Assembling a Rich Internet Application

After my rant yesterday, I’m realizing how incredibly close we are to significantly greater capability to have we run-of-the-mill, non-programmers assemble and deliver our own rich internet applications.

Remember Tom Cruise in Minority Report? Everyone always points to the RFID-like recognition the advertisement had of him as he ran from the cops (the ad greeted him by name). What I recall is when he was researching data in real-time by manipulating it in space with his hands. THAT is what I hope to have next year: a page layout-like ability to place images, text, and chunks of functionality into a seamless whole.

Let’s take a look at where we are right now:

  • Portal applications like Pageflakes, NetVibes, Protopage and others allow drag-n-drop of RSS-fed news and content as well as nice chunks of functionality like weather, time, search, movie listings and more. These are primarily personal portals…though Pageflakes allows the assemblage of public pages
  • Mashups are exploding in popularity. I haven’t checked until this evening (received an email from a friend exploring building a mashup application) and I was stunned with the huge array of them at ProgrammableWeb.

All of this is made possible by the accelerating number of Web-based, hosted applications that have exposed their inner workings with an Application Programming Interface (API).

What’s missing from all of this?

Desktop publishing-like assembly and delivery of an end product. Designers demand pixel-level precision in the placement of images, text and the control of look-n-feel. This means that goofy borders, gaudy graphics and an inability to customize widgets or gadgets to fit an end application won’t fly.

Imagine you could have a drag-n-drop assembly program that would enable you to quickly deliver enormous functionality specifically focused on the client, market or product you were trying to create?

We’re close.

As I’ve used higher level tools like the simplistic Apple iWeb (while comparing it to, for example, Google Pages) I had a huge “Aha!” Google is a left-brain bunch of engineers that seem to have no concept or appreciation for design. Everything they deliver is function over form.

Next we have Apple who completely and totally “gets it” when it comes to design. I’d put Adobe in that camp too (but would digress too much in this post), and you can see evidence of that in everything they touch be it an iPod, an application or the fact that MILLIONS of people are now using unix for God’s sake! (Since they’ve delivered an awesome user interface over unix).

I predict that we’ll see iWeb quickly become the page layout program for mini-Web application functionality for personal and small business Web delivery. Obviously there will be more robust approaches like Adobe’s Apollo project, Microsoft Expression, Laszlo and other approaches.

Further I predict that 2007 is going to see an acceleration in rich internet applications, enabling tools to deliver a new wave of Web applications and more.

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  1. JD on EP on December 11, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    “Assembling RIAs”

    “Assembling RIAs”: Steve Borsch points out how creation of “pages for doing, not just for viewing” is spreading beyond the ranks of skilled programmers… widgets, mashups and feeds are encapsulating their APIs, so that more and more individuals can ea…

  2. lwz7512 on December 13, 2006 at 8:47 am

    great collections and classification for ajax applications. I agree with your predict, the coming and wider adoption of RIA is unprohibited.

  3. Dimitar Vesselinov on December 13, 2006 at 11:33 am

    Developing the next computer interface (or getting rid of it)

  4. Bill Albing on December 13, 2006 at 2:34 pm

    Yes, and it seems that the mechanics of the window/browser/tabs will be the next bottleneck. There is no limit to the amount of content — only a limit as to how much we can digest at once. Admittedly, we will need to have more “grinder” or aggregating engines to intelligently filter and compose some of the content for us, but we might also want to look at many pieces of it ourselves (as Tom Cruise’s character does in Minority Report). Is the current browser window enough space? Even for a Web site as small as yours or ours ( is getting crowded. The recently released search engine mashup ( does a good job, but we’re only getting started. Thanks for keeping up with all this and keeping us informed.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.