Web Interfaces - Why They Will Prosper | 2
Web Interfaces - Why They Will Prosper
Web Services - Enterprise Caliber
One of the quiet advantages of Mozilla is extensive support for XML, SVG and SOAP based Web Services in its browser. The latter is significant because SOAP based, browser implemented Web Services (especially for the relatively safe query and display applications) are becoming an attractive alternative to J2EE, CORBA, and .NET/COM . In general, SOAP based Web Services are good candidates for Web applications because Web Services can be delivered as either subservient or nearly standalone applications. As an added advantage over rich media, Web Services can encapsulate existing systems and processes aiding cross application integration. Many portal and enterprise application integration systems are moving towards offering these types of Web Services using the Web interface as their starting point.
But equally important for the Web developers is that Web Services makes available sophisticated, enterprise caliber services to Web applications. Now, these enterprise applications are already available through CORBA, J2EE and .NET frameworks. However, these are relatively complex development tasks. But with such tools as BEA Workshop or Systinet's WASP, developers can tap into the full range of Web Services including HTTP/HTTPS connections including sophisticated message queuing based protocols. In short, support for Web Services allows Web developers to scale classic HTTP-based applications to standalone, sophisticated distributed applications. Other tools (such as Apple's Web Objects or Microsoft's .NET Framework), may offer some rich features but at the price of proprietary lock-in. For this reason, the Web Interface should do well in the coming years, because it offers an easy-to-use starter development bed that can support the most sophisticated of enterprise applications.
The Web Interface Prospers
In our previous article, we said that the Web Interface offers a relative ease of construction coupled with rich and expanding support for a variety of GUI components and processing models. The new XForms, Flash and other rich media capabilities allow developers a wide range of choices over what elements can be used to develop Web interfaces. XML and Web Services determine how Web interfaces can be used to deliver programs and systems.
Unfortunately, there are some storm clouds on the horizon, as Microsoft seeks to establish a pivotal role for the desktop as a rich or fat client agent in distributed computing. They appear to be doing so by enhancing the desktop OS with new processing and security delivery capabilities - the newly dubbed Smart Client; while de-emphasizing and limiting the browser and its Web interface elements. Microsoft has abandoned all development on its Web Browser until 2006 at which time it has promised to release a new browser that has some yet-to-be-announced capabilities - but we are assured they will be tied to the desktop OS and Office Suite of services. Since users and developers have given Redmond nearly 90% of the browser market, a wait and see attitude is necessary, since Redmond is unwilling to disclose its plans for IE or other browsers.
In addition to these difficulties are security problems with browsers and distributed computing in general. After all, IT and computing is embarked on delivering a new world of distributed computing where a program or application no longer can be identified with a single machine or system, but is smeared over a network of interacting devices and servers. Fortunately, the Web interface enhances security with its secure computing model base and separation of data structuring, presentation/formatting and processing tasks. How we get to there from here is a challenging task which will require great changes in the basic security mechanisms used in day to day computing.
Despite these issues, the Web interface will prosper because it's similar to Java. Currently, Java doesn't deliver "write once, run anywhere" computing; but it comes a lot closer than any other development paradigm. Similarly, the Web interface does not offer the simplest "deliver and use" interface; but it comes a lot closer than other competing interfaces, such as Windows, Apple's Panther or the emerging mobile-phone interface. The Web interface prospers because it starts simply but can scale to complex systems fairly gracefully.Jacques Surveyer is a consultant and photographer, see his pictures at www.picsoftoronto.com.
Revised: November 12, 2003