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Musings on AjaxWorld 2008

I am back from a week in sunny San Jose at the AjaxWorld 2008  conference. The conference is a bit of a hodge-podge of Enterprise RIA, and Web 2.0, with a dash of iPhone development for flavour. I have included some of my thoughts after leaving the conference, as well as some contrasts to last year’s conference:
No mention of Mash-ups
Last year several of the talks (especially the keynotes) focused on enterprise mash-ups. By contrast, this year I hardly heard the word uttered (despite being one of the themes of the conference). I must admit that I was quite interested in the concepts of mash-ups after last year’s conference, but have since become more skeptical. I think that plain old Excel will continue to reign as the great mash-up platforms for some years to come.
Struggle between server-centric and client-centric architectures
For those who gave talks pontificating for a platform solution to web development, there was a very clear divide between those who favoured a client-centric approach, and those who favoured a server-centric approach. In reality, I would say that neither is clearly superior to the other in every case. As I have oft heardGlenn say(quoting a professor of his), “There are no right answers, only tradeoffs.”  In a future post, I will go into a bit more detail on what I think those tradeoffs are.
Choices abound at every turn
There is no shortage of choices in RIA development, and “To plugin, or not to plugin” will be among the first. In the plugin arena there is a host of relatively new heavyweight contenders including Microsoft SilverLight, Adobe AIR, and JavaFX (although it was hardly mentioned at the conference). In the non-plugin camp, many speakers talked about the proliferation of JavaScript libraries available (such as jQuery , Prototype , and ). Similar to my previous point, there are advantages and tradeoffs associated with each of them, and in my opinion, there was no obvious choice among them.
The database is being increasingly ignored and abstracted
I was a little surprised at how little mention databases received in the talks. Even the keynotes by Microsoft and Oracle made only passing references to the database. In reality, for most websites (especially enterprise ones) the database will be a very central piece of the application. Coupled with this is the trend towards object-relational mappers to wrap the database. Although from a database purist point of view ORMs seem to discard years of database research and development, there are very compelling reasons to use them (especially in the web space). Again, I will be going into more detail on this in a future post.
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