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Rich Internet Applications

 Despite being web-based applications, Rich Internet Applications function like desktop applications. Typically, they have features and functionalities of desktop applications but they can easily access data and programs residing upon remote web servers.

So why so much fuss over Rich Internet Applications? First of all they demolish the boundaries of traditional web-based applications. Up till now the web-based applications, in the name of interactivity, could only offer text boxes, drop-down boxes and other form-based and link-based controls. Every action depended on page refreshes. Every processing happened on the server side and the client side only handled the static data. This meant whenever the application needed to access new or updated data it had to access the server. Accessing the server again and again might not be a problem if very few people are using the application but it tremendously slows things down if lots of people are using the application at the same time. This also created constraints for application developers who were itching to create applications that could use strengths of both the desktop and the Internet environment. Both users and application creators terribly missed the level of interactivity and flexibility offered by even mediocre desktop applications.

Then came to the scene Rich Internet Applications and they soon became a hit among the developers as well as the users. If you are wondering where have all these Rich Internet Applications been and how come they have become a part of the mainstream without you ever noticing them, well, you have been using Rich Internet Applications in the form of Ajax applications, for instance Flickr and Google maps. These applications store data locally in what they call a “sandbox” and then keep on using that data or manipulating it unless it is absolutely necessary to access the server again. The page refreshes are avoided as much as possible. The users can manipulate the page elements to a great extent and they get all the feedback instantly. For instance, if you’re using finance management application you will need to generate graphs again and again; even for small changes it will take a very long time if all the regeneration and redrawing happens on the server side.

A great thing about running Rich Internet Applications is that you don’t have to install any software; most of the applications run inside web browsers and almost all web browsers these days support Rich Internet Applications. With Internet speed and bandwidth increasing in leaps and bounds and with ever evolving browsers we will soon stop having to install applications on desktops. From word processors to spreadsheets to database management and image manipulation, everything will be handled by Rich Internet Applications. All you will need will be a basic operating system and a decently current browser. Then you will be finely free from the confines of your computer: you will be able to access your favorite programs, tools, applications and files from wherever you can log on to the Internet. Such applications are already knocking at our doors.


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