Lately I had some interesting conversations with few of my developer friends regarding their opinions on which technology will rule the Rich Application Interfaces websites in the future. My strong believe is that there’s room for all four of these as per my experience and actual trends. More over, all these will have a separate slice of the market but overlap at only few areas. Let’s take AJAX as example – it is widely popular for creating rich user experience community building apps, portals, mash-ups and so on. On the other hand, Flex is used more for multimedia rich requirements, interactive maps for example, photo albums, portfolios, games etc. Another technology, Silverlight, is a direct competition to Flex, but its presence is more dominant in the Enterprise applications market.
Adobe’s Flex has a big advantage of running on the Flash platform, inheriting a very wide reach on the internet and having also an integrated support from other Adobe products, like Photoshop, After Effects, Fireworks, Flash, Illustrator. Also some near future upcoming products – Catalyst, Thermo, Cocomo, and more will be closely integrated with the legacy platform. All these are reliable, proven technology in web industry, being leading tools for creating visually rich media, no matter that is composed from images, animations or videos. Besides all, the new AIR version brings even more value by having a desktop version of an app that is integrated with the online one.
Microsoft’s Silverlight is the newest one in the websphere. It has the huge benefit of working over .Net languages and using CLR, but also a huge community of .Net developers. Because it can use code behind technologies as C#, C++, VB, Java, Python and Ruby (of course, CLR-based IronPython and IronRuby) the learning and developing curve is smoothen a lot, so developers not need to learn anything new from scratch, but also have access to huge libraries of .Net components already available in the framework. Another big plus is that it has a seamless integration between desktop and online version. Because of this, building enterprise applications will be the area in which Silverlight might edge over others.
Nobody but everybody technology, AJAX, has two big advantages over already mentioned technologies and by now has no competition: no plug-in required and SEO enabled. This thrived the apps like eBay, Amazon, MySpace, Blogs, and many more to real success and they will continue to be largely based on AJAX. Also another plus is that it can use widgets/components built on either of the other three technologies.
Last, but promising, Sun’s JavaFX is also a new apparition in this domain, even thought it all started with a Java product, only i.e. Applet. This technology I believe will make Java even more appealing to enthusiasts, but the seniors in Java programming will definitely jump onto this. It just remains to observe how the spread of technology will be infused into the market and how reliable and easy to develop in it will be seen. This definitely will shape what kind of value add JavaFX will bring over others.
As a conclusion, no matter what might happen, it’s the final user, THE CUSTOMER, who will benefit the most out of a wide array of applications to choose from. But for developers,the most important is to specialize in one technology, but at least have a minimum understanding of the rest in order to provide the best user experience and usability to a customer.