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Published: Jan 11, 2010
Last Updated: Mar 16, 2012
We have long been less than enthusiastic about RIA technologies such as Flash and Silverlight because of vendor lock in potential, anemic support for agile engineering practices, and potential for overuse. It seems even the large vendors are starting to agree with us. Now that modern versions of HTML handle most of the common cases that formerly required RIA, we feel that new projects must have enormous justification and careful strategic thought before using any of these technologies.
Rich Internet Applications (RIA) are a popular topic, driven by the effort and marketing of big vendors pushing their offerings. RIA is useful for complex visualizations but ill-suited for other programming tasks because it doesn’t fully support the engineering hygiene we require for our tools: testing is difficult and application partitioning is cumbersome. These frameworks also don’t support common elements we take for granted in applications hosted in a browser: bookmarking, addressability, browser controls, and other aspects. We’re not entirely critical of these tools, but think that their sweet spot is rich visualizations, not building traditional data entry CRUD applications.
Our position on Rich Internet Applications has changed over the past year. Experience has shown that platforms such as Silverlight, Flex and JavaFX may be useful for rich visualizations of data but provide few benefits over simpler web applications. Given that these toolsets have limited support for automated testing, it would suggest that a more traditional web application stack provides greater value for enterprise development. We recommend only using RIA platforms for rich visualizations incorporated into web applications, not as comprehensive development targets.