Take a Stand and Understand the Standard - HTML with Style | 6 | WebReference

Take a Stand and Understand the Standard - HTML with Style | 6

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Take a Stand and Understand the Standard

How to write a Web-based application (or, What we'd like to do but can't)

The first problem we are faced with is the problem of integration with HTML. As I said above, there is a distinction between Web pages that are used solely as applications and those that contain little interactive tools. This problem is not really a problem of choosing the tool for your application, however; it's a question of being able to embed the application into the HTML document. This can currently be accomplished easily for Java applets and ActiveX controls, but anything else either requires the OBJECT element, which as we all now remains unimplemented, or must rely on proprietary extensions to HTML. So the first thing that browser makers must do, immediately, is implement OBJECT. OBJECT has many other uses, such as embedding multimedia files into documents, and is sorely needed as a uniform way of embedding other media into HTML documents.

So we're left with a few ideas of how we define a Web-based application: a program, that is transmitted over the Internet, and runs on a user's machine, that allows the user to interact with a server. We need the program to be able to run on many platforms. We need to be able to easily write the program without resorting to expensive tools. And we need the program to integrate seemlessly with HTTP and URIs, as well as it to be embeddable in HTML documents.

The big problem is that we want a technology that has the reach and popularity of HTML (at the best case) or JavaScript (at the worst). ActiveX is nice but it will only run on Windows platforms, and is entirely proprietary anyway (you can't write ActiveX controls using free tools to my knowledge). Alternatives that are gaining popularity are Shockwave and Shockwave Flash (the latter is supposed to be supported by 83% of Web users, claims Macromedia citing an independant survey, which is believable enough considering it has been bundled with browsers for a long time now), but again, you cannot develop applications with these tools without paying for commercial programs - hence not everyone can use them, as they can with HTML and JavaScript.

I think that currently, the only alternative is Java. Yes, the Java Developer's Kit isn't entirely "free" (as in free speech, not free beer - you don't have to pay a dime to get it), but it can be run on just about any browser from Netscape 2.0 upwards without a plugin (as long as you stick to the beta API, but that's still better than JavaScript can ever hope to do, and even if you use 1.0 you've got Netscape 3.0 upwards, which is still the vast majority of the Web), and it can run on a very large number of platforms, and can also be ported to others with little hassle. And it is a very powerful, feature-filled language with plenty of free documentation running around.

I would definitely recommend using Java instead of Dynamic HTML to create Web-based applications today. The question is, can it replace simpler, more basic things like online ordering systems?

Not currently, I'm afraid. At least, I wouldn't recommend it quite yet. It's quite plausible that you can use Java for these things, but you will be missing a few (very few) of your customers. Namely, those with text-based browsers, or browsers that don't support Java. It's not a big crowd; it's definitely a smaller crowd than those having problems with DHTML, but I'm a perfectionist and cannot possibly be happy with that. You might be.

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URL: http://www.webreference.com/html/watch/standards/5.html

Produced by Stephanos Piperoglou
Created: August 25, 1999
Revised: August 26, 2089