Considering the Web as a Platform - InformationWeek

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Commentary
3/12/2008
08:50 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Considering the Web as a Platform

Back in the day, meaning 1995... cross-platform tools promised that you could write an application once and run it on any number of platforms. Most of them worked equally poorly on all platforms, and not many of those tools are around today... The Web marked the emergence of a new application platform that ran within browsers...

Back in the day, meaning 1995, I was doing developer-tool reviews for Byte Magazine, PC Magazine, DBMS (now Intelligent Enterprise), and a few others. Those gigs where a blast since I was able to play with the newest and coolest development tools out there, review them, and hold my thumb up or down like Caesar. I was younger, had more hair, a huge ego, and one of those new-fangled Pentium computers... life was good. Now I just have the huge ego.

What was cool at the time was cross-platform tools, or, tools that promised that you could write an application once and run it on any number of platforms. Long story short, most of them worked equally poorly on all platforms. The fact is that you can't be excellent on all of them. Pretty sure not many of those tools are around today.What happened was the Web, and thus the emergence of a new application platform that ran within browsers. Thus, there was no need to write application translation layers between the applications and the native operating system. Instead you wrote applications for the browsers, including HTML, CGI, ISAPI, NSAPI, Java, Flash, etc., and heterogeneity was part of the deal.

While the platform of the Web, or the browser, seemed logical for many applications, it had its shortcomings. In many instances it did not look native, and could not interact well with native applications and operating system services. Moreover, support for browsers was not always the same, and if you needed storage, communications, or API support, you had to write back to local resources, which meant many Web applications were not that portable. After years and years of evolving, we now have a true platform, at least in my mind. The Web today provides a truly portable and native-looking interface, Ajax, which supports the notion of a Rich Internet Application (RIA). We also now have database services on-demand, such as Amazon's SimpleDB, on-demand services such as those offered by StrikeIron, and on-demand development platforms such as the one offered by Salesforce.com's Apex platform-as-a-service, and you can pretty much find anything else you need out there as well.Back in the day, meaning 1995... cross-platform tools promised that you could write an application once and run it on any number of platforms. Most of them worked equally poorly on all platforms, and not many of those tools are around today... The Web marked the emergence of a new application platform that ran within browsers...

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