RIA in 2008

January 6th, 2008 § 0 comments

Tim Bray began his predictions for 2008 saying that this is the decisive year for RIA applications: either they become mainstream or they will be relegated to the dust bin of history. Given the news about Microsoft planning to overhaul its entire site to show their RIA platform, Tim Bray is probably right in saying this will be a important year for RIA technologies.

Bray makes an interesting point when he says that he tends to associated “richness” not with interface–which, he also says, is something only developers care about–but with the interactive capabilities of applications, regardless of the technology they use. I agree, but I also think that Silverlight and Flex (and similar technologies) may have a useful role in a different place, providing different levels of interface in a very specific class of applications: internal sites.

Obviously, Microsoft and Adobe are setting their sights much higher than that. The former with its pathological need to control the industry; the latter, with its duplicity about open sourcing its products. I’m not worried. Public facing applications have different interaction and accessibility needs, and no developer is going to use technologies that will actively harm their applications on those two areas. One of the main problems plaguing alternative interfaces is that they are always trying to catch up with what users have grown used to and they can never succeed. Between dealing with the cognitive dissonance they force users to experience and dealing with multiple hosting system, they don’t have the leverage to compete with the advances being made in JavaScript integration.

Another interesting point Tim Bray makes is that most applications are Web-enabled to some extent–even if users don’t realize it. Add that to the growing research in offline/online integration and we are dealing with an entirely different playing field.

Contrary to Bray, I will risk a definitive prediction: RIA, with regards to Flex and Silverlight, will indeed be recognized as a secondary option this year, and no big applications–Microsoft site notwithstanding–will be launched using either technology. Conversely, we will see people using Silverlight or Flex in internal applications.

The rest of the year, however, will belong to Ajax.

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