Thoughts on XML, Ajax, and UI Development

By on April 9, 2007 4:44 pm

InfoQ had an interesting article recently asking Is XML the Future of UI Development?.

I believe that the author of the article is significantly underestimating the resourcefulness of JavaScript developers:

The first up is AJAX, the poster child of the Web 2.0 craze. Being essentially a new technique to leverage existing HTML and JavaScript technologies, there is little reason not to use HTML. While not currently suitable for desktop application development, it did set the stage for what was to come.

Historically, web developers have a knack for doing the impossible and making their imperfect platform bend to suit their needs.

Another point is made about Gran Paradiso, aka Firefox 3, with the assumption that relying on a single browser will make it fail as a platform. If anything, I think that this development will encourage further innovation among other browser vendors, as well as the creation of things like the Dojo Offline Toolkit to improve browsers until they add support for high-demand features.

Finally, the article fails to mention Apple as a platform at all, which is ironic given that all of the innovative desktop applications I have seen recently are OS X only. There’s a presentation scheduled for WWDC 2007, Designing and Developing Hybrid-Web/Cocoa Applications that looks to be very relevant to this topic:

Leopard supports combining the power of the desktop experience with the latest advanced Web 2.0 techniques in hybrid-Web/Cocoa applications. Discover advanced uses of WebKit, XHTML, CSS, and AJAX in creating rich user interfaces for applications. Learn how industry experts are building lightweight Cocoa applications that allow easy binding of JavaScript to CoreData, and hear how they intend to use this configuration to make powerful applications.

The success of the open web has been due in great part to taking something open and progressively making it better. Attempts to dramatically rewrite the web (XHTML 2, RDF, etc.) have been met with significant resistance because they are significantly more complex than what today’s web developers use and know: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

The pragmatism of groups like the WHATWG shows that improving and fixing what we have rather than starting from scratch is much more likely to be adopted. Browsers, developer toolkits, and plugins all provide improvements at different points along a product lifecycle to add browser support for features such as offline mode. With the proliferation of multivariant devices, other desktop app features are needed for an application to effectively compete with desktop apps (e.g. camera access on an iPhone). By continuing to bend the platform we have today, Ajax and the open web will continue to prevail for the foreseeable future.

Comments

  • Jesse Kuhnert

    Yeah, that’s crazy crack talk.

    What a premise for an article. ..Is YAML the future of the web? I guess no one told this guy that we all hate xml now and are working feverishly to eliminate it except in those few instances where it’s useful.