Rich Internet Applications
Wikipedia defines Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) as "Web applications that have the features and functionality of traditional desktop applications." Until recently AJAX, Flash and Flex have been the primary technologies used to create RIAs, but this is changing. Here's a quick summary of the available technologies:
- Adobe Flash - Flash developers have been developing RIAs since the early 2000s. Flash has evolved from a simple animation tool into a full-fledged programming platform. With the introduction of ActionScript 3.0 Flash now has a best-of-breed object oriented programming language. The Flash player's ubiquity makes it extremely attractive to developers.
- Adobe Flex - Flex is a framework that makes it easier to create content for the Flash player. Its pre-built components and the FlexBuilder IDE combine with Adobe's server-side LiveCycle Data Services to speed up the process of creating database-driven RIAs considerably.
- JavaFX - Sun describes JavaFX as "[comprising] a comprehensive set of runtime environments, widgets, development tools, and scripting environments." Content created with JavaFX runs on the Java platform.
- Silverlight - Silverlight is a new cross-browser plugin offered by Microsoft that allows developers to use .NET code and tools to create RIAs.
Which is best? Frankly, we're biased. We're Flex developers and believe that Flex offers compelling advantages. If you're trying to gain an understanding of the relative advantages of the above options, we suggest that you use this site as a resource for gaining an overview of what Flex, Flash and RIAs in general can do. In particular we suggest that you take a look at the RIA Examples section below. We've also included a few articles on this page that may be helpful, and would welcome suggestions for other resources that would help our readers objectively compare the various RIA platforms.
Anthony Franco :: Flex And AJAX, Friends or Foes?
Christophe Coenraets :: Google Maps Collaboration using Flex, Flash Media Server and AJAX
Dave Wolf :: Living in DENIAL with AJAX
Ely Greenfield :: What Is the Flex-Ajax Bridge?
Jesse James Garrett :: AJAX: A New Approach To Web Applications
Comparisons & Benchmarks
Alexey Gavrilov :: BubbleMark
James Ward :: Ajax and Flex Data Loading Benchmarks
Gapminder :: Very cool tech, and extremely important content. Shows how the world's countries have fared over the last 30 years, as measured by per capita income, infant mortality, and numerous other measures :: One minute demo