In the run up to JavaOne this year, most of the emails we received focused on the new wave of Ajax tooling for Java. Given the build up around Web 2.0, we’re not terribly surprised that rich clients have become the dominant theme.
In so doing, the Java community has gone full circle. At our first JavaOne, nearly a decade ago, most of the attention centered on the possibilities of Java applets for animating web pages. Yet, at that same event, we saw a startup called WebLogic demonstrate how Java on the server could provide the solution for powering web sites that could host thousands of concurrent visitors interacting with highly complex enterprise applications.
As it turned out, rich Internet clients in 1997 proved an idea before its time for two reasons: bandwidth was lacking, and religious wars were being fought between Sun and Microsoft for the client. By contrast, WebLogic made the right gamble on technologies that would later become part of J2EE. The company was subsequently acquired by BEA, and the rest was history.
The renewed attention of Java on the client can be summed up in two words: Google Maps. There, the recipe for success started with a technology that was simple, and a business model that made the technology accessible. But the clincher wasn’t the technology alone, but the fact that mashing up Google Maps with other apps satisfied an unmet market need for the localized Internet. Just as Zagats proved that diners were hungry for restaurant guides reflecting the opinions of actual customers, Google Maps has proven that there is a real appetite for the localized Internet. For instance, people or advertisers are more than willing to pay for information regarding how much homes are selling for in their neighborhoods.
So we’re not surprised that this year, the Java community is fixated once more on the client. Given that Ajax, the poster child technology for Web 2.0 is platform agnostic, it provides a fat and fashionable bandwagon for Java providers to hop aboard. And on this go round, there’s plenty of bandwidth. And, aside from rivalry of NetBeans and Eclipse factions in the Java world, religious wars on the client are for the most part artifacts of the past.
Nonetheless, hype is at best a trailing indicator of market need. Consequently, while the underlying theme of JavaOne 2006 is Web 2.0, we learned that ParaSoft, a provider of web services testing, was fielding more queries at this conference than in past years. Current attention on the client notwithstanding, web services and service-oriented architectures (SOAs) present the possibility for opening up new business possibilities through integration, just as Google Maps did with the rich client.
As you lower the barriers, more people come in, and there are more chances for things to go wrong. And so there are problems to solve when dealing SOAs. Believe it or not, that’s a sign of progress.
Nonetheless, it underscores our prediction that next year at JavaOne, our attention will probably drift back to connectivity, just as we previously did with J2EE when it was young. What goes around comes around.