Thursday, 27 May 2004

XAML, XUL, plain HTML, what is the future?

On June 1st, W3C are running a workshop on Web Applications and Compound Documents. Some of the participants seem to think the two are linked, and it is no surprise to see it is being held at Adobe's offices, given their interests in pushing PDF (Compound Documents) Forms (Web Applications) as the platform of the future. Adobe's vision of a future of applications built on Compound Documents seems as absurd to me as Macromedia's vision of a future of applications built on Vector Animations.

Mozilla seems to have forgotten about XUL and, teaming up with Opera, proposes a future set firmly in 1997 where Mozilla and Opera strive for the goal of making DHTML/Javascript applications designed for the benchmark IE6 work properly on their respective browsers. Or not.

Microsoft's two position papers strike me as arrogant. With no substance, they might as well have just said We're Microsoft, give us a place at your workshop. Or else.

Most of the submissions talk about Compound Documents, which don't interest me so much, and a few of them seem to get sucked into making tenuous links between Compound Documents and Web Applications without substantiating them. I guess they just felt as confused as I do about the lumping of the subjects together and felt the need to appear knowledgable.

Origo seem to get it with respect to part of what we are trying to do with Altio. Reduced need for procedural code. Most proposals for the RIA (rich internet application) platform of the future retain ECMAscript (Javascript, ActionScript, whatever else you want to brand it) as the main way of providing richness. UI designers don't make good procedural programmers, and procedural programmers don't make good UI designers. We need to separate these tasks, and that means getting rid of the need for scripting altogether for most common UI use-cases. Then again, Origo goes on to talk about how great XForms is, so maybe they don't completely get it. XForms look great when you put it next to HTML, but it isn't rich enough for developing a real interface without writing dreaded procedural code to run the UI.

I had to laugh at the title of Laszlo's submission: The Future of the Web is not the Past of Windows. I thought for a minute they were going to launch into an attack XAML's obvious origins as a thin XML layer over MFC (AKA a thin C++ layer over the Win32 API). But sadly they are just pushing Macromedia's applications as Vector Animation bandwagon. Standard Widgets? We don't want standard widgets, we want graphic designers who make every app look and feel completely alien compared with everything you've used before. Pretty, yes. Practical, no. They have their place in advertising, games, marketing, interfaces that are fairly straightforward and difficult to get lost in, but for serious business apps, sorry but we need standards.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe you missed an important point in Laszlo's position paper:

"A platform for web applications must provide standard UI components for application developers to be productive in assembling standard application elements; however, those components must be examples of what is possible in the environment, rather than the extent of what is possible."

Laszlo Presentation Server comes with a complete set of standard widgets. These have a different appearance than Windows, Mac or Linux, but I expect that any business user will recognize them and know how to use them on sight.

-- Sarah Allen, Laszlo Systems>