I’ve been trying my best to try and figure out the current landscape of technology offerings for RIA and IDA development. So forgive me for this rant-ish post, and correct me or help me where I’m just dead wrong.
But we’ve frequently found ourselves in the position of needing to create relatively light-weight desktop applications with advanced UI requirements, that can easily work with web technologies.
Building these IDAs with client technologies like Flash/Flex/XUL/ECMAScript has been awesome in developing fast and good, and not having to code Swing layouts. This idea has pretty much been hackish at best in the past until XULRunner came along. But now AIR is here, and I’m trying to evaluate both. So this is the type of target I’m referring to with this post, Internet Desktop Applications with advanced interface requirements.
This post and chat transcript posted by Matt of AllPeers really kind of set off some alarm bells. Not gonna summarize it, so you may have to read it. But I’m replying to some thoughts presented in it.
HTML? Hyper-text Markup Language: Formatting text documents.
XUL? XML User Interface Language: Creating user interfaces
Merge XUL into HTML, gradually over time? Why? Use the best tool for the job! Leave HTML for what it does best, for documents. And talking about some future idea that may be cool (or the worst thing ever done), is not NOW. There are excellent tools and technologies available NOW that do these things (Flex, ActionScript 3, AIR)
What is WebRunner’s or Firefox 3’s interface developed in? XUL, not HTML. Maybe once we see Firefox shipping with an all HTML interface then I’ll be able to see HTML as some sort of capable user interface language.
If Mozilla’s own evangelists are encouraging HTML over XUL, then it would be downright foolish to champion it, and makes me uneasy choosing it to develop with.
So who is putting their weight behind a modern, advanced, rich, and internet friendly programming language and user interface markup language? Adobe, with Flex and ActionScript 3.
In more than one spot I have seen this evangelism of using HTML over XUL for developing rich applications, and wonder what is at it’s core. Maybe it is because the Mozilla Foundation/Corporation is unsure of the future API or compatibility and stability of using XUL and its companions. And they figure HTML is the safe way to go for the “masses”.
Again, who has the awesome history of distributing a runtime far and fast, proven backwards compatibility in a runtime, and is at the same time making great advancements with innovation for rich media, RIA, and internet desktop application developers? Adobe. With the Flash Player, and no doubt soon to come AIR.
It appears its all experimental right now, but hey I’m not to proud to gobble up table scraps!
Some shortcomings to note right away:
- Firefox prefs and commandline handlers are still in effect.
- On Mac the dock icon will be Firefox
- On Windows the shared taskbar icon will have the Firefox logo.
Let’s see what we can’t do.