Java Symposium: Web development issues raised

Obstacles to developing Web applications were on the minds of Java developers at TheServerside Java Symposium on Thursday.

Web application development technologies include scripting offerings, such as Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), and frameworks like JavaServer Faces, Struts and Tapestry. During an opening interactive session, audience members and panelists focused primarily on issues with AJAX, although a need to boost programmer productivity in Java in general was also cited.

One attendee said AJAX and Plain Old Java Objects would make a big difference in building of Web applications. Also, symposium panelist Patrick Linskey, an engineer at BEA Systems Inc., predicted that this year someone will find a meaningful way to wire up a server-side AJAX framework with a nonbrowser-based client side. "That's where I think Web 2.0 starts to get really interesting," said Linskey, who had been the chief technology officer at SolarMetric Inc., which was acquired by BEA.

But another audience member questioned the viability of running multiple AJAX applications in a browser, which could result in crashes. "How much can you load into a browser?" the attendee asked.

A rush to AJAX was also a concern. "We've noticed major architectural decisions that were very poorly thought-out," because of rushing to AJAX, an audience member said.

AJAX also lacks good tools, according to panelist Cedric Beust of Google Inc. "Writing AJAX applications is a lot more challenging than writing client applications, mostly because of the tools," Beust said.

Panelist Hani Sulieman, CTO at Formicary, said he favored the desktop. "In terms of richness of experience, I think the desktop is way superior to the browser," Hani said.

The Ruby on Rails open-source Web framework featuring AJAX did not get a wholehearted endorsement, with an audience member saying it lacked maturity. The quality of error messages is nonexistent, for example, the audience member said.

AJAX technologies are not new, said Craig McLanahan, a staff engineer at Sun Microsystems Inc., in a subsequent presentation at the conference. But what is new is a synergy between the ability to have XMLHttpRequest implementations in browsers and robust Dynamic HTML and JavaScript implementations, he said.

Speaking on the issue of Web frameworks, developers face five principal issues in choosing one, according McLanahan said. These frameworks include:

  • Modeling of page navigation decisions.
  • Provisions for accessing model-tier data.
  • Representations of static and dynamic markup.
  • Mapping incoming requests to business logic.
  • Whether the framework has a user interface component model.

"What's interesting about Web frameworks, in particular, is when you step back from all the details, most of the frameworks are dealing with exactly the same set of issues," McLanahan said.

Providing updates on some noteworthy frameworks, McLanahan said JavaServer Faces 1.2 is almost final and cleans up incompatibilities with JavaServer Pages technology. The Shale 1.2 framework is being readied for release in alpha form, he said.

Web application frameworks have addressed usability limitations in low-level, standard application programming interfaces and encouraged better architectures by separating concerns, McLanahan said.

This story, "Java Symposium: Web development issues raised" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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