Next-Generation Web Platforms

By Jim Rapoza  |  Posted 2008-10-10 Print this article Print

Next-Generation Web Platforms

This year saw the release of important new versions of all of the major Web browsers, from Mozilla's Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer to Opera and Apple's Safari. A big new player also entered the browser arena in the form of Google Chrome.

However, these products represented a lot more than just new versions of classic old Web browsers. Many of these upgraded browsers introduced radical new capabilities that greatly change the impact of the Web browser and go a long way toward the move to the Web as operating system.

These included offline capabilities through Firefox 3.0 and Google Gears, as well as in the latest version of Adobe Systems' AIR platform. We also saw new scripting engines introduced in the betas of IE 8 and Google Chrome.

So far, we haven't seen many developers take advantage of these new Web browser capabilities, but this will change rapidly as 2009 starts. In much the same way that the introduction of AJAX launched a wave of dynamic and interactive Web 2.0 sites and applications, I expect to see many sites and applications that will start to push the boundaries of what a Web application really is.

These new applications will in many ways operate much like desktop applications, letting users work offline, use interfaces free of standard browser buttons and interface conventions, and integrate with standard desktop applications.

However, along with these new capabilities will come challenges. Security for browsers and Web applications will become much more important as a growing amount of critical data and functionality passes through the browser. Also, many businesses will struggle with the problems of exposing sensitive data to sites that include mashups and integration with Web sites and applications across the Internet.

However, these challenges should do little to derail the growth of these new kinds of Web applications. Time and again Web developers have shown that if you give them the tools, they will build new and exciting types of sites and applications.

Also, unlike classic enterprise application development systems, these new Web technologies-much like AJAX and Ruby on Rails, which have powered the Web 2.0 boom-are cost-effective and often simple to use for developing applications. That means that the next-generation Web startups will be able to get up and running without the help from banks and venture capital firms that might be hard to get in the current economy.

I expect this next generation of Web applications to be as different from the Web 2.0 apps as Web 2.0 was from the classic Web of the 1990s.

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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