WTF is an RIA?

Posted by Tejus Parikh on November 7, 2007

RIA is becoming a hot buzzword in the web development world. RIA vendors promise a lot. They’re meant to be as easy do develop as web-pages, but have all the functionality of a desktop app. However, when you really think about it, an RIA can pretty much be anything that uses the internet for communication and has a graphically widget that can be modified in someway. Everyone stuck at a mega-corp writing a Swing application that talks to something via SOAP can rejoice about being part of the modern wave of application development.

Of course, people who consider themselves RIA developers are jumping at the bit to disagree. But lets analyze this for a second. A java application needs a dedicated, and specific, runtime on the client to execute. Ditto for Sliverlight and AIR. Silverlight supports json based communication, but if you want to talk to your Flex app in AIR (reliably), be prepared to shell out for Flex Data Services. But you can’t run your java app from a browser!, you say. Well I recall running these things called “Java Applets” in my browser back in 1995.

The bottom line is Microsoft and Adobe have been bandying around the term RIA, trying to convince you that they’re providing you an Rich Web App (tiny print: in a plugin in your browser). The plugin approach sucked in 1995, and it still sucks 2007. So I have a hard time figuring out what the hype’s all about.

What’s far more exciting is an honest-to-goodness, cross-browser RIA. Something that can work on Windows, Linux, Mac OS, in Opera, Firefox, Camino, Safari, and even IE. All without a lot of third-party junk.

This is what makes me excited about working for Appcelerator, Inc, because our client engine is written in Javascript. In other words, we don’t help you build RIA’s, we let you build RWA’s. Applications that run in web browsers, that can be developed on anything, powered by code that is free as in speech and beer.

For more information on how to build your next rich web application quickly, head on over to the Appcelerator Community. Or if tracking via blog is you thing, just add the appcelerator blog, Appcelerant, to your feed reader.

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Tejus Parikh

Tejus is an software developer, now working at large companies. Find out when I write new posts on twitter, via RSS or subscribe to the newsletter: