In 2002 one of the guys ( Jeremy Allaire) whom I owe my house & lifestyle to, came up with an idea that Rich Internet Applications (RIA) should exist in a certain way, with a certain direction going forward. I trusted his idea, as the last one was Coldfusion and it paid off for me so I went with it (had been using Flash prior to this so figured it wouldn’t hurt).
Redsquares were evil.
I spent enormous amounts of time trying to either extend Flash’s V1 Framework to suite my own needs or beat it with a version of my own framework. I was vocal about it, saying how hard and annoying it was and had zero love for “mix-in” approach (Decorator pattern to all you design pattern folks). I ended up supporting ghostwire.com’s components as they were more mature and decided to build on from them.
The running joke in my cubicle in these days was “Barnesy, you going to upgrade to a blue circle” as for weeks on end, I’d have a Redsquares on my screen which represented a placeholder for code.
Point, I wanted RIA to succeed like the next guy, but it meant time and energy to build it.
Royale with Cheese please.
Around 2003. I remember reading up on DENG, this idea that Claus had where you could use Flash to read XHTML pages and it would render accordingly (as Flash had most of the primitives in place). I thought this was awesome as from there you could extend upwards and take a normal web page to the next level, so it was kind of like having a runtime within a runtime.
I decided to have a go at using this concept by reading in XML that would produce runtime applications that talked to Coldfusion. I posted about it on Macrofun.pvpers.com a blog I ran at the time. Libby Freligh (Former Product Manager for Flex) contacted me offline and asked if I would be interested in seeing this project Macromedia was working on, called Royale.
They showed me FLEX and I was hooked. I loved it’s concept and it was 10 times more mature then anything I could ever come up with and so I built a career from there on out around it. I wanted RIA as badly as Jeremy had painted it.
Price is what killed RIA.
I got a call one day, it was missed one at that. I remember hearing the message “Scott, we are about to release the price tag and I know you don’t like it, but could you not blog about it for a while” (as inside the GMC List for FLEX, we were told ahead of time and I was vocal about it). My blog at this time, Mossyblog.com was one of the first generation of Flex related blogs outside Macromedia and so I guess they thought folks would read and get spooked.
I hated the price tag, but I felt I owed Macromedia for letting me in on the Alpha, Beta and RC stages, so I complied. I also thought if more people use it, then it has to be a good thing for me right?
Wrong, the uptake was painfully slow, for weeks on end I’d get no love in the FLEX space and went back to coding Coldfusion 80% of the time.
People wanted FLEX SWF’s outside the server but were told in order to use FLEX you must house the product on the server itself. Yet everyone whom knew FLEX agreed that the server was taking up valuable CPU and caught on that it was due to price tag that kept the reason for it’s existence in place.
They got greedy.
Flex 2.0 came out and it was free.
Finally FLEX was given back to the people, the RIA movement in 2002 would move on and I even wrote an article for MX Developers Journal celebrating this. I thought, this is what we need, the RIA concept will take the world by storm and life would be good.
Adobe acquires Macromedia was the headline in blogs and I got nervous about all of this at the same time. I didn’t know what was going on with Flash anymore and so I waited patiently. In doing this, A friend told me about Microsoft’s movements have gotten mature, I had already known about XAML but didn’t realize how mature it had become until around this time.
I was thinking “why would they want to enter the RIA space” as these guys aren’t built for this kind of thing, design is foreign to them.
Can’t beat them, join them.
I began to learn more about Microsoft, how Windows Form Development was easy to use and so on. These guys had their act together and once you got past the whole “Microsoft is evil” campaigns, you start to uncover that Microsoft has a valid offering here. If only they would use the technology in smarter ways. I caught onto WPF in its early form, and later WPF/e (Silverlight) and I started to see a picture immerge.
Late last year, I saw a job advert (“Developer Evangelist”) and I actually thought it was Adobe, so I figured hell yeah, why not. I got a phone call it was Microsoft, and I was shocked. I made the interviews and got the job and was sent to Seattle for chip implants.
I arrived and was shown around the product stacks, meet some of the brainstrust behind WPF and Silverlight, and was amazed at the level of thinking they have around the products. They got it, it’s not about runtime it’s about experience, going beyond the browser and doing so in as many ways as possible that reflect the developers themselves.
Good Experience (HTML/CSS/AJAX), Great Experience(Silverlight), Ultimate Experiences(WPF).
These are the three tiers of emerging technology coming out of Microsoft and they are going to offer developers three channels of distribution. It’s not about Flash being a killed, it’s about offerings.
Did Microsoft come to the table late? or is Adobe just not equipped to handle Jeremy’s theory? Are we competing? or did Microsoft just grow impatient with all this RIA development happening at snails pace? I don’t think it’s an evil plot, I just think it’s Microsoft catching onto the simple fact that DHTML (AJAX) development still to this day happens in a wide variety of solutions. In order to help these web applications go beyond the browser were possible, they came up with the above three tiers of execution.
Adobe will do their thing and they will eventually do it well, much better than what they are doing today. I hope LiveCycle doesn’t end up being the new price tag killer for the FLEX 3.0 equation and I’m seeing signs of this in Apollo (hence why I’m so vocal about it). I look back on the first days of RIA, FLEX & so on and ponder as to where we would all be if Flex 1.0 was given away and was integrated with Flash Professional instead of going after Enterprise aggressively as they did.
Microsoft are getting back to basics, empowering developers & designers to talk with one another through languages like XAML. Make no mistake, this isn’t about validating Adobe, it’s about focusing on the user experience.
I’ve been doing RIA both pre-2002 and post-2002, Jeremy put the ideas to words but i’d love an update to this RIA paper though.