Silverlight 1.0, Microsoft's response to Adobe's Flash, has been released. I've read a couple of articles about Silverlight and also about AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) recently. It seems to me that these new technologies have the capability to revolutionize the way we work with net based applications. In my view, they could even mean the end of traditional Web applications.
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Microsoft's opponents have been pinning their hopes on Web applications for a long time already. Since the early days of Netscape we have been hearing this story of Web based applications running somewhere in the cloud and not on Windows desktops anymore. Google's success has raised these hopes again because this company has enough cash to defy Microsoft.
You might object that Silverlight is a Web app as well since it is just a browser extension. However, if you read a little about the technology behind it (WPF), you'll realize that in the future the Web browser probably won't play the same important role for Internet applications as in the present. The future role of the Internet Explorer could be comparable to that of Windows Explorer. With the Windows Explorer you launch Windows apps, with the Internet Explorer Internet apps. But once the app is running, the browser is no longer needed.
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Note that Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) no longer have to rely on Web technology. So there is no HTML, no Ajax, no CSS, and there is even no need for HTTP. Hence, I think one shouldn't consider RIAs as Web applications. There is really a big difference between old fashioned Web apps such as Google apps and RIAs providing a "real graphical user interface". This doesn't mean that the Web will go away, of course. But Web browsers will only be used for what they were originally made for - to browse Web pages.