I found this Tim O'Reilly post via John Dowdell and thought that it applied perfectly to Rich Internet Applications. Tim was asked about how he could talk about Web 2.0 and including all of the technologies that are around today which don't fit into the web. Things like Voice over IP, Peer to Peer networking, and multiplayer gaming. Tim gave a perfect response:
Well, Web 2.0 is really not just about the web. It's really about the next generation of internet applications, and includes things like P2P file sharing and VoIP, which aren't based on the web at all. And actually, now that I mention it, it's really not even about the internet, narrowly defined as a class of TCP/IP-based networks. It's really about the internet as it was originally conceived, as a 'network of networks.'
I have always struggled with trying to define how RIAs fit into Web 2.0, because I've always felt that they transcended the web. Some of them will be delivered over the web, but I think RIAs encompass all of the technologies above. In fact, I think RIAs blend those two worlds. For instance why can't we have a web based bit torrent client, or even a web based VoIP client?
True RIAs will bring the experience of the desktop, the ubiquity of the web, and the power of the internet together.As I see it, the web is a powerful delivery mechanism. It has become the face of the internet - the first point of entry for most people. But there are still a lot of great technologies that are working behind the scenes making the internet what it is today. I think RIAs can tap into that power and deliver it in a way that is more intuitive to people. I love the idea of a Flash based P2P networking application. True RIAs will bring the experience of the desktop, the ubiquity of the web, and the power of the internet together. That is why they operate at a level outside the web browser, yet take advantage of web technologies. They need to reach across all parts of the internet, and sometimes a web browser simply can't do that.
Does this mean the web browser is dead? No, but as the line between "Web 2.0" and "Internet 2.0" blurs, our applications will begin to take on traits of both. And those applications are going to be limited by the browser model. We finally have platforms that will allow us to do that.