Five Steps to Next

By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2007-08-26 Print this article Print

-Generation Web Applications"> As the Web was born and grew in importance in the early 1990s, it immediately changed the way the world connected, communicated and gained knowledge. And while the Web has had a major impact on all aspects of society, it has had an especially big effect on businesses.

From the get-go, the Web has been a moving target when it comes to a companys ability to stay on top of changing technologies and dynamics.
At first, the Web was mainly a static place, consisting of basic HTML pages. But as the first-mover companies got up to speed, it quickly changed into a place that used CGI (Common Gateway Interface)- and Perl-based applications, along with new security technologies, to enable a whole host of new capabilities—most notably, e-commerce.
And again, just as companies were getting comfortable, XML, SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) and other new technologies opened up the world of SOA (service-oriented architecture), completely changing how applications, systems and businesses connected. This was followed by the whole 2.0 phenomenon of blogs, wikis and social networking. Now, just as your company is finally feeling at ease with 2.0 technologies, the Web is set to move on again. Is the Web 2.0 bubble set to burst? Click here to read more. The next generation of the Web is marked by dynamic, interactive, open and highly flexible applications that not only go beyond the capabilities of classic Web applications but also exceed the features of desktop applications. In short, this next generation of Web applications is bringing us much closer to a future of the Web as an operating system. And now is the time for businesses to get ready for the latest change in Web technology. In this IT Planner, eWEEK looks at the five key attributes of these cutting-edge Web technologies and offers some tips on ways that companies can prepare for and even begin building and deploying some of these innovative Web applications. After all, when it comes to Web technology, standing still is not an option. Step 1: Build Rich Web Applications When a Web or Internet application is referred to as "rich," it generally means that it is highly interactive, has an intuitive user interface as good as or better than a desktop application, and has a wealth of features and capabilities. On the Web, a rich application interface will include things such as drag-and-drop capabilities in the places where a user would expect it, contextual drop-down and right-mouse menus, and interactive and real-time data responsiveness when it comes to things such as graphs and reports. An important thing to understand about a rich Web interface is that it doesnt necessarily entail lots of flashy animations and flashing icons. A simple and plain administrative interface for a server or service application can be extremely rich in the ways it provides information to users and allows them to define settings and parameters. One of the main technologies in this area is AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), a standards-based language that makes it possible to write a rich, browser-based interface that works identically in any standards-based Web browser. The funny thing about AJAX is that it isnt really a new technology. Most of AJAX is based on established technologies such as JavaScript, but it is used in unique ways to create interactive Web applications. One of the great things about AJAX is that it doesnt require learning new things. AJAX applications can be built in almost any editing and authoring environment, and tools from Microsofts Visual Studio to Adobes Dreamweaver include lots of tools and aids to get up and running with AJAX. Other products to consider include Adobes Flex and Microsofts Windows Presentation Foundation, both of which are designed for developing rich Web applications that can run outside of a Web browser. However, keep in mind that both platforms rely on non-Web technologies, with Flex requiring Flash to run on a system and WPF needing Microsoft technologies such as WPF/Everywhere. Finally, they say you can never be too rich, but thats not the case when it comes to Web apps: Too much interactivity can ruin a Web application. Just because you can add lots of menus, windows and cool animated graphics doesnt mean that you should. Page 2: Five Steps to Next-Generation Web Applications

Jim Rapoza, Chief Technology Analyst, eWEEK.For nearly fifteen years, Jim Rapoza has evaluated products and technologies in almost every technology category for eWEEK. Mr RapozaÔÇÖs current technology focus is on all categories of emerging information technology though he continues to focus on core technology areas that include: content management systems, portal applications, Web publishing tools and security. Mr. Rapoza has coordinated several evaluations at enterprise organizations, including USA Today and The Prudential, to measure the capability of products and services under real-world conditions and against real-world criteria. Jim Rapoza's award-winning weekly column, Tech Directions, delves into all areas of technologies and the challenges of managing and deploying technology today.

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