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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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