August 20, 2008
AJAX running on borrowed time
Let’s face it, web applications “RIAs” are the future with the web being the next big development/distribution platform. Right now we have Adobe pushing Flash, Sun with Java and Microsoft has the Windows Presentation Foundation (which encompasses Silverlight). All 3 companies are putting tremendous time, money, energy and effort into evolving their products / platforms and wooing new developers.
But what about AJAX?
First, AJAX doesn’t have a company backing them. No marketing department, no development team, no revenue streams and no dungeon of ravenous lawyers protecting their legal best interest (the lawyer remark is just a joke, please don’t sue me).
Sure there are companies making AJAX tools but they can only go so far if the underlying core language doesn’t change nor do they have much recourse.
Companies like Adobe, Java and Microsoft are directly catering to developers and companies alike to encourage them to continue to use their products and appeal to new developers by making their jobs easier, providing more useful tools and more advanced functionality.
So what does the next 5 years hold for AJAX developers according to ECMA 3.1 (that won’t even be finalized until sometime next year)?
It comprises mostly of minor changes and bug fixes to ECMAScript 3.
In contrast, what does the next few months look like for Flash Developers?
Flash Player 10, hardware acceleration, real-time 3d support, built in inverse kinematics engine, custom filters and effect engine, application-level audio mixing and filtering.
EcmaScript 4 missed opportunity
So why then would ECMA drop proposal 4 stagnating the language for AT LEAST another 5 years?
What many have speculated, the few in know are eluding to and what the Ecma meeting notes seem to infer is that Microsoft had a lot of influence over this decision but what could be the underlying strategy for doing so?
One less Competitor
Microsoft is really focusing on WPF/Silverlight applications with AJAX being a FREE competing product. If Microsoft spent time on making the browser a web application platform it would be counter intuitive to their efforts on Silverlight. They would essentially be competing against themselves diluting their own RIA market share and as well as splitting their internal resources.
Sun and Adobe aren’t going away anytime soon and both have proven technologies with their individual strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft couldn’t just lock them out of the OS or browser without facing a barrage of legal action so Microsoft has to compete. But then who is ensuring AJAX’s survival? Not Microsoft. Probably not Adobe or Sun either and one less competing technology isn’t going to hurt anyone.
Don’t get me wrong, Adobe had good reasons to back EcmaScript Proposal 4. It was the standard ActionScript 3 was based off of. Had the ECMA committee approved Proposal 4, it would had given Flash and even broader developer audience making it all the more approachable (an observation I highly doubt Microsoft overlooked). So while many at first saw the ECMA announcement as bad news for ActionScript; it really doesn’t prevent Adobe from innovating and evolving ActionScript further. Sadly, the same can’t be said for AJAX.
AJAX’s Achilles Heel
You can argue that AJAX isn’t going away anytime soon, but with ECMA’s recent announcement, could mean AJAX is facing deprecation / extinction as the new era of web application development rapidly approaches.
Without any company backing AJAX or pushing the underlying technologies forward, AJAX applications are on borrowed time until it dies out from either lack of evolution / progress or gets executed while everyone is looking in another direction.
Something to consider anyways . . .
Posted by erikbianchi at August 20, 2008 06:34 AM