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Arriving late to the Java Web Start party

Posted by joconner on February 22, 2007 at 10:00 AM PST

If Java Web Start were a party, I'm fashionably late as usual. OK, maybe I've missed the party altogether. I like the idea of distributing apps via a browser, automatically updating them, and getting full access to the desktop. I'm going to stick around this party a little longer to see what develops.

The Java Web Start (JWS) party has been going for a while now. I wonder why I never really investigated it before now. I have a sense that people have been wandering in and out of this technology for a while, wondering if it's the right place to be. I'm feeling the same way. Having just arrived, I'm not sure yet. I see people milling around, using the technology here and there. I'm suspicious though...does it seem like people are waiting for something better? Is the whole Java community rallying around this technology to make it better, to make it the place to be for deployment?

I think the idea is simple enough. Click a link, run an application. However, in practice, I notice that implementing a good Java Web Start (JWS) enabled web page isn't so simple. To be reasonably smart about your JWS app, you have to

  1. use JavaScript to determine the browser
  2. dynamically insert different HTML code to check for the correct JRE on the platform
  3. use an ActiveX component on Windows and IE to perform the JRE check, download the app, launch the app.
  4. use some more JavaScript (I think) on other platforms to initiate the JRE download, etc
  5. oh yea, link to the apps JNLP file

Seems a little complicated. However, any deployment task is more complex when you can't make big assumptions about the underlying platform. JWS is as good as it gets, right?

Do you use Java Web Start to deploy your apps? Does it do what you need? And what problems, if any, does it still have? Help me out...is this the best party out there for Java application deployment? Have I been redirected here while the best party is elsewhere?

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