Technometria's interview with Jason Smarr

Phil Windley has posted another really interesting Technometria podcast, this time featuring Joseph Smarr, the Chief Platform Architect of Plaxo:

Over the course of an hour Phil, Joseph and Scott Lemon cover a range of topics including (but not limited to):

  • The differences between traditional applications and web applications.
  • Creating efficient Javascript and the role of Javascript frameworks in this process.
  • Why HTML/Javascript is a better approach than proprietary Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) such as Adobe Flash/AIR and Microsoft Silverlight.
  • AJAX cross-site scripting opportunities and risks.
  • New functionality in Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 8 to enable better browser-level cross-site data transfer.
  • Data portability of social networking graphs and the OpenSocial API.

Overall it is a great listen and it is refreshing to hear from someone who still believes traditional Web technologies like HTML and Javascript hold a great deal of potential. I cringe each time I hear proponents of Flash/AIR and Silverlight proclaim that these platforms will eventually dominate the Web. Sure the companies behind these technologies can give a great demonstration, but do we really want to turn the clock back twenty years to a world of closed development on one or two tightly controlled platforms?

Off-line enabling existing applications with Gears

Today Google released their open source Google Gears extension for Firefox and Internet Explorer. Also announced at the same time was upcoming support for the Safari and Opera browsers and inclusion of the technology into Adobe's Apollo framework. All these things should help make the concepts underpinning the software fairly ubiquitous. You may at this point be asking yourself what is Gears? In a sentence it is a set of Javascript API's and supporting backend functionality to enable offline use of Web applications. For more information on the subject I would recommend checking out David Berlind's recent podcast interview with Linus Upson of Google on the topic.

Google Gears is big news because a Web-based application's biggest stumbling block has always been the fact that if there is no Internet access your application stops working. If you are like me and write Web-based database applications then this is really interesting because it opens up opportunities for your users to access their data in a variety of ways that are currently impossible. For example WhichDoctor manages physician information ranging from their contact information through to their training history. From my perspective it would be nice for a user of this application to be able to pull down a sub-set of this data so they can take it away to a secluded beach to work on for the weekend. Gears helps in realising this functional requirement on the browser but for existing and complex applications like WhichDoctor there is still a great many problems to overcome before such a possibility becomes reality.

A Great Site with a Funny Name 

The name is hard to say ten times fast but the demos, scripts and discussion is undenyably fantastic. Extremely useful for leading edge web-based interface scripts and ideas.


Great CSS/Javascript Image Resize Script

A blog post from AgilePartners describes how upcoming web applications like Fluxiom achieve the dynamic image resizing effects illustrated in their promotional material. It turns out to be very simple (Javascript modifies the CSS image size property) yet the effect is really cool. True 'image resizing' is not employed, large images are downloaded to the browser and then it is left up to the browser's own display engine to perform the dynamic resizing. In a high bandwidth environment this does not matter but for people stuck in 56k modem land it is just one more nail in the coffin for their enjoyable Internet experience. There is almost a need now for web developers to be able to distinguish between low and high bandwidth users in the same way browser or Javascript detection is employed.