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Is Direct RIA the next Big Thing in Web development?

Being an open source web developer for the last 10 years, I have probably tried most of open source web related technologies out there in some flavor. It all started with good old HTML. To make a long story short, now web arena is populated with things like JSP, JSTL, JSF, etc.. and notably GWT. Even though JSP is still going to stick around, GWT revolutionized my development toolbox by introducing pure Java to the world of JavaScript. Some also like to call it JavaScript hell. It is true, large projects that utilize a lot of JavaScript tend to get lost in a jungle of code. JavaScript with all of its frameworks out there tries to solve programming problems that UI developers faced for years. Laying out UI components on a screen and communicating with some flavor of data services. Up till now, GWT was a big winner in my book for large scale projects. Its power to code in Java was unbeatable when it came to structured UI approach. Its AJAX support, where programmers can send across Java objects, beats all others.

So what could be even better? Well, GWT is client centric. This means that you write in Java, it gets compiled to JavaScript and eventually deployed on the client. What about a server centric approach? Can one still write in Java, possibly mix it with some flavor of UI tags for describing layouts, and have that compiled into a web application, say, by a servlet? What are the advantages? Well, with server centric approach AJAX becomes transparent. There is no longer a need to code a Service layer, since your UI classes are already visible on the server from the start. In fact, one can simply inject Spring or Hibernate into UI code without much problems..

The reason for this post is because recently I came across a new framework for web developers, called ZK. As I was reading in disbelief their sales pitch, it suddenly dawned on me what they are actually trying to accomplish. Direct RIA. Is it the next Big Thing in Web Development? Things are changing very quickly in web world, but I am surely going to give this one a try.

For GWT gurus, highly encourage you to take a closer look at their GWT vs. ZK page.

For ExtJs disbelievers, they also have a pretty comprehensive widget library.

ZK framework also supports mobile development on latest handset devices.

Good luck on choosing the right framework for your next project and Happy coding!

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Comment by Charles Koehl on March 1, 2009 at 7:42pm
Almost 6 years ago, when I was deciding whether to build the UI for the sales force automation side of the Web 2.0 app "Vacation Rental Agent," I came across Canoo and was very impressed the conceptual framework, which basically involves mirroring Java objects between client and server transparently. It's not free, but they claim its Java source code is easily maintainable with no project risk even if Canoo discontinues development, and they've been around since 2000. License for base product costs US$ 1499 per developer seat. Deployment is free. I ended up sticking with Flash, MySQL and PHP since the only thing I knew about Java was a book I had read while recovering from shoulder surgery and unable to use a mouse.
Comment by Cameron Souza on March 1, 2009 at 5:29pm
This is the first I've heard of the ZK framework. It looks interesting. Thank you for the pointer!

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