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How to Choose an RIA Path: AJAX or Adobe?

AJAX is the best bet for experienced Web development shops looking to incrementally evolve existing Web applications

When it comes to rich Internet application (RIA) technologies, application development professionals must choose between two paths: AJAX or Adobe. AJAX is the best bet for experienced Web development shops looking to incrementally evolve existing Web applications. Of course, selecting AJAX also raises the question of whether to go with a homegrown, open source, or commercial AJAX framework.

In contrast, Adobe is best for shops looking to completely transform their Web experiences. But to do so, firms must acquire the skills necessary to use Flex, which is the development framework for the Flash runtime environment. Early adopters with time-to-market concerns and comfort with either smaller vendors or open source can select AJAX with confidence. But firms that require support from a larger vendor and full-featured development tools will do better with Adobe.

App dev professionals should make the selection based on their time-to-market requirements, whether they're looking to evolve or revolutionize their user experience, and whether they prefer tools from large established vendors.

AJAX: The Fast Lane to a Better User Experience
App dev organizations that prefer a fast path to RIAs — for developers and users alike — select AJAX for the following reasons:

  • AJAX helps shops meet time-to-market needs. Developers with existing Web skills find that adopting AJAX involves a shift in design patterns, not a wholesale change in programming language or development tools.
  • AJAX favors gradual re-factoring of existing Web apps. AJAX is based on open and standard languages like JavaScript and XML. This makes it easy for developers to integrate AJAX widgets into existing Web applications that are written in HTML, DHTML, or server-side JavaScript.
  • AJAX can deliver speedy performance. Vendors of commercial AJAX frameworks like Backbase and JackBe invest considerable resources tuning their AJAX frameworks for speed because their clients have tiny footprints and download to browsers so quickly that there's no perceptible lag in app performance. Some open source AJAX tool kits share this trait, but others approach the size of Adobe's Flash and have equally long install times.

More Stories By Jeffrey Hammond

Jeffrey Hammond is a senior analyst at Forrester Research where he covers tools and techniques for application design and development. He is a leading expert on software modeling techniques, integrated development environments and the emergence of new rich Internet application development practices and tools. Jeffrey holds a BS in economics (finance) from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Most Recent Comments
Utkal 04/02/08 01:44:59 AM EDT

Hi. What about Curl ? you ve not named curl in your article. Is it so bad that it can not compete with RIA technologies like Ajax, Flex, AIR, Silverlight etc ?
I wish you could ve included Curl too. I'm new to web dev, and started learning Curl. Its easy to understand and learn.

Ted Farrell 02/22/08 02:56:49 PM EST

Hey Jeff. Interesting article. We have found that our users don't have to choose. Our JavaServer Faces framework generates both Ajax and Flash markup. Other companies (google, etc.) do similar things as well. I think the choice only comes into play if you decide to use Adobe's Flex components, which only generate flash. Many other component toolkits generate multiple formats, including Ajax, Flash, WML, XML, etc.

Ted Farrell - Oracle Corporation

Marco Casario 12/13/07 12:58:44 PM EST

Hi,
nice piece of article !
I had a speach at the Web 2.0 about this topic titled "Choosing the final RIA path" :
http://casario.blogs.com/mmworld/2007/11/using-the-ria-d.html

http://blog.comtaste.com/2007/11/choosing_the_appropriate_ria_t_1.html

and here you can see the slides for my talk :

http://www.slideshare.net/marcocasario/choosing-the-right-rich-internet-...

See you at AJAXWorld NY,
All the best,
marco

Gregory C 11/29/07 12:29:54 PM EST

Hi,

Thank you for this interesting topic,
Could you please expand this topic with the accessibility possibilities of both solutions ?
In my mind, it seems that Flex does not support accessibility and with some customization AJAX frameworks like GWT are able to handle this major subject (we're currently working on this topic using GWT). Regards.

Gringaus 11/02/07 04:23:01 PM EDT

Just stumbled upon this article... Pretty embarrassing for senior analyst at Forrester Research to come up with this b...t. Forrester, get rid of him, seriously.

Harry B. Garland 08/31/07 06:07:28 PM EDT

You forgot to mention that Flex is object oriented. JavaScript is pseudo-OOP at best. After all these years, are we still debating about whether or not OOP is important? That is crazy!

Canoo RIA Blog 08/20/07 08:42:21 AM EDT

As already mentioned in the Canoo RIA blog, reading this article is recommended. It lists several issues to consider that many others focusing on mere technical aspects leave out.

For a detailed discussion of this article, see:

http://canoo.com/blog/2007/08/15/how-to-select-ria-technologies-part-1-o...

Dirk 08/08/07 12:44:03 PM EDT

Digg this? Dump this you mean! I suggest to use both technologies before writing this kind of articles. Flex is simply the technology to use - if you would have used it you would know.

Andy 07/29/07 11:18:00 PM EDT

This article generated more questions in my mind than it helped with answers.

What about the Flex/Ajax bridge? What about companies that will continue to use both Flex and Ajax for a variety of different means?

What I really need is more useful information on how these technologies help address various types of business problems that are being translated into technical requirements.

What are people's main concerns? Mine are security and performance between the client and server. XML based services can be very verbose, are test show that Flex can have some advantages here, but what are other people finding out?

What are the cost differences?

Hopefully you can address these questions in a follow-on article.

Chester Chipperfield 07/14/07 11:49:32 AM EDT

I'm afraid you are wrong on a number of points here. This is not subjective, but mostly factual errors. Have a read of this http://blog.schematic.com.au/?p=46 , it goes some way to pointing them out.

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