Web2.0 Expo

I attended the Web 2.0 Expo held in San Francisco between April 15-18. Here are some thoughts on some of the things that caught my attention.

 Rich Internet Applications

There was a lot of talk about RIAs, many products ranging from full-blown development environments to languages, language environments etc. Some examples include Apollo (new announcement from Adobe), Django, curl (no - this is not the OSS libcurl), Silverlight (Microsoft's response to Adobe !)
So it seems that the applications are once again moving onto the desktop - after moving from fat client to the web, we have now realized that the web environment really is not rich enough for many applications.

I can't help wondering why no one ever mentions Java applets in this context.  The technology was probably 10 years too early. Perhaps, if Sun had announced Java applets today at the Web 2.0 Expo, it would have passed muster as a RIA development technology. Think about it - Apollo has no threading support and is re-inventing the wheel of the "sandbox" that applets defined. Of course, we would have to tweak applets for today's multi-media apps, but I'll take programming in Java over Javascript any day. But alas, the day of the applet has passed. So let's move on.

RDF vs Microformats

There were several sessions talking about Microformats, the simple data formats that are more human readable. (It's funny how XML was touted as being both human readable and machine readable - today, it seems that microformats have that distinction).  This does seem like cool stuff - Mozilla is working on microformats support in Firefox, which means for example, that you can drag and drop contacts, appointments etc. to your desktop address box and calendar.

There wasn't a whisper about RDF . From the description of microformats, it appears that it is solving the same kinds of problems we expected RDF to solve. Microformats have a leg up on RDF because they work on any browser where as older browsers will barf at RDF. If developers start using microformats (some already have), I suspect RDF will be dead as far as its use in typical web pages (foaf:person vs hCard) and it will remain exclusively in the domain of the semantic web - which may be fine I guess. 

Browsers

Who can forget the browser wars ? If any ex-Netscape engineer out there reads this, please rejoice.  Everywhere I looked, every demo I saw (including screen-shots in presentations) used Firefox, not IE. With the exploding number of extensions and plug-ins, I really think this time around Firefox will win. It's just a matter of time !


Comments:

Microformats are getting to be cool, because it is solving a couple of problems, one of them I think with finding a commong language for stylesheets. It has it's limitations thought, in that it is not very extensible. When people get to understand the power of structured data and want to start extending it, they will come up agains the limitations of this technology. At that point people will start asking for standards such as RDFa or eRDF.

Remember that RDF is about semantics. It is not about RDF/XML. Microformats is just one simple way that works with current tools to add semantics to text. What people can use on the web is always 5 to 7 years behind the leading edge due to the time it takes for the latest standards to find their way into browsers and those to get distributed widely enough to allow things to be built on them.

Posted by Henry Story on April 20, 2007 at 06:47 PM PDT #

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I'm a Senior Staff Engineer in the Performance & Applications Engineering Group (PAE). This blog focuses on tips to build, configure, tune and measure performance of popular open source web applications on Solaris.

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