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Web Builder 2.0 -- Initial Impressions of the Web 2.0/Ajax World

Posted by edort on December 6, 2006 at 10:28 AM PST

So here I am at the Web Builder 2.0 Conference at Caesars Palace Hotel in Las Vegas. John Crupi, a former Sun guy and now the CTO of JackBe, alluded to the interesting circumstance of doing a technical conference in Las Vegas by asking how many folks in the audience were already hung over. Only one guy admitted to that. Crupi said that he also talks at the TSS conference which is also held in Las Vegas -- usually on the third day. "By that time, pretty much everyone is hung over" he said.

This is not a heavily attended conference. Usually the opening keynote gives you a good idea of the total number of attendees. I guessed there were approximately 400-500 people in the room (which sat more than twice that much). I guess the way to look at this is that Web 2.0/Ajax is still in an emerging stage of development, so expecting a huge turnout is probably unrealistic.

So far I sat in on two sessions. The first was a keynote given by Scott Dietzen, President and CTO of Zimbra. The keynote was titled "Lessons Learned Building a 100+KLOC Ajax Application." The second was a developer session given by John Crupi titled "Ajax: Putting a Face on SOA."

The biggest impression I got at these sessions is that mashups are the really big deal (at least right now) in the Ajax/Web 2.0 world. Both Dietzen and Crupi punctuated their talks with some snazzy demos that seemlessly mashed up a variety of services into a front end interface. Dietzen's was an email application that enabled things like mousing over a sender's name to get further information about the sender, or previewing a URL in an email without having to download the page, or clicking on a plane's flight number in an email and getting flight tracking information.

Crupi's demo was a defense department/intelligence application that allowed users to bring in services to be mashed up on demand.

While Ditezen's theme was essentially how to enrich the user exerience with mashups. Crupi took more of an enterprise view of things. He noted that doing mashups is relatively easy to do "when you own the system." But it's not easy when you want to mashup a variety of services from different companies. He noted that companies want to maintain the sort of governance, security, and performance that they have for traditional apps. Accomplishing that is not easy in an Ajax app -- although his app demonstrated that it can be done (being a defense department app, it obviously had a lot of security protections built in).

Some other interesting (at least to me) tidbits that I picked up so far from these sessions, include:

  • Companies are looking for frameworks to help them do Ajax apps, but they're demanding so many capabilities that no single framework (or even small set of frameworks) has emerged. Right now there are at least 40 Ajax frameworks in play.
  • Most companies are getting into Ajax apps in a very simple way by just including an Ajax snippet such as Google suggest on a web page.
  • Gartner claims that by 2010 at least 60% of new development projects will use Rich Internet Application technologies (like Ajax).
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