The RIA world has been pretty much burning in flames during the past couple of days. All because of a very… let’s say “engaged” blog post by one of Gaia Ajax Widgets developers. Thanks to SlashDot and Digg, it seems that this post has touched a sensible string and turned into a very bad belief-vs-belief debate about which RIA framework is the best. You know, something like “mine is bigger than yours”. That’s just ridiculous and endless, as it’s immediately been followed by the answer, and an answer to the answer, and even some very strange answer to another response, not even mentioning all the enflamed comments on all those posts.

Come on guys! Do you really think it’s useful and constructive. The main problem is that the original trouble maker asks for others to be constructive and objective, whereas he isn’t so himself in the first place. And why is that so? Because there is something like what we call a logical level confusion: everybody is talking about the capabilities of Flex versus Gaia, but the real FUD behind all of that is a matter of ideology. Should we be afraid of the big evil commercial Adobe and its not-so-proprietary technology? Should we put standards, openness, freedom and safety first, or live with our time and invest some time and effort in innovation?

At Axen, when we are in the middle of such a pointless debate, during a meeting for example, we have a very simple hook technique: what do we need? In this case:

  • Is it compatible with the surrounding technologies? Gaia is a library of .Net components, so forget about it on top of your Java backend.
  • Does it do what I ask it to do as a RIA framework, that is combine the best of both fat clients and web clients? Both seem to do.
  • And because a framework should never be a black box, is it possible for me to have a look under the hood to see how it works? Both are Open Source, or on the way to be for Flex. I really don’t care about the license and freedom and all of that. I just need to access the sources, something like what Java has offered for ten years.

Those are my needs right now. They are very likely to be different for you, and even for me tomorrow. Actually, I’ve taken the opportunity to suggest Gaia to colleagues working on a .Net project.

This “debate” has had a couple of interesting side effects though:

  • Obviously now many people know about Gaia whereas they didn’t know about it two days ago, so even if it’s not intentional, it’s a pretty smart commercial move.
  • And it’s bringing some more light on the RIA landscape that’s really getting a lot of momentum now, especially in business and enterprise applications. And that’s very good for innovation, that’s very good for the face of enterprise applications, and that’s very good for our business of course.

“You don’t know who’ll win!”, he said. But who said there has to be one winner, one way to go, one path to enlightenment. Adobe didn’t, Thomas Hansen did. Dude, in your fight for freedom, don’t forget the first one: the freedom to choose the tools that best suit our needs.


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