commentary Developing for the Web is going to be in this summer but what is the right approach?

As a gross over-generalisation, software developers don’t care much for the latest trends in fashion. Give them jeans and t-shirts, socks with sandals, and the majority will be as happy as pigs in mud.
What they do care about is being up to date with development trends that will give them an edge. This could be learning the latest and greatest language, having a working knowledge of a dying art form like COBOL or Fortan, scanning vendor Web sites for obscure but useful research papers, and taking part in beta and alpha programs.

If there is one trend that is starting to take shape it is the Web as a platform. Whether it’s word processor replacements, office suites, or even content management systems that act like operating systems through a browser, the future certainly looks bright for applications that can be accessed from anywhere via the Web.

And when you start talking to someone about how this is all happening, you won’t go for long without hearing about AJAX. AJAX is the new black. (Or, as Will Farrell’s character says in the movie Zoolander, “It’s so hot right now”.)

Like most trends in what university arts students call the postmodern world, it has been done before. Before the catchy acronym, Microsoft and other vendors had included similar technologies in products, and Web developers have been using the techniques since the ’90s when the Internet was still being dubbed the -Information Super Highway”.

However, with the increased bandwidth available now to the majority of countries in the Western world, is AJAX the best approach for the next-generation applications being built on top of the Web as a platform?

Whatever happened to Java Applets in the browser for example? Was it too soon, was it too difficult to write applications, or was it the feud between Sun and Microsoft that scared everyone away?

For interactive Web applications, Macromedia’s Flash gained a greater following than Java, and today the ability to create Flash-based apps via Flex technology seems technically sound. The technology promises to be better in many regards than the AJAX model but it seems the pool of talent to show these apps to the world is lacking compared to those getting on board AJAX.

Of course, Microsoft has been talking about its next generation of applications that run on the Web through a browser and are looking to embrace AJAX, but unfortunately the company is still tying full functionality of future applications to the Windows platform.

How do you see the future of the Web as a platform? Will it be the AJAX architecture that will evolve to become the standard? Or is it Microsoft’s approach with Vista, or Macromedia’s Flash platform? Drop me a line at