Firefox and Browser Compatibility

Firefox market penetration has been growing lately. Estimates have been in the range of 8-14% of worldwide traffic. Developing RIA (Rich Internet Applications) has been getting easier in the past few years, but the growth of Firefox adds a new wrinkle. As I see it, there are are a few options for RIA.

1. Flash. This is the most dynamic of all of the presentation foundations. The problem has been the slow transformation of Flash as an animation platform to Flash as a application platform. The main tool they are using is Flex Builder 2. The problem is that Macromedia and parent corporation Adobe are not attuned to Developer needs. They do not have the background of Borland or others that have built IDEs for developers to use. I am going to download Flex Builder and try it out. Stay tuned.

2. Avalon. Microsoft is going to slowly release a new platform for delivering RIA apps. This is going to be a direct competitor for Flash. This platform is built into the 2006/7 Windows version called Vista. Also the platform is tightly integrated with Visual Studio 2005 and other Microsoft developer tools. Even if it is the entire world versus Microsoft, you have to wonder who will win.

3. Web Standards. I purposefully didn’t say “Ajax”. Ajax is just a particular approach to achieving a single goal. The term was coined to describe how some sites were using XmlHttpRequest to avoid refreshing the browser. This gave the user a more seamless and richer experience. This technique combined with CSS/HTML/JavaScript is still weak in terms of delivering a powerful and interactive rich client. It is not impossible, but rather, it is just very difficult. I can show you tons of examples of very rich widgets, but these have been coded over a long period of time with many difficulties. What is required for Web Standards to be the defacto standard is a powerful and intuitive IDE to develop applications and weave together these widgets in a standard way. This tool is not likely to present itself soon. The benefit of this approach is that no company dominates the standards. The down side is that cross-browser implementations will always be difficult.

I fear #1 or #2 is going to “win”.

I am just happy that applications are becoming richer. Now the next goal is to make them more effective. A much harder proposition.

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