Are Rich Clients Taking Off or Tanking?
Subject:   Ubiquitous Rich Clients
Date:   2003-05-16 10:38:52
From:   anonymous2
I don't know if this will add anything to your discussion but thought I would chime in anyway from one educator's perspective.
I think it was 1996 when I first saw Jim Morey's Java applet proof of the Pythagorean Theorem ( ) and Luis Fernandes abacus applet ( It was tremendously exciting! They were interactive and truly useful for learning. I was hooked, and dove into Java and so did a lot of people interested in providing online learning experiences. Unfortunately, for many people in my position the effort required to develop useful Applets and the threat from Microsoft were too much. Java went through some painful changes that were frustrating. The event model changed (for the better) and AWT was put into semi-retirement by Swing (for the better) and whole new APIs came out for 2D and 3D... But with Microsoft's opposition and the constant API churn I had to admit that focusing on JavaScript and CGI was a much more productive use of my time - I could not honestly base an educational delivery strategy on Java. (Others with better financial resources did with at least some level of success.)
Then along came DHTML. Does anyone remember the <Layer> tag? DHTML promised at least to give us some new tools even if it didn't have the features Java gave us. But, then Microsoft and Netscape were at war so I had to give up on DHTML. I just didn't have the time to waste as each new browser came out with its own bugs and APIs. I haven't come back to it either. For the effort involved and the limited rewards it is mostly not worth it.
Then I took the first edition of Colin Moock's book to the cottage and started playing with ActionScript. Once I understood movie clips I was hooked(my second addiction). Flash offered two key ingredients for someone like me. First, the player is nearly ubiquitous and second, it was easy to develop truly useful educational applications. This week some colleagues just returned from some sessions on creating learning objects. Everyone was working in Flash Java was not discussed and DHTML is not on anyone's radar. Educators and the people who develop online applications for learning and teaching desperately need something like Flash. For it too succeed it has to provide a rich interactive experience, be relatively easy to create multimedia simulations with, and be nearly ubiquitous. Right now it is the only thing that really qualifies.

-Brian Lesser