AjaxWorld 2008 – New York City, March 18-20

This was my first time at AjaxWorld conference, its fifth year since inception by Sys-con group. They conduct two of these, spring in the east coast(New York) and fall in the west coast (San Jose). Mostly web development and design folks come to these events. So what did I observe?

– Ajax is just a phrase to enable conversation on a set of technologies which are much older than the phrase, coined only in early 2006. The underlying technologies include the good old Javascript, Cascading Style Sheet (CSS), Document Object Model (DOM), and of course the Microsoft-created protocol XHR (XmlHttpRequest) for asynchronous messaging between the web client and the server. The take-off on usage has been great, mostly in the consumer space. Hence such a conference draws a lot of younger web-gen developers.

– However, it was clear from the March conference that RIA (Rich Internet Applications) is moving far beyond Ajax. The security risks of scripting language and browser host is well known and scares the enterprise world.  Plus, building transactional, complex, web applications via Ajax is highly non-trivial. Hence we have seen the newer platforms such as Curl (origin, MIT), Silverlight (Microsoft), and AIR (Adobe). There are hundreds of Ajax-based platforms like Jackbe, Nexaweb, Laszlo, etc., which are not getting the traction in the serious enterprise community which looks for superb performance, high security, scalability, and greater UI functionality.

– Web 1.0 era saw mostly graphic designers and serious programming folks did not participate. Now Adobe is trying to entice developers whereas Microsoft wants designers. A new term was used “devigners”. All new RIA platforms are bringing a two-language  strategy: a declarative GUI language and a serious OO language for business logic.  Adobe, for example has MXML/ActionScript. Microsoft has XAML/C#. Sun has JavaFX/Java. Interestingly Curl is the only platform that has one language that spans both, thanks to the forward-looking research at MIT. As a consequence, programmer productivity is significantly higher with Curl. There are over 300 large enterprise customers who have deployed Curl as the RIA platform. Bert Halstead from Curl presented at the AjaxWorld highlighting the user experience and technical superiority of Curl.

– Microsoft was very visible at the conference. Silverlight just announced their release 2.0 beta a week before. Someone said, if Silveright was like a black and white TV, Silverlight 2.0 will be a 1080P HDTV quality. But it’s too early to see the truth. The marketing machine was in full gear at the show. There was hardly any presence of Adobe.

– Some keynotes were rather hollow in content and tried to push their solution (you got to do some marketing as a sponsor to the event, a barter system).

Overall it was a good show and full of technical contents in this confusing space.

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