boss at a Fortune 500 company that RIAs are the way to go. There's something here for everyone.

TOPICS: Browser
In the past couple of months, we've gotten ever closer to high quality Rich Internet Application solutions.  As the RIA becomes more and more of a reality, it's important to distinguish them from traditional web applications and figure out what benefits they provide.  This is my list of 10 reasons you should be embracing the RIA whether you're working on the next great application from your garage or trying to convince your boss at a Fortune 500 company that RIAs are the way to go.  There's something here for everyone.

1. Take advantage of the ubiquity of the internet.

The web is everywhere, it's perhaps the only truly global phenomenon that we have today.  Any web application can take advantage of this, but by building RIAs you can tap into the greater sphere of the internet.  Bring cell-phone-based applications to consumers in Japan or children in Kenya.  RIAs take you beyond the web browser and into a range of devices and mediums.

2. Make the most out of the building blocks of the web.

RSS and micro formats are quickly becoming the building blocks of the web.  They provide the invaluable content in easy to consume bits which means greater accessibility to content everywhere.  RIAs are in a unique position to take this content and give users a great deal of control over it. RIAs free the building blocks from the confines of the web browser meaning much more potential for how we view and interact with content

3. Get in touch with your inner designer.

RIAs trash the old model of how web applications should look and give developers a powerful and robust way to build their applications.  Developers have control over every aspect of the experience and design, meaning they can try anything - including things that aren't possible with traditional web applications.  This is going to make for some very ugly interfaces, but it's also going to make for some absolutely mind-blowing interfaces too.

4. Connect your world.

By taking full advantage of the Internet, RIAs can be used to connect a living room or a community.  You can make sure your content is with you on your cell phone or Xbox.  You can share that content with your friend who has a PSP.  RIAs will also allow collaboration on a new scale.  RIAs have the potential to bring people from all over the world together and letting them interact with their content together.  People make the internet, and RIAs can make it seem like those people are next to each other.

5. Promote your brand.

Whether you get in touch with your inner designer or you hire a rock star to promote your brand, RIAs give you total control over how your brand reaches the world.  You can customize applications in such a way that immerses the user in your world and gets them excited about your brand.  By not trapping users in the web browser, you can suspend their disbelief so that they are viewing and interacting with your content on your terms.

6. Harness today's multimedia.

Multimedia on the web used to be a joke, but now it's everywhere and getting better every day.  The web browser wasn't built to handle multimedia and requires plug-ins and add-ons to view content today.  RIAs can be built to incorporate multimedia so that it doesn't appear nailed on.  With RIAs the multimedia content becomes part of the experience instead of an extra feature.

7. Hook your customers.

Because you have control over exactly what the user experiences, you can use that experience to hook them on your products.  Incorporate multimedia, devices and the web so that they are seeing your product in a way they can't see your competitors.  By making sure you can go with them wherever they are, you can hook them when competitors can't.

8. Streamline development time.

The holy grail of RIAs is to write one set of code and have that code run on any device or computer in the world. As a development shop, you can have one code base and deploy that anywhere your users go.  If you're a business then you can make sure your executives have your application whether they are on a plane with their PDAs or at their desk on their laptops.

9. Revolutionize the enterprise.

RIAs take the idea of software as a service and revolutionize it. You can provide a desktop-type-interface over the web and on any computer or device.  It provides a single point for upgrades or patches meaning your IT staff won't have to run around touching every computer in your business. At the same time, the users aren't giving up any control over their applications.  RIAs behave exactly like desktop applications and users will enjoy the same level of control.  Unlike a typical remote desktop scenario, the RIA can move with your users to their cell phones or PDAs so they have the content anywhere they go.

10. Show what Web 2.0 can be.

Web 2.0 gets a lot of bad press as a buzzword, but it has still given average users a new way of categorizing and interacting with their content.  It has also given them a way to communicate with the world in the form of podcasts, blogs or vlogs.  RIAs take all of the progress we've made on the web and make it easy to use.  Users who are used to the way desktop applications behave will be a home in an RIA world and as a result will be more likely to participate in the global conversation.  RIAs leverage the APIs and standards of Web 2.0 into great experiences that everyone can relate to.

Topic: Browser

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  • Don't forget

    11. Introduce so many dependencies to your system that if anyone from Bangalore to Berlin sneezes, it all breaks.

    At least with either server- or client-side apps, you only have to track one or the other's update processes. Lock them together and you're into (at least) the product of the variations.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Lowest Common Denominator

      Hah - interesting way to put it. But I'm not sure how I see RIAs as creating dependencies. As long as the runtime is installed (which I realize is easier said than done) then your applications will behave the same way wherever they are deployed. Your corporate environment becomes much less important. Thanks for reading Yagotta (I like that name).
      • Ah, but *which* runtime?

        [i]As long as the runtime is installed (which I realize is easier said than done) then your applications will behave the same way wherever they are deployed.[/i]

        As long as all of your applications require the same runtime. The opportunities for DLL Hell or its equivalent are what concern me, and so far I've only been burned by relatively minor incompatibilites between (for instance) required versions of the Flash player.
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • far...

          let's see what IE 7 (and beyond) has in store for AJAX - brings me back to the good 'ol days of coding two versions of JavaScript!
        • DLL Hell is a Real Possibility

          DLL Hell is absolutely a possibility, and we're in the wild west days of the RIA so some bad solutions will exist. So what provides the most value for developers? There isn't a solid answer to that yet. Flash seems to be in the most places, but some people may prefer WPF. Hopefully our discussions help shape what people develop for.
  • RIA Versatility

    I believe that a key missing ingredient from RIAs is the ability to easily port secure my data.

    There are safely millions who are paranoid as a result of the advent of social engineering, hacking and phishing.

    To tell/convince them of otherwise is roughly equivalent to selling an ice cube to an eskimo-- why would they commit when they have abundant options around them?

    While I believe in the RIA concept, I believe in another article you wrote some time back-- the underlying system is flawed, and like a skyscraper on quick sand, RIA's have stability issues to deal with...

    ... not to mention the upcoming challenge of tiered service (which is the dark horse every ASP is wondering about these days!).
    • Offline/Online

      I like the sand analogy, and you're right. There are some fundamental issues with RIAs that need to be resolved. It's something I hope to hash out on this blog, and it's going to take time.
  • Flash-delivered RIA's

    AJAX is all fine and dandy but it's not for the faint of heart developer. To really pump out stable RIA apps quickly Flash is a much better way to go since the Flash player levels out the browser playing field. But then you need to code in Actionscript unless you use a RAD tool like SnappMX.
    • Indeed

      I like Ajax, but I think it has major limitations as an RIA solution. With web apps becoming more popular, people need to stop trying to push Ajax beyond its limits and move to a more robust solution. Flash seems to be it right now.
  • MSFT - "Bye, bye, so long, farewell"

    Ozzie & Hairless (Ballmer) better learn the meaning of RIA/Innovate quickly or MSFT will soon become a footnote, like AOL. Things happen fast in browser-time, don't they!

    Soon, we won't need Vista, Office, et. al. Tsk, tsk.
    • Ozzie Knows

      Ray knows that, and he's going to make huge strides. I'm excited to see what he does with the company, and I think WPF could be a much bigger deal than people realize.
      • DLL Hell, part II

        [i]Ray knows that, and he's going to make huge strides.[/i]

        That's one of the key reasons to be concerned about DLL-H(II) -- it's a time-proven way to drive lock-in.

        Microsoft's entire business is built on maintaing control of the platform, and [i]any[/i] kind of web delivery threatens that -- it was the main reason why MS went on a scorched-earth campaign against Netscape.

        Microsoft [i]must[/i] drive RIA towards a profoundly platform-dependent model, and then they have to keep the platform changing to maintain the upgrade revenue stream.

        Which is, of course, the basis for "DLL Hell."
        Yagotta B. Kidding
        • And that's what they're doing

          You're right, and with WPF that's exactly what they are doing. WPF is awesome, but WPF/E is crippled. They're giving a small taste of WPF to people who aren't on their stuff so that those people will be inclined to make the switch.

          For now, DLL Hell is alive and well in MSFT land, but I hope, with crossed fingers, that Ray Ozzie changes that. Microsoft has too much going for it to force people to use their offerings.
  • Skeptical

    First some picky notes. You used the word buy for by and their for they're. A spelling checker will not catch that, but a grammer checker will.

    Second, and much more importantly, as a long term developer, this sounds great, but the devil is in the details. The very control over every aspect of the presentation trumps the "write once for everywhere". For the optimal presentation you need to customize for each device. And for some devices with constraints, you need to customize a lot.

    The write-once goal has been a holy grail of many previous new waves. It was the root of Java (horizontal across many types of computers). Dot Net looks to make it write-once for a vertical cut across devices much like your vision of RIA. But the reality has always been that we get a better platform or tool, but it does not remove the need to optimize within the constraints of each device.

    • More Possibilities

      Ugh! You're right, I didn't read it through well enough - usually I'm pretty good at grammar. Need to be more careful :).

      As to your main point, you're correct that "write once, deploy everywhere" has been the goal for a long time. What I think is different this time around is the web. It's becoming more prevelant every day. That means that we have a common ground for devices that we haven't had before. Whether that can be leveraged and translated into the hardware differences remains to be seen.

      Thanks for reading and picking out the mistakes - I hate making tiny errors like that.
  • lame advertising hype

    is this FUD or a used car.
    not of this world
    • Both??

      How do you mean?
  • Example of what RIAs will do

    [url=]Here[/url] is a video of a very cool smart client app using WPF. I gather RIAs will be a type of smart client app, so the video gives you an idea of some of the useful and revolutionary things RIAs will do in the future.
    P. Douglas
    • Great Example

      Great video, and a good example of the kinds of things RIAs can do. I think Collaboration is going to be one of the most important parts - and there is still a lot of room for that to be perfected.
  • Network computer in flowery terms.

    It is appropriate for some applications. Ones that are simple on a high speed wire. But this is nothing but central computing and we are moving to the distributed model then eventually wireless.

    Reasons against:
    Execution Speed
    Security of offsite data
    Loss of control
    Not every task needs to be connected.
    Unavailable in some areas with RJ11.

    These Unix zombies do not get it. They had their terminal day and everyone decided on the PC with much greater flexibility.