Monday, May 21, 2007

Web 2.0, 3.0 or is 2.5 what we really need?

As CTO of a SAAS delivery company, I am constantly trying to keep up and research the plethora of industry trends (and hype) to identify technologies that could actually benefit our business. You have to be really careful to separate what is truly ground breaking and what is market hype.

When the term Web 2.0 became widely popular a little way back, it really encapsulated the ideas of providing a rich user experience within the browser framework thus eliminating the need for desktop applications.

And to action these ideas, the AJAX approach was widely touted as the new enabler for this, although many of the core components of Ajax have been around for a while (Microsoft Outlook for the Web being a prime example of this).

The interesting thing about web 2.0 and AJAX as that many of the early sites using AJAX were really B2C type solutions , I had not seen any real Web Based Business Applications fully using AJAX.

We use Microsoft Ajax.NET components in our products, and have looked at AJAX enabling libraries such as Scriptaculos.. All these libraries are innovative and useful in their own right in reducing dev time, but fundamentally AJAX really a whole bunch of javascript which may communicate asynchronously with the server.

Its always interesting to see other sites talk about how AJAX is true thin client, but the amount of javascript which gets downloaded can be truly immense and running as interpreted script in the browser, you can be just as susceptible to performance issues as any windows application. So there is always a balancing act of functionality vs. performance with Ajax.

Now everyone is talking about Web 3.0 and what that may entail.. Lots of posts in the blogosphere about this.

Before we even get there, I think a Web 2.5 might be more realistic for business applications.

I have been looking very carefully at 2 Microsoft technologies.
SilverLight (which is very new) and Clickonce (which has been around since .NET 2.0).

In fact as mentioned in earlier posts, we have deployed Clickonce Offline Editions, but as part of this I have also included ancillary clickonce apps which are truly multi-tenant based and utilize our web based backend via web services for functionality. Its works incredibly well and believe me the development time is signigicantly less than AJAX equivalents we have developed.

Now I am evaluating Silverlight which definitely looks like a competitor to Adobe Apollo (which packages Flex and Flash).

I am most definitely excited about Silverlight. It may be a plugin but it is cross browser capable and platform independent. It also utilizes a cutdown form of the .NET framework which will give it rich development capabilities and is compatible with Visual Studio.NET.

I can definitely see Silverlight working hand in hand with our clickonce solutions.

I think Silverlight is going to take us to that Web 2.5 Level, where we are actually using newer technology than AJAX which will enable business solution providers to deliver truly rich internet based business applications with significantly less development costs and time than the traditional AJAX solutions. Some may compare it to Active X Control development for the web, but key differences lie in cross browser capabilities,.NET Framework and security model.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.