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On the browers again

An article on ZDNet UK reports the following:

…Silverlight 4 will also host HTML content using a control that supports media plug-ins — so Flash will run inside Silverlight applications.
Business applications written in Silverlight will become more like ordinary applications, Guthrie said, and will now be able to print, access the Windows clipboard, and use more mouse actions, including context menus.
Access is also extended to low-level Windows features such as the Windows Communication Foundation, and Silverlight 4’s development tools
will work with the upcoming Visual Studio 2010.

Out-of-browser applications can now be installed as trusted apps that run outside the Silverlight sandbox on both Windows and Macintosh, Guthrie said, with trusted applications getting access to the local file system and external devices…

I wrote a post almost exactly one year ago, The Struggle for the Soul of the Web.

The browser is universal, but people do not only interact with web sites. People use applications!
The road paved by the iPhone of having dedicated applications delivered just to the point, remembers us that the new technologies for the web need to exploit the power of the devices on which they run.

Perhaps this is what Firefox is indeed planning, according to this article:

“The browsers that are on the horizon aren’t just incremental changes — they represent the pieces to build the next-generation Web — rich with standards-based graphics, new JavaScript libraries and full blown applications,” wrote Christopher Blizzard, an open source evangelist with Mozilla, on Mozilla’s Hacks blog.

Let’s hope it !

The Struggle for the Sould of the Web

Very interesting article, “The Struggle for the Soul of the Web” !
The author enforces the concept of the importance of Ajax standards (and, thus, the Open Ajax Alliance) as a mean to avoid that the web becomes the territory where proprietary solutions (see Flex and SilverLight) will flourish.

In developping his argument, on which I agree, the author makes an interesting statement:
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.

In some way, what he says is very similar to what I have said since a while: we need a new generation of Browsers which are not constraining people from developping applications delivered through the web (see here and here and here for a summary of my opinion on this topic). In that sense, Chrome may be the start of an answer (unfortunately, I say, as it comes from Google instead than from the Open Source community…).
If we want to avoid the risk that Flex and Silverlight will dominate the Web, we need to address this kind of question, which can be summarized by what I found in this other article

We’re in a transition point between the Age of Web Apps and the Age of RIAs (in the web space, that is). And if you doubt that we’re at this transition point, or if you think that RIAs include web apps, ask yourself, does AJAX really give you “all the rich you need”?

Can AJAX really, as Jef Raskin famously stated [60], treat all user input as sacred? Is AJAX really the end all and be all of a Compelling User Experience? Or do we remember that applications used to run outside of a browser?

Of course, it is provoking. But the risk is quite present.

User as center of the Universe

I am slowly catching up with some articles I read and over which I wanted to comment. I am dealing with this one SOA needs RIA – Burton Group, because there are few sentences I liked and because it lacks, in my opinion, a proper “end”.

The Value Hierarchy of Web 2.0So, here are the quotes I liked most:

  • “We firmly believe the user experience needs to be a first level priority at the same level as SDLC, platform languages, SOA and security.”
  • “If the business depends on people and people depend on information technology, then the interface between people and information technology — the user interface — naturally has to be very good. If you have an ineffective user interface, you’re going to have a less effective organization.”
  • “…people are the platform. IT is ephemeral. It continues to change over time, but what does not change in business is that the quality of any organization depends on the quality of its workers.”
  • If developers think the goal of SOA is to provide agility in assembling loosely coupled Web services into an application that provides real-time sales data to managers and marketers, they are missing a key component in the Burton view:  “The idea is to make user experience the end goal of any IT initiative and not an afterthought.”

http://hinchcliffe.org/img/useruniversecenter.jpg

I, personally, subscribe to all the above statements. They remember me a very nice article I read a couple of years ago, from Dion Hinchcliffe, titled The Web2.0 Trinity: People, Data and Great Software. The pictures in this post are both taken from Dion’s article, and I use them consistently in my talks around Web2.0 and the evolution of Desktop technologies.

Going forward, there is another quote that my few readers may appreciate:

“We see the next step as RIAD, the rich Internet application desktop. Here you need to look at Adobe AIR, Google Gadgets, the Microsoft Widget Library, to see resident applications that provide you with a visual experience associated with RIA.”

This is even more close to what I have often written in my blog: moving beyond the browser (as we see it today) towards a mechanism where applications, delivered via the web, will be executed locally. GREAT !

What seems missing to me is the very last part of the article

In Burton’s view, the future of the UXP is in using Web widgets, portable chunks of code and gadgets, miniature objects that can be placed on a Web page to provide dynamic content.

With widgets and gadgets, real-time sales data is on the sales manager’s desktop without requiring him to do multiple click-throughs to find a table or chart, the Burton analyst said.

What I think is missing is the name to this approach, a name which already exists. It is called Mashups, isn’t it? What is needed is the possibility to define those widgets in a standard way and be able to mix and match them in different contexts: a Portal, a Mashup environment, a Rich Client, the desktop even….

How to be an instant Web me-2.0 developer

This article [1] [1] from Verity Stob [2] [2] at The Register [3] [3] made me laughing!  How true it is in many aspects.

I really liked it all, but I think I will use these two pictures in my next Web2.0 presentation to present the difference between Web1.0 and Web2.0:

Block diagram showing Web 1.0 program architecture Architecture diagram illustrating the confusion inherent in Web 2.0 applications

Of course, I was also laughing (and strongly agreeing) with those other comments:

  • Java Applets ?
    I bet Sun hopes that everybody had forgotten
  • Google Web Kit (GWT)
    Eughh! what were they thinking ?
  • Dojo
    Perhaps come back in a year, if they make a design environment to go with.

As to the last sentence on Dojo, I think that it is really something we may need to consider. We need to hide the complexity [4] [4] of Dojo behind some easy-to-use design environment which would make it possible for more people to enter the game.

SilverLight

I have been reading about SilverLight, the new technology from Microsoft that has been labeled as the Flash-Killer.
What I find interesting is that the positioning of SilverLight on respect to Windows Presentation Foundation (and Vista in general) from Microsoft seems, to me, very similar to the positioning of Flex with respect to Apollo from Adobe..

It is very much another example of a client-side container that replaces the role played by the Browser so far. With this move, not only Microsoft provides container functuionalities inside the Operating System itself (WPF) but, also, provides an “express version” of it (SilverLight), which does not require Vista and that can work on the Mac.

I am still unclear why Microsoft does not also target Linux. But, probably, there will be someone who will do on their behalf….

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