Rich Internet Application (RIA)... Standards are MIA

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HTML5 is an optimistic standards effort designed to bring all browsers, markup languages and plug-in APIs under one common industry framework. There has been an accelerated effort in technologies designed to make SaaS more robust by making web applications "behave" more like fat desktop applications. Concerns about connectivity, web response time and user experience have tapered the widespread adoption of these applications in the enterprise. Most success has occurred in the consumer/social web space. One promising development is the proliferation storage APIs. This facility creates a small database that is installed on the end user's client machine to enable access to application features normally operated while connected to the Internet. The one year old Google Gears is making some headway. MySpace has integrated Gears into its messaging application. Yahoo has introduced BrowserPlus in an effort to challenge both Google and Adobe Air. The idea is to have a web application accessible from the user's desktop much like a tray application or a native OS-based executable. One Yahoo demo allows users to edit photos on a desktop with Flickr before uploading to the web thereby increasing the speed and performance of such an operation. Most RIA APIs provide three things: a local database ("SQL Light"), a local object caching mechanism for images or web pages and thread pools to allow asynchronous tasks to occur in the background. These are the integral components of the architecture that enables a rich user experience. Go check out Buzzword.com for an Adobe example of a word processor written entirely in Flex. This brings us back to HTML5. Microsoft, Adobe and others (like CURL) are pushing ahead using some of the storage APIs from HTML5 but leaving other parts of the standard on the shelf. Apple has supported the Webkit open source project with Safari and has re-engineered their own site (removed Adobe Flash & PDFs) by using Ajax instead of proprietary alternatives. It will become increasingly difficult to try to adopt some kind of standard; HTML4 was probably the most successful. Innovation is very impatient with the standards process altogether I'm afraid. Being locked in to a proprietary approach may continue to inhibit the adoption in the enterprise. Most IT shops will choose to utilize a best of breed approach for specific RIA implementations in the short term.