Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is an RIA?

What are Rich Internet Applications? .. while there are many definitions on the web, I like to decide if something is an RIA or not based on the following criteria …

1.It has to be an Application … something that deals with dynamic data, takes an input and processes it to produce valuable output.
2.Its primary function should be to deal with data that lives on the Internet (or intranets).
3.It should offer a user experience that is Richer than what we’ve been used to in the past in a particular environment.
If a piece of software satisfies the above criteria, in my opinion, its an RIA. If you think about these points for a little bit, you’ll quickly realize that, even though a fairly new buzzword, is not a new concept …. Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Messenger, Gmail etc are all RIAs that came out several years ago. After some more thought, you’ll realize that in today’s context majority of applications that we build have something to do with data that lives elsewhere on the network, therefore the dominant factor that defines an RIA is the richness of the experience users have while using it. So if we oversimplify, RIAs are applications built with special attention to user interface and user experience.

Many modern interface development technologies have been labeled as Rich Internet Application Technologies .. these include AJAX, various Javascript libraries and frameworks, modern browsers, Gears, Flex, Flash Player, AIR, Silverlight, JavaFX etc .. while these technologies facilitate building an RIA it does not automatically imply that everything built with them is an RIA … in fact, it is very easy to build a Not So Rich Internet Application with these so called RIA technologies. At the same time, it is important to note that the use of these technologies is not a prerequisite to building an RIA either.

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