Christopher Keene is an entrepreneur, executive and educator. He is the VP of Cloud Computing Solutions at VMWare. Chris is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 38 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

The Soul Of The Web - Why Ajax Standards Matter

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I spoke on a panel at Mashup Camp this week on why Ajax Standards matter. I was quoted by Doug Henschen of Intelligent Enterprise as saying that we are locked in a struggle for the soul of the web, so I thought I would expand on that theme.

Just because the web has been open so far doesn't mean that it will stay that way. By open, I mean that content has been searchable, linkable and servable without paying fees.

Flash and Silverlight, arguably the two market-leading technology toolkits for rich media applications are not open. You cannot search Flash content, you cannot link to it and if you want to serve up flash content on your web site, you need to pay for a server license.

If the future of the web lies in rich media and if these trends continue, we may well see a very different world emerge from Web 2.0.

More importantly, Flash and Silverlight work by installing a proprietary plug-in to your browser, thus opting out of the entire browser infrastructure. If you are a plug-in vendor, your incentive is to keep the browser as dumb as possible.

The worse the underlying browser is at rendering rich widgets and media, the more developers and users will want your plug-in. If you are both the vendor of a browser (say IE) as well as the proponent of a plug-in (say Silverlight), then the incentives get truly twisted.

WaveMaker has a big stake in this debate because we chose to build our WYSIWYG development tools on top of the Dojo Toolkit. We picked Dojo because WaveMaker is targeting enterprise developers who need not just nice color pickers but also sortable and pageable grids, solid internationalization and accessibility capabilities.

Ajax standards groups like the Open Ajax Alliance (under the leadership of Jon Ferraiolo)serve a important role today in helping to highlight the differences between open solutions like Dojo and proprietary solutions. They also are helping to drive the maturity of open Ajax toolkits by focussing attention on important areas like security and internationalization.

Microsoft was the rendering engine for client/server, which paid them enormous dividends. Microsoft IE was somewhat accidentally the victor in rendering engine for Web 1.0 after Netscape fumbled their lead, although they were never really able to monitize this particular monopoly.

Make no mistake - Microsoft and Adobe aim to have their proprietary plug-ins, aka pseudo-browsers, become the rendering engines for the next generation of the Web. Without a strong push for open Ajax standards, they just might get their way.

Published at DZone with permission of Chris Keene, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)


Arek Stryjski replied on Mon, 2008/11/24 - 3:48pm

[quote]if you want to serve up flash content on your web site, you need to pay for a server license.[/quote]

Could someone verify this. I'm not involved in Flash or web development, but I'm a bit surprise by it.


Cliff Meyers replied on Wed, 2008/11/26 - 5:29am

That statement is absolutely false. Any Flash video file (FLV) can be served up over HTTP; Flash Media Server is not required. YouTube's entire architecture is based on serving up FLV's using nothing more than lighttpd.

Cliff Meyers replied on Wed, 2008/11/26 - 5:45am

There are some other statements in this article that are not 100% accurate: "You cannot search Flash content" "You cannot link to it" Adobe has been making a lot of strides to open up their platform. They've open sourced the Flex framework, published the spec for AMF, open sourced Blaze data services, started the Open Screen alliance.. I wouldn't be surprised if the Flash Player goes open source within the next three years. I understand the concerns about a closed, proprietary runtime but Adobe is delivery serious innovations where the standards bodies are not. The last thing I remember seeing out of the W3C was the HTML BLINK tag! :P

Rainer Eschen replied on Wed, 2009/02/25 - 8:06pm

Chris your article is a bit too biased and misses correct investigation. Why do you omit the "advertising" next to the subject ;-).

For me you are riding a dead horse and asks for something that makes no sense. Standards for AJAX is useless as long as the browser vendors, namely MS, don't support the W3C standards that are approved for years.

If you have a look at the efforts you've to invest to get a desktop-like mimic with AJAX technologies, and the maintenance hell we have to expect the next years, it's time for a change.

I don't know if MS will get the necessary quality into Silverlight the next two years that we need for a change. But, one thing is pretty clear: Adobe will be an important part in the Web 3.0. They have Flash and they have PDF. Both are already important technologies, rock-solid and pretty well integrated soon. I can't recognize that they try to control the Web. There's already too much open sourced. And MS? The past has already shown that monopoly tactics not work in all areas.

The first domain AJAX will loose ground will be the presentation of complex data and multimedia stuff. Video will be the next big thing in enterprise computing. AJAX without Flash makes no sense, even today. The days are near when project managers think about skipping all this time-consuming AJAX development and switch to pure Flash frontends. All necessary for this is already delivered today with Flex.

If you were a project manager and could get a better result with one third of the current implementation cost when would you change to Flex?

* When customers have the infrastructure to do so (the necessary plugin spread will be there in about a year)

* When my developers have the right skills to start (an experienced Flash developer will need about a week, an experienced Java developer about two weeks)

* When the stakeholders can be persuaded (reduction in costs and better client presentation are realizable immeditately; a better time-to-market needs some months only)

If you remember how the AJAX hype started and what a lot of people, now pushing all this, thought about the technology behind (e.g. "JavaScript is not a programming language"), it is very amusing to talk about AJAX standards.

If you have a look at the JavaScript interpreters, there were no real improvements (maybe Chrome is a first step to this). We still have the same "bad" quality than before it got the label "AJAX". So, what we are talking about here?

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