Web Development vs. Desktop Development

An interesting article from John Carroll | ZDNet.com explores the differences between AJAX and desktop development.

Ajax is rapidly growing into something a lot of developers did not expect. Web designers can now design flashier web pages (minus the Flash). Other web designers are bridging the gap between desktop applications and web applications. Users have begun to take strong notice to this and are, in some cases, requesting such advances in web development.

From a user perspective, though, AJAX applications - such as Google Maps or Microsoft’s Web Exchange client - are simply web applications that more closely approximate features normally associated with traditional, standalone desktop applications.

All this is all well and good. Ajax is a wonderful new technology, which we should all try to explore and exploit to its full capacity. BUT, that JavaScript portion of Ajax is causing some problems, as John notes:

The fact that you can write interactive web sites in Javascript, though, doesn’t make Javascript a great programming language for complex site development.

I don’t even consider Javascript a programming language. PHP, which everyone denounces as a mere scripting language, is more structured that Javascript, in my opinion. Hunting through hundreds/thousands of lines of code just to find a simple typo with a variable name is insanity to me. Variables need not be declared, so it happily accepts anything you give it. There are objects, but they are cumbersome to implement. Not to mention that there isn’t (at least I haven’t found) a proper IDE to work with. At work, the most I can do is edit my scripts from KDE under Fedora.

Microsoft is trying to change this:

Microsoft, likewise, is turning the standard Windows development model upside down with its Windows Presentation Framework, slated for inclusion with Windows Vista and released as a separate library for Windows XP.

Who knows what that will be like, and how much it will cost? Something called XUL, is also in development for the Mozilla interface. That’s going to be something interesting to look out for.

Web Development is definitely the way of the future. One thing I hope they fix, though is the memory and CPU hungry browsers.