RIA: HTML5 & Flex – An Overview

The current trend in computing is to move away from dedicated desktop-based applications and towards applications that are delivered from, and run in the cloud. Developers are striving to replicate the functionality and experience of desktop applications in order to create Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) which combine the convenience, flexibility and portability of web services with the rich user experience of the applications users are used to on the desktop. What actually counts as an RIA is open to discussion: some prefer to reserve the term for applications that are developed through a plugin system or framework like Adobe Flash, Adobe Air or Microsoft’s Silverlight, while other are happy to include software based in HTML and JavaScript technologies like AJAX. Here we’ll compare two technologies that can be used to develop rich internet applications: Apache Flex and HTML5.

Apache Flex, formerly known as Adobe Flex, is an SDK for developing Flash-based applications. First developed by Macromedia, which were subsequently acquired by Adobe, and then open sourced under the aegis of the Apache Foundation, Flex is a mature and advanced framework that offers pre-defined components for building applications. It is used in numerous high-profile applications around the web, including mint.com and the BBC iPlayer’s desktop component. The Flash plugin is almost universally available, with many hundreds of millions of deployments around the web. However, along with the ending of active development of the mobile version of Flash, the open-sourcing of Flex was seen as an acknowledgement from Adobe that HTML5 is the future of rich internet application development. Flex had already been largely open-sourced – there are standardization and development advantages to open source – but the transfer of the management of Flex to the Apache Foundation indicates a refocusing on technologies other than Flash.

Until recently Flash-based frameworks have been just about the only game in town when it came to developing RIAs, but it is not without its drawbacks, a major one being that it is not always wise to base software on a single vendor solution with little competition (Silverlight is nowhere near as prevalent). Flash has tended to be slow and buggy, particularly with regard to security exploits and it has made some enemies, especially within the mobile space. Apple will not distribute Flash with its iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad, and, as mentioned, Adobe have recently announced that they will no longer be developing Flash for mobile. If a developer wants to target mobile with their application, and let’s face it, who doesn’t these days, Flash will soon not be an option.

Which brings us to HTML5. HTML5 is the next iteration of the hypertext markup language, and it includes a number of features that are designed to appeal to RIA developers. It adds video and audio tags, a canvas tag for animations, and client-side offline storage. Coupled with JavaScript, which has undergone enormous improvements in speed in recent years, for client-side scripting, RIAs can be created to run within browsers without plugins. The advantages of using open standards are clear; there is no vendor or platform lock-in and HTML5 does not have many of the disadvantages of Flash. However, HTML5 is a nascent technology, still in active development, and subject to change. Browser support can be patchy, especially in Internet Explorer. It is, however, the way to go for mobile rich internet applications. Even though HTML5 is still some way from being complete, creative web developers have been expoiting the improvements it brings to make exciting rich internet applications. Some notable examples are the social media dashboard Hootsuite (http://www.hootsuite.com) and the drawing application MugTug Sketchpad (http://mugtug.com/sketchpad/).

HTML5 is the technology of the future, and even Adobe have recognized it, throwing their  weight behind HTML5 and abandoning Flash on the mobile platform. Flex and Flash are certainly still viable technologies for RIAs, and there are areas where Flash is preferable, especially those where applications require DRM, but HTML5, in time, will become the reigning technology.

SEM/SEO Trends for 2012

Clients need to make sure that their websites are ranked highly by Google and other search engines to attract more visitors. For this reason, it is very important to know the latest trends in SEO as every update in search algorithms affects a site’s position in the search results.

Google has released several very important updates that are going to affect how website contents will be ranked in the future. As the result of these updates, expect the following search engine optimization trends for this year.

Emphasis on Fresh Content

In a message posted late last year, Google explained how it is going to put more emphasis on fresh content over older information when displaying search results. It means that sites that are regularly updated will have a better chance of ranking highly than sites with stale contents. This change was brought about by Google’s new Caffeine web indexing system which enables it to index changes in web content almost immediately.

Then in another blog post on March 30, Google further clarified this new trend and explained how web users can take advantage of the more relevant search results.

The impact of this change is enough to bury highly ranked websites if they are not offering new information. Searches for recurring events such as elections will now return the latest information at the top, with historical data ranked lower.

Social Searches

Another hot issue that SEO experts must understand is the effect of social media on the results of Google searches. Search results will now feature information from people that the searcher is connected to, and lift the information from YouTube, Flickr, blogs, or their personal website. This is a very significant update considering the popularity of social networking sites and the huge amount of content being shared by people online. It means that a new video posted in Youtube will have a good chance at landing in the first page of a Google search by a person who is connected to the poster.

Mobile Searches and Marketing

Search engines will be hard pressed to ignore the power of mobile devices in bringing information to users. More and more people will turn to their mobile phones to search for information online, tapping into tiny keyboards to find the closest hotels, restaurants, sports bars, and a lot more.

The ability to take advantage of mobile payment will be a big factor in the success of online merchants. A few banks have already opened their services to mobile customers, allowing them to transfer funds through their mobile device. Expect this trend to get bigger as more and more smartphone users discover this convenient way to transact business.

Humanized Ranking

Website ranking will depend more and more on human visitors, and less on automated web page optimization. Google is already starting to use this approach, allowing users to rank the relevance of a website and factoring the results into its search ranking. This will have a far ranging effect on SEO as it will end most of the traditional optimization methods such as dependence on link buying, article repositories, and spamming. Instead, the search engines and website owners will now depend on the users to put the websites in their proper places when it comes to search results.

Expect more changes to come later as Google continues to tweak its search algorithms. It is advantageous for website owners to stay ahead of these changes and adjust their search engine optimization practices accordingly. Our SEO experts are here to help you stay in tune with the latest Google updates and trends.

2012 Mobile Application Development Trends

It didn’t take very long, but the mobile app market has become very saturated by 2012. Developers interested in tapping into the market will have a much more difficult time getting attention unless they are able to create a mobile app that is very unique and highly useful to users. Developers must stay on-top with the times and must be aware of the types of apps that are hot in 2012.

For Travelers

One of the most exciting aspects of app development is that the portable nature of the apps lead to new opportunities for businesses. Almost all smartphones come with GPS devices, which makes it possible for developers to provide services that are location-specific. They can track the exact behavior of customers and can help marketers determine what to sell to customers and how to bring products to them. This allows developers to create an assortment of usefulapplications that are location-based. For example, a traveler who needs accommodation canimmediately access information on nearby hotels and their prices and specific features.

For Business

The mobile app class that has seen the largest expansion in demand is the business app category. Business apps are gaining popularity as more and more businesses realize that they can spend more time on the road while also getting more work done. Older mobile apps helped users send email and set-up calendars. New mobile business apps are becoming more complex and sophisticated, allowing businesses to manage relationships with contacts and even manage entire enterprises.

Business applications will also become more interactive. More interactive business applications are not only easier to use, but also make it possible for businesses to cut training costs and increase productivity. Interactive features include visually engaging interfaces and the ability to use voice, touch and gestures to interact with applications.

Payment Apps

Mobile payment apps are becoming increasingly more prevalent as a way to help customers make payments on bills before they are past due. Payment services are also highly beneficial for businesses as they try to make it easier for customers to buy their products through as many channels as possible.

Cloud-Based

More and more businesses are trying to move their applications to the cloud so that they can access them from anywhere. Some of the most popular mobile apps under development areones that make it easier for owners to sync their devices across multiple platforms. Cloudapplications are similar to both desktop and web-based applications. Cloud applications can usually be operated both online and offline. They can respond immediately to user actions, but can be moved to any device very quickly.

Regardless of which apps a developer tries to create, one of the most effective ways to profit from apps is to determine which features will be the most useful to the target market and to bring these features to the market as quickly as possible. Businesses do not need to have a fully developed app. They simply need to get something useful to market, receive feedback and make the necessary changes through regular updates.