P16: a blog by Matt Kangas home archive
16 May 2008

Shockingly cool developments in rich web interfaces

Wow, this gives me warm fuzzies, and some hope that the Internet will do the "right thing" after all -- even if it exhausts all other possibilities first. (Thank you Winston Churchill)

In this case, I'm talking about making closed-technology "rich web interfaces" like Flash and Silverlight a thing of the past. The ability to click "View Source" in a web browser was one of the biggest reasons the web grew quickly, because any curious dabbler could see how a visual trick was achieved -- and then replicate it.

Awesome developments along this front:

  1. From the Facebook Engineering Blog - New Facebook Chat Feature Scales to 70 Million Users Using Erlang and Comet. That's a lot of users! Nice validation of Erlang as a scalable back-end for rich web UIs,

  2. Processing.js from John Reisig is a port of the Processing visualization language to JavaScript, using the Canvas element. Check out the demos -- I'm stunned to see this kind of smooth animation being created with nothing more than JavaScript and standard HTML components. Wow!

Why do these matter?

  1. Adobe has argued that if you want to build rich dynamic web UIs, you need Flash plus BlazeDS or LiveCycle if you want it to scale. Facebook's announcement blows this argument out of the water.

  2. Flash doesn't work on the iPhone. But the Processing.js demos will -- and every other device that has a WebKit or Mozilla-based browser, modulo an update or two.

Soon you'll be able to build a rich Flash-like interface that works on... iPhone, Google Android phones, Nokia Nseries, Asus EeePC and Splashtop devices. And all without those companies paying a tax on every device for Flash or Silverlight runtimes!

This means a better platform for developers and cheaper, better gizmos for consumers. Hooray!

PS: Tie these goodies together and my Remote <canvas> Protocol proposal from January is looking pretty feasible. :)