A few weeks ago saw an excellent evening at Google’s: JavaCampParis4. Quite a few people showed up, maybe partly out of curiosity for the famed Google offices (around 60 people in total, much more than previous editions). Google obliged by providing a big room with a breathtaking view on the Paris Opera House, the best buffet I’ve seen for a free event, as well as goodies including t-shirts and USB keys. Thanks, Google!
I find that these events are often more social than technical. There are a means for many to catch up with colleagues and friends. As for me, I was delighted to chat with Jean-Laurent, Grégory Paul, and many others, as well as meeting Nicolas Martignole for the first time (indeed I almost missed out on the excellent buffet).
Still, one thing I was really interested in, is Rich Internet Applications (RIA) Frameworks. I don’t know about you, but me, I have been hoping for a while that a clear leader would emerge. Probably because I have been spoiled by such an experience in the past (remember the good old days of Struts 1?). So I naturally suggested a session on RIA Frameworks which got a pretty large turn out.
Executive summary: there is no clear leader. However, Flex, GWT, jQuery emerge as the oligarchy dominating the area (.NET frameworks were not discussed, given the Java-leaning crowd).
My original question was “What is the best RIA framework for professional development?” I didn’t want to discuss flashy new tools, only those that dominated the marketplace and that a company could capitalize on.
The frameworks mentioned by the participants were (in bold, those that are used the most by the people present in the session):
- GWT: an obvious option for Java programmers, since it appears almost anything can be done in Java. Generating production-level pages can be slow. Many libraries available for it, either as native-Java libraries, or as wrappers for Javadoc libraries (to be avoided if possible, as they are harder to control and to use TDD-style)
- jQuery: a library now frequently found on high-traffic sites, which has been officially approved by Microsoft
- Flex: the only one to provide a complete solution. Someone was using it as the only solution for frequently displaying financial data.
- Yahoo! UI: good cross-browser support, but quite complex to use
- Java FX: a person viewed it as an interesting option for mobile devices, but few are betting on it. Apparently, it does not require a browser plugin (apart from a recent version of Java)
- Other tools mentioned: Google Visualization API and its GWT-GVis simplification layer (for generating charts), Prototype (Ajax & GUI JS library), qooxdoo (Ajax & GUI JS library), LightView / LightBox JS (both for specific image display, based apparently on Prototype), Dojo (Ajax & GUI JS library), phoneME (a technical library for Java on mobile platforms), Ext JS (yet another popular Ajax & GUI JS library with a GWT wrapper; proprietary. Apparently, the models are a bit complex). Even Silverlight was mentioned.
So, here is my opinion:
- personally, if you want to branch out from Java, then Flex sounds like an interesting way of doing things that look good
- as a company, if you want, to bet on a new technology and can afford to train your staff, Flex is here to stay so is probably a safe bet