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Rich Internet Application Technology and Trends
Jayakumar Sambandamurthy
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
What are Rich Internet Applications?

Rich Internet Applications (RIA) combine the responsiveness and interactivity of desktop applications with the broad reach and ease of distribution of Web applications; and they effectively combine the best of both the Web and the Desktop. RIA help users to understand and use complex business applications by reducing Web traversals to give most of the information at a single integrated interface.

The Web applications have moved beyond the traditional website into new desktop-capable applications. New complex business systems are emerging for almost every industry. The platform developers such as Adobe, Sun, Microsoft, Mozilla, Google, and Apple compete with their distributed applications and push major RIA platforms into the market. These RIA platforms and tools are compared on various parameters such as user experience, platform OS, browser compatibility, network performance, graphical richness, and so on.

This actually helps IT organizations to reduce project risks due to its native support for rich communication and the OS neutrality. Adobe systems, a major player in this area, offers a full development platform.

The Rich in the RIA

RIA applications support a rich set of visual elements like images, graphics, and video that seamlessly integrate with the core business elements to provide rich user interactivity and experience. In the current software development, a good GUI is simply not enough to address most of the business needs. The 'Rich' in RIA really means 'rich communication', and this is where RIA realize their value in the enterprise. Rich communication comes in many forms, such as media streaming or real-time data synchronization.

The feature that distinguishes RIA architecture from general Web architecture is its rendering engine. RIA use a rendering engine that works from client-end and acts as a mediator between the Web server and the user.

On the server side, most RIA applications include a server component that work for the rendering engine by processing the client-end business logic.

As a result of this architecture, RIA offer the following advantages:

* Information is fetched from server and updated in an asynchronous mode based on user needs.
* Information is cached and the same is delivered to the user without fetching these from the server every time.

Application Trends

Distributed Applications

The Web applications today leverage RIA technology to provide data rich applications with high performance and compelling user experience, enabling desktop experience on the Web browser. Since RIA bring the best of client-server and Web technology, many ISVs and product vendors now consider adopting RIA for their next release.

Adobe Integrated Runtime

The Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) looks to be a huge breakthrough. It is a runtime platform that is independent of the hosting operating system. AIR makes creating deployable cross-platform desktop applications a reality. Today, developing the cross-platform software is tedious as we need to write different applications, one for each major platform. AIR changes this and allows us to write one application and install or deploy the same on multiple platforms.

Productivity Applications

There are lots of desktop-quality productivity applications emerging on the Web, say from word processing to presentations, to spreadsheets, to workflow diagrams. A few examples of this are Google docs, Google calendar, SlideRocket, and LovelyCharts.

Graphics Applications

There are varieties of graphic rich applications with good featured Web-based photoshop. Some of these online applications run in all browsers and integrate seamlessly with top photo-sharing sites. Picnik and SplashUp are good examples. Both of these enable rich image editing through Web-based applications.

Analytical Applications

There are lots of analytical applications being built nowadays. Anything from banking and financial analysis and banking to stock market trending can be represented by a graph. Unlike simple applications, the new business systems require features that involve numerous steps. This results in confusion for users since different steps are needed to perform a single transaction that involves long traversal through the applications through multiple forms and interfaces. Moreover, the synchronous nature of these applications reduces performance and results in slow rendering. RIA remove these shortcomings and provide the ability to perform multiple tasks in a simple and intuitive way from a single integrated interface and enable carrying out more transactions.


There are ever increasing complex business requirements for mapping applications, for not only viewing maps, but also for building mapping into custom applications. This is one of the emerging trends in RIA. PushPin, Yahoo Maps, Google Maps, and mapquest are some of the applications of this kind.

Mobile and Devices

In the mobile application development area more and more devices that are capable of running Flash Player 9 are emerging. In the coming year this may crossover from Flash Lite to running the full Flash Player on many devices. The market for mobile and devices is far larger than any existing software market. The industry expects that mobile 2.0 will come to represent a wide range of personalized mobile experiences. Soon, everyone will have a device capable of running applications in their pocket.
There are many more real time applications developed using RIA. Some of them are:

Sherwin-Williams: This Web site implements 'Color Visualizer' that lets users virtually paint houses and interiors with dozens of colors. Users can drag and drop colors to paint a virtual sample room.

BMW Car Configurator: Using the car Configurator, the user can select and configure the particular car model from the resulting list.

Google Maps: To better understand RIA, compare two famous map websites: Yahoo! Maps and Google Maps.

Splashup: It is a powerful image editing tool with all the features professionals and novices use. It’s easy to use, works in real-time, and allows you to edit many images at once.

J K Rowling: JKR’s official website: A dynamic, engaging website that has drawn over one billion Harry Potter fans.

These are only a few sample applications of RIA…but the world of RIA is vast!

Benefits of RIA

RIA reduces network traffic: Since RIA works in asynchronous mode and most of the processing is intensive at client end, it reduces network, traffic resulting in improved performance and better experience for user.

Low operational cost and improved performance: Since the RIA framework enables client-end processing, it eases server load and takes less bandwidth.

New business avenues: RIA takes the applications development to new heights by opening new avenues for businesses and a whole set of services that can be delivered through the Internet.


The RIA are not a technology by themselves, but they provide the platform, methods, and techniques for implementing real-time Web applications. Broadband proliferation, consumer demand, and enabling technologies are driving increased use of RIA, providing benefits for users and the organizations. The IT industry expects the scope of RIA to expand significantly in the coming years.

The author is the Head of Technology Lab and Competency, Birlasoft
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