Rich Internet Applications, a well-acquainted term to most of us these days, was coined in the year 2002 by Macromedia. At first Microsoft called it, Remote Scripting and later Forrester Research named it as X Internet in the years 1998 and 2000 respectively.
In spite of such changing terminologies, the basic domain of Rich Internet Applications remains the same over the years. The changes that Rich Internet Applications brought in today’s web world is significant. It has almost abolished the traditional web applications that revolved all its activities in and around a client-server design with a thin client. With slow but continuous evolution of internet standards, it has become a tough job to delineate what exactly constitutes in a Rich Internet Applications and what does not. However, there is one common characteristic shared by all the Rich Internet Applications and that is all of them introduce a middle layer of code, also known as a client engine, connecting the server and the user.
The major drawback of traditional web applications is, processing is done on the server side and the client is used to show only static content. This is very unlike and opposite to what Rich Internet Applications do. I will just brief you on its major benefits:
They are “Richer”: With asynchronous forms of connection like AJAX, Rich Internet Applications now include widget like interfaces, drag and drop and so on. It is very common today that you come across a website that has a mortgage calculator, or a temperature widget or a slider to change relevant data and statistics and so on.
Responsive: Today, web pages do not refresh often, rather the communication between the server and clients is asynchronous. These applications have evolved over time.
Balance between the client and the server: Expensive server and client resources are better managed. Especially server side resources, which are now usually freed up more, so that it can handle a larger number of client sessions simultaneously.
Desktop applications are slowly evolving into Rich Internet Applications. The reason is, nowadays, Rich Internet Applications use a thin client like the browser to produce functionality that a typical desktop app has. With better network speeds, and better utilization of resources, the metamorphosis has already begun.
It is high time that you start differentiating between a Desktop app and a Rich Internet App!