The following is republished from the Tech Times #159.
But things start to fall apart when Ajax enters the picture, and users begin clamoring for the desktop-like applications that it makes possible. Often, static HTML/CSS is not up to the task of providing a useful foundation for these apps, and building a non-Ajax alternative would be a completely separate project — probably one that you can’t justify the cost of developing and maintaining. In extreme cases, it’s possible that what your application does simply doesn’t translate to the page-based model of plain HTML.
The solution to this dilemma, in my mind, is to separate these types of applications from the current, page-based Web, and move them to a “Web of Applications” that’s just as universally available as the Web is now, but which is designed from the ground up with applications in mind, and solves all the issues that are currently being caused by our attempts to shoehorn desktop-like applications into a system that was designed for serving pages of information.
This “Web of Applications” could be as simple as a new URL protocol (hatp:// for HyperApplication Transfer Protocol?) or MIME type that would be recognized by browsers, and in fact a number of vendors have attempted (or are planning to attempt) exactly this:
- Java Web Start (Java Network Launch Protocol)
- XML User Interface Language (XUL)
- Macromedia Central
- Coming soon: Adobe Apollo
- Coming soon: Microsoft WPF (XAML)
Meanwhile, the W3C is also working on this problem through the Web Application Formats Working Group.
The evolution of web technology marches on, but as developers we need to do the best we can with the technology and resources at our disposal today. The most important thing, in my books, is that you make sure you’re well informed before you make a decision that might prevent some users from accessing your site.