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August 11, 2007

The future of proprietary web extensions

Following on from the discussion on the previous post, a few thoughts about the absence of Flash on the iPhone, and the future of properietary extensions to the web, like Flash/AIR/Flex, Silverlight, Java, and so on.

A couple of caveats.

I tend to think these technologies can, and on occasion do, enable extraordinary additions to the web. My experience is that far more often they are used for annoying splash screens (a couple of years back I judged the SxSW web awards, where the use of spash screens on corporate entries was pretty much 100%, and extraordinarily annoying), and non standard scrollbars and other such UI widgets.
And I think its no secret that I believe the web is fundamentally an open platform.

As the number of devices which bring us the web - phone-like, things like Mylo, fridges, TVs, in car devices, whose responsibility is it to provide a plug-in that works on the device? If it is the developer of that plug-in, then THEY alone decide whether the device is fully "web enabled". However, given resource issues, such as processor power and memory capacity, it may not be feasible to provide such a plug in. Or given the cost of developing for a platform, will new platforms simply not provide the necessary ROI for plugins to be developed for them? And given increasing security concerns, how will security of these runtimes be guaranteed? Whose responsibility will it be?

I think this is the first practical example of what will become a very serious challenge for the developers of any proprietary extension to the web - these extensions must be close to ubiquitous in order for developers to risk relying on them. But as the web diversifies, and yet ironically, converges on core standards, how realistic is that, even for enormously well resourced, highly skilled organisations like SUN, Adobe and Microsoft?

August 11, 2007 | Permalink


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I like the way that Microsoft has made CLI an open specification. This allows developers from anywhere to implement platforms. Security should be part of that specification.

Third party Run-time Environments allow application developers to develop applications/clients based on web technologies for various devices, in a platform independent way.

If a few important web-based apps demand a third party Runtime-Environment, then I can imagine that the audience base will also demand it, and the market will change to fit that.

Posted by: Kat B | Aug 12, 2007 2:00:21 PM