Java Fat Is In, Ajax Is Too Thin

    April 14, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

All the heavily hyped virtues of Ajax and its asynchronous behind-the-page web browser handiwork have led Java developers to question why a fat client isn’t preferable in the first place.

A Phoenix tech consultant once joked to me that Java’s real promise was “write once, debug anywhere.” Having spent far too many nights answering a pager to babysit a certain brand-name Java middleware server, I could only agree with him.

Now that I’m thankfully removed from the world of hands-on web development and system administration, it’s easy to be a fan of Ajax and a detractor of Java when it comes to web browsing.

Plenty of clever developers and innovative firms have crafted a slew of solutions where Ajax prominently powers the web experience.

Seeing the Java coffee cup appear on screen still tends to trigger my “close window” reflex, but I’m controlling that better these days.

Flash does that as well, though not nearly as often. But when it comes to Java, I may be missing something important about its applicability in web applications.

SYS-CON author Yakov Fain wrote about the starry-eyed world of Ajax, and why he thinks Java gets short shrift when it comes to the client side.

If you’re going to offer some cool Ajax examples to him, make sure they aren’t Google News or Gmail; he’s heard about them too much.

(How about Yahoo News, it’s pretty cool, don’t you think?)

Fain sees the usefulness of Ajax for the Googles and Amazons of the world, who want a thin client approach. That does make sense for those pure Internet plays, where speed is of the essence and delay means an attention-span deprived web user may move to another site and see rival advertising being displayed.

In a business application scenario, where the corporate LAN moves data along at 100mb or faster speeds, the Java or even Flash/Flex approach makes more sense to Fain.

That keeps the focus on solving business problems instead of experiencing feature-creep in the browser.

Also, Fain worries about production support for the back-end when it comes to all the Ajax development for the front end taking place.

But Ajax just shifts the process of calling data partially off the page in the browser; it doesn’t really affect the back-end, as long as the client can get that data.

Of course, that all changes when your boss comes by your office at 4:30 pm on a Friday and says he wants you to find a way to create an Ajax front end client to interface with your back end systems, which all run in a proprietary format on a couple of massive HP 3000s and the MPEiX operating system.

You might want to call out for Thai food. Delivered. Throughout the weekend.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.