Top 10 Rich Internet Application events of 2006

I gave a rundown of my predictions for next year, but a friend emailed me and suggest that I go back and give my opinion on the 10 biggest RIA events of last year. I think it’s a fun idea and after going back and sifting through the news, I realized how busy a year it has been.

I gave a rundown of my predictions for next year, but a friend emailed me and suggest that I go back and give my opinion on the 10 biggest RIA events of last year. I think it’s a fun idea and after going back and sifting through the news, I realized how busy a year it has been.

10. Adobe contributes ActionScript Virtual Machine to Mozilla - While the ramifications of this won’t actually be seen until Mozilla incorporates the VM into the next generation of their codebase, this was a significant step for Adobe. The project has been dubbed Tamarin, and it will enable Ajax applications that run much faster in Mozilla than they have before, and it helps set ActionScript as the standard for ECMA script.

9. YouTube sells for 1.65 billion dollars - Everyone knew how big online video was, and that Flash Video had become the defacto standard, but no one was quite sure how valuable that was until Google ponied up the cash for YouTube. It put a dollar figure on video and in many ways cemented Flash as the video solution for the web.

8. The New York Times Reader releases as a Beta – We had all been hearing about Windows Presentation Foundation and the kinds of experiences it would allow, but there weren’t really any examples out there. Then we got the New York Times Reader. A partnership between the New York Times and Microsoft, the NYT Reader showed of WPF by creating a branded reading experience that went far beyond the web based It synchronized articles so that you could take them with you even when you were offline and allowed you to interact with the content by annotating it or storing it for later. It was a classic example of the value added when you take content out of a browser and showed what kind of experiences WPF could deliver.

7. Adobe puts the Flex-Ajax Bridge on Labs – While many people, myself included, put Flash and Ajax in a competitive relationship, Adobe has gone to great lengths to show that the two technologies are complimentary. The biggest example of this was the Flex-Ajax Bridge which was released on Labs and showed how easy it was to incorporate a bit of JavaScript into a Flash application. Google used the technology for their Finance application, and Nitobi showed off how powerful it could be. It made a lot of JavaScript developers look a bit more closely at Flash and helped expand the RIA market.

6. Windows Vista Ships – While the consumer version isn’t out yet, the shipping of Windows Vista signaled Microsoft’s first entry into the Rich Internet Application market. With Windows Presentation Foundation, Microsoft had a technology that would allow for some very connected, very branded experiences for those building Windows applications. To show off this new type of desktop application, we got a look at the New York Times Reader.

5. Flash Player 9 Hits the Street - On the same day that Flex 2 was released, Adobe released Flash Player 9. The newest version of the Flash player was rewritten almost from scratch and gave major speed increases to Flash applications. Today it is one of the most quickly-adopted versions of the player and has given Flash developers the ability to build applications which would have been much to slow on Flash Player 8. In addition, this version of the player brought Linux folks a new player, a major upgrade from the Flash 7 version they had been using before.

4. OpenLaszlo announces “Legals” – OpenLaszlo had been an open source way to build Flash applications and was in many ways a precursor to Flex with its XML based language. But realizing the need to compete more broadly with Flash and Flex they talked about the idea of allowing developers to code in OpenLaszlo and then compiling it into a variety of runtimes. That finally came to fruition when they announced “Legals” which would allow developers to build either Flash or Ajax/DHTML applications with OpenLaszlo.

3. “WPF/E” CTP Released – Everyone who tracked RIAs had heard about “WPF/E” which was supposed to be a cross-platform way to deploy XAML based applications. But because of Microsoft’s history, not many people believed that it was going to happen. But when Microsoft released the CTP of WPF/E in December, it turned a lot of heads and showed that Microsoft had made good on its promise. The CTP included plugins for Safari, Firefox and IE and ran on both Windows and the Mac. It also showed off some very cool video technology that in 2007 should give Flash a fight in the web video market. WPF/E made the RIA market a lot more interesting and in 2007 it should continue to do so.

2. Adobe Announces Apollo – When the merger between Macromedia and Adobe was announced, we heard about a “universal client” that would incorporate HTML, PDF and Flash, but we didn’t know what form that would take until this year. Adobe made the Apollo project a big part of their MAX conference and we found out that Apollo would allow you to write cross-platform desktop applications using Flash, Ajax or a combination of both. Apollo looks like it may go a long way towards breaking Flash out of the browser and redefining the Rich Internet Application.

1. Adobe releases Flex 2 - The first iteration of Flex was priced out of reach for most users and this new tool for building Flash applications in a more programmatic way with an XML based language was kept out of the reach of most developers. But the most recent release brought a free SDK so that anyone anywhere could create Flex applications without buying anything from Adobe. Adobe charged for the IDE, but compared to the price of the previous version the IDE was fairly cheap. Because Flex 2 is going to provide the backbone for the Apollo client as well as enable some very impressive applications inside the browser, developers have a head start and have been building some impressive RIAs with Flex. In 2007 I think Flex will continue to do well and should have a very large seat at the RIA table.