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Rich Internet Applications or Rich Interactive Experiences?

RIAs or RIEs – Call Them What You Will, They're Here

“Enough with the new words already.” That was how Sean Voisen recently ended a discussion about the burgeoning technology lexicon, which he thinks can only be explained as “a ploy to keep Merriam-Webster in business.”

Voisen, who designs and builds Rich Internet Applications, web applications, data visualizations and what he calls “other fun pieces of Internet-enabled software” for a living, is not a fan of ‘RIA’ as a term.

“Marketing gurus create new terminology like ‘RIA’ and ‘Web 2.0’ in order to force people to engage in new conversations without them dragging along their baggage of ingrained prejudices about what something is or is not,” Voisen contends. “They also do it – I am convinced – to make themselves seem smart,” he adds. Voisen’s view is echoed by Ethan Eismann, the Senior Experience Design Lead of Adobe Thermo with Adobe’s XD team. He disagrees with ‘RIA’ as a term for two reasons: “First, because like all things techy, it’s already obsolete and second because it’s limiting.”

But Eismann admits that while he hates ‘RIA’ he also loves it:

“I love it because it’s now such a part of the common vernacular of web culture that when it’s used everyone immediately understands that you are talking about ‘something better than primitive HTML websites.’”

Its limiting factor as a term, according to Eismann, has to do with the two words “Internet” and “application.” Personally he prefers to use the acronym ‘RIE’ – for ‘Rich Interactive Experience.’

Front-end engineering experts like Voisen and Eismann remind us that the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies and the iPhone experience have shown that great user interface design makes a big difference, that the era of what Eismann calls primitive HTML websites is truly over, and that on the Web the new priority is innovation and optimizing the User eXperience (UX).

The tools and platforms that encourage and support superior UX are becoming the pre-eminent tools for business survival and success, and their numbers are growing all the time, as evidenced for example by the mushrooming success of the AJAXWorld Conference & Expo series, which in October takes place in San Jose, California. The 6th International AJAXWorld is attracting delegates from around the world, eager to benefit from 75+ technical sessions, demos, and discussion panels as well as keynote addresses by two major thought leaders of the New Web, the user-focused Web: Adobe's CTO Kevin Lynch and Microsoft's Silverlight boss, Corporate VP of the .NET Development Platform, Scott Guthrie.

 AJAXWorld delegates once again will be attending from all over the world

User-centered design for the Web is just one of the countless topics explored at this particular AJAXWorld – which is now as much about Rich Internet Applications and Web Development Frameworks as about merely AJAX per se. No other RIA-focused conference slices and dices the Web development and application space as boldly or as comprehensively: for 3 action-packed days the focus at The Fairmont Hotel in San Jose will be on 16 core topics: AIR & Flex, AJAX, ASP.NET, Business Case for RIAs, Cloud Computing, Comet, Google Web Toolkit (GWT), iPhone Development, JavaScript, Mashups, Mobile RIAs, Open APIs & Toolkits, SaaS, Security, Silverlight, Social Software, and User Interface & User eXperience Issues

After the resounding success of the first-ever iPhone technical sessions at AJAXWorld on the West coast in September ’07, a dedicated 2-day iPhone Developer Summit is in fact being held simultaneously with the 6th AJAXWorld in San Jose, CA – chaired by the editor-in-chief of iPhone Developer's Journal, Kevin Hoffman. Another indicator of the business and market-share power of superior user experience.

In the end – quite aside from whether you call them RIAs or RIEs – what matters is not words or terminology but business and the realities of enterprise computing. “RIAs are impacting the way that companies like eBay, Ford, Random House, Viacom, GE, Dow Jones, and NBC think about the Internet and desktop software, and are demonstrating how innovative thinking can completely change the way they do business,” says Anthony Franco, who joined the AJAXWorld speaker faculty earlier this year for the first time. As president of EffectiveUI, he enjoys unique opportunities to see close-up how Fortune 500 companies are beginning to harness RIAs and leverage them to improve the user experience and boost the bottom line.

Franco is typical of the caliber of speakers AJAXWorld RIA Conference & Expo attracts. In October the lineup includes:

  • The CTO of Adobe - Kevin Lynch (keynote)
  • Microsoft's Silverlight boss - Scott Guthrie (keynote)
  • The discoverer of JSON - Douglas Crockford
  • The creator of jQuery - John Resig
  • Senior Evangelist, Amazon - Jeff Barr
  • Principal Information Architect at Travelocity - Adam Polansky
  • Developer Advocate, Google - Chris Schalk
  • CTO for Emerging Internet Technologies, IBM - David Boloker
  • Group PM for the UI Framework and Services, Microsoft - Brad Abrams
  • Architect at eBay - Michael Galpin
  • Director, User Interface Engineering at Netflix - Bill Scott
  • VP of Engineering at TripIt.com - Andy Denmark
  • Lead JBoss Portal UI Engineer at JBoss/Red Hat - Wesley Hales
  • Operations Manager of the OpenAjaxAlliance - John Ferraiolo
  • Chief dragon-wrangler for Komodo - Shane Caraveo
  • UI Engineer & Architect at Orbitz Worldwide - Mike Meeker
  • Chairman & CEO of WaveMaker - Chris Keene
  • Chief Strategy Officer of Curl - Jnan Dash
  • CTO of Pathfinder Development - Dietrich Kappe
  • Founder & Chairman of Nexaweb - Coach Wei
  • Aptana's AJAX Architect - Greg Murray
  • Co-founder and CEO of Kaazing - Jonas Jacobi
  • Evangelist for Web Services and Web 2.0 Apps at Sun - Arun Gupta
  • Senior Engineer and Designer, Yahoo! - Nate Koechley
  • President and senior trainer at Object Training Group - James Harmon
  • Lead Developer of the Qcodo Framework for PHP - Michael Ho
  • Lead Software Architect for ILOG - Christophe Jolif
  • Front-end architect at Nethouse AB - Peter Svensson
  • VP of Business Development at CommuniGate Systems - Jon Doyle
  • Sr. Developer at Magnani Caruso Dutton - Mike Girouard
  • UI Architect at Edream Solutions - Sue Googe
  • System Operations Manager at EngineYard - Yehuda Katz
  • Co-Founder & COO of Bizwhazee - John Krahulec
  • Principal Engineer, VeriSign - Karthik Shyamsunder
  • Co-Founder & COO of Finicity - Nicholas Thomas
  • Principal Consultant, Experience Design at Molecular - Evan Gerber
  • Web Theorist, IBM - Andrew Donoho
  • President of IDC Consulting - John Fronckowiak
  • Tech Lead of the Spring Faces project - Jeremy Grelle
  • Senior Consultant at SpringSource - Rossen Stoyanchev
  • Editor-in-chief of iPhone Developer's Journal - Kevin Hoffman
  • Development Team Lead for the EGL Rich UI - Chris Laffra
  • Development Manager, UI Framework and Services, Microsoft - Matt Gibbs
  • Managing Partner of Catalyst Resources - Paul Giurata
  • Host of iPhoneWebDev.com - Christopher Allen
  • Co-founder of M/Gateway - Rob Tweed
  • Consultant, OneStopAppSecurity.com - Neil Smithline
  • Senior Research Analyst at Info-Tech - Howard Kiewe
  • Founder & CEO of OpenLink Software - Kingsley Idehen
  • Senior User Experience Designer at OneSpring - Laurie Gray
  • CTO of Ektron - William Cava
  • Senior Engineer at Sun - Jim Driscoll
  • CTO of Nexaweb - Jeremy Chone
  • CTO of Morph Labs - Guy Naor

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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