RIA or POIA?

I went to a Dolmen-organized seminar about RIA‘s today, where some smart people talked about GWT, Flex and JavaFX. I hooked up with an old acquaintance there, he was a customer of my previous employer actually, working in banking and finance. We exchanged ideas about when and more importantly when not to use RIA-technologies. I just now received a mail from him as well, in which he wrote (roughly translated from Dutch);

I’ll keep you posted on our findings concerning RIA as well, but when I tried to visit www.parleys.com at work just now, all I saw was a black screen. In that case I prefer those PIA’s; they might not be that fancy, but they do work.

I couldn’t agree more, Poor Plain Old Internet Applications for president!

24 thoughts on “RIA or POIA?

  1. Matt Casters

    I’m sorry Jo, if Flash 9 isn’t enough to visit a website, there is a serious problem somewhere.
    Maybe it’s because I’m running Firefox (2.0.0.14)? Maybe it’s because I’m running Linux? All the same, Frank’s statement still stands.

    Matt

    Reply
  2. Matt Casters

    To be clear : it doesn’t.
    Obviously, traveling the RIA path is a dangerous path at times. That being said, in a number of cases, I do think it’s worth the trouble. Personally, being a Java person myself, I would go with GWT any time. Then at least I can be reasonably sure it will work on most platforms and browsers.
    Just for your information, Flash9 works great on my Linux box. It’s the browser/Flash detection system that’s flawed somewhere on parleys.com
    I do think that when done right, Flash is great.

    Take care!
    Matt

    Reply
  3. Stephan

    Hey,

    We’ve only tested Parleys.com on Windows and Mac and not (yet) on Linux. What version of Linux are you using so I can test it and see what goes wrong ?

    Cheers,

    Stephan

    Reply
  4. Jo Voordeckers

    I will inform the people in charge to look at it.

    I agree that GWT is a valid solution when there’s the requirement that it should run anywhere with the least hassle for the end user. But it should be clear that there is no silver bullet, one shoe fits all, RIA technology, each problem has it’s own best solution and sometimes it might be GWT, sometimes Flex, Flash or JavaFX and sometimes not even RIA at all.

    Disclaimer, this is my, not my employer’s (Dolmen) opinion.

    Reply
  5. Matt Casters

    Hey Stephan, my comments were not meant as criticism specifically towards anyone in particular. The point I’m trying to make is that when you push the limits, on occasion, something is going to give.

    Matt on Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.8.1.14) Gecko/20080418 Ubuntu/7.10 (gutsy) Firefox/2.0.0.14
    More info : mcasters at pentaho dot org

    Reply
  6. Stephan

    Don’t worry… but I like to fix things that are broken, so thank you for the feedback!

    Never the less we’ll activate the GWT version of Parleys.com as a fallback when Flash 9 is not installed, once the GWT version is finished.
    However the GWT version will also need Flash for the video streaming ;)

    Reply
  7. Benjamin Dobler

    @Matt+Frank: Yeah I think pushing the limit is exactly what we want to do with Parleys ;-) and I think it is normal that things can go wrong when doing this. It`s a bit strange that you judge about a technology when you see a problem that is related to a developer having done a mistake – don`t you think developers will still make mistake even when using GWT? Sorry was my mistake ;-) Blame me not Flex. And accept it your president is dead Flex has taken over :-) Ok for console banking apps there might still be other options…

    Reply
  8. frank Post author

    very interesting remarks there benjamin! what do you consider the reasons for flex being possibly less suited for banking apps?

    Reply
  9. Matt Casters

    Benjamin, judging a specific technology was exactly what I did NOT do. I like flash, no problems there.
    The main problem is that it needs software to be installed in order to run. So whether you like it or not, it raises a barrier. The topic of this blog post is: is it worth it or not? I have to agree with Frank that in most cases it’s not.

    Matt

    P.S. Despite JIRA PARLEYS-99, the problem is still there (and the site is not :-)) Please note that Flash is already installed on my Ubuntu 7.10 box. I’ll try later on 8.04.

    Reply
  10. frank Post author

    @benjamin; a pity, i thought we were finding common ground here ;-)

    2 remarks;
    * the person who i wrote about in my original blogpost, was not matt (on ubuntu/ff), but someone else on a typical corporate windows/msie6 desktop behind a restrictive corporate proxy
    * parleys works perfectly on my ubuntu 8.04+ff3rc1+flash9r124

    but the real issue indeed remains when and when not to use RIA’s in general or Flex specifically.

    if you want to have an application on the internet (where you don’t have control over configuration of clients), building it in Flex (or Silverlight or JavaFX or even GWT to a lesser extend) without offering an alternative means you’re loosing visitors;
    * some people don’t want flash or javascript (geeks and other security-conscious nerds)
    * some people aren’t allowed to see flash or have javascript executed (corporate slaves)
    * some people have flash, but aren’t allowed to upgrade to the latest and greatest version (your corporate slaves again)
    * some people are on a low bandwidth connection and loading the initial flex swf takes way too long
    * some people are on older computers and flash (flex) is (sometimes very) cpu-intensive
    * some people can’t use flash-only web interfaces (having physical disabilities)

    because of these reasons i really believe that one should start with a POIA (html+css) and progressively enhance it with javascript to arrive at a sexy modern webapp. if you do decide to offer a flex (or silverlight or JavaFX or GWT) application, do as e.g. sonyericsson or google does; cleary display a link to a ‘low bandwidth’-version which offers the same core functionality.

    actually, this ‘low bandwidth’-version exists for parleys as well (thanks for the URL stephan), so why not provide a clear link to it?

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  11. Stephan

    So that Flex app works using your “environment” but not the Parley site, right ? Please say yes :)

    Frank… Yes, once the GWT version is finalized we’ll use it as the DHTML fall-back/alternative version of the Parleys site!

    Reply
  12. Matt Casters

    Stephan, yes, that is correct. I’m using Adobe Flash Player version 9.0.124 as well by the way and I rarely if ever have a problem using Flash sites.

    On thing I do find a bit annoying about Flash is that it doesn’t follow the browser’s behavior, for example with regards to back/forward and in my case especially font size settings. Rolling your own fonts, with separate sizes is probably OK for most. In my case, I’m running a high resolution display (1920×1200) and squinting has become a requirement for a lot of the Flash sites out there. However, like Frank said, the same goes for people that have visual disabilities or simply trouble reading fine prints.

    Take for example: http://www.deredactie.be/ Click on one of the videos in the title-bar. No matter how many times you hit CTRL-+, the font size of the video description stays the same.

    All the best,
    Matt

    Reply
  13. Erwin

    Hi,

    I’ m the old acquaintance Frank hooked up with at Dolmens and I ‘m in charge off e-channels for private customers at KBC but in this blog I give my personal opinion.
    To give you some idea about what we are talking about I ‘ll provide some figures:
    – We have over 600 000 KBC-Online users
    – The peak moment is between 10.00 and 12.00 AM , during working hours which means thas most users are doing their Online banking at the office, on corporate hardware.

    In 2007 we switched all users to an unconnected security device which didn’t need any software or hardware to be installed on the PC. Before that time we had a Java-applet based security component, so the right JVM had to be installed.
    40 % of the calls at the support desk came from new customers of which 60% had problems installing the right JVM in combination with OS, browser and other running programs. Those support calls took quit a long time because the customer had to be supported in downloading and instaling the JVM.

    With the new security, the number of calls droped enormously and the call-time per call dropped also.
    We can support more OS and browsers and it also works on PDA’s, without doing anything special.

    We still have some JAVA-based application but they are no longer the hard of our online-banking offering.

    So the point I like to make is:
    – If you want to adress a large number of visitors, who might be working on corporate infrastructure on which you have no impact, make sure it will run in an ordinary browser without plugin, specially for your core application.
    – Even JAVA promissed to run on every OS en browsers, in reality there are a lot off exception.
    – 99% of our users just isn’t enough. This means we can’t support over 6000 customers. We have to have a solution for the 100%.

    best regards,

    Erwin

    Reply
  14. Matt Casters

    Erwin, in principle I agree with you. As a customer of KBC on the other hand I have to say I hate the new digipass with a passion. What KBC basically did was pass the effort from the help-center down to their customers. To reward us for the savings they will probably start charging for the Digipass device pretty soon as well.

    Matt

    Reply
  15. frank Post author

    screen still very much black if you don’t allow javascript, but maybe that’s by design? ;-)

    i’ll check at work on wednesday, didn’t work there in msie6 on winxp either (but that might be because of our nasty corporate proxy or an outdated flash version) ..

    Reply

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