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Is Google Wave Going to Have an Impact on RIA/Silverlight?

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The recently announced Google Wave platform which is promoting HTML 5 is believed by some to have a major impact on RIA, including Silverlight, while others consider that Wave is actually a competitor for Microsoft’s SharePoint and Exchange rather than RIA. It's poll time.

The HTML 5 specification contains some long demanded features that will probably make inroads into RIA space, specifically Flash, Silverlight and Java FX. Actually, RIA platforms were invented because HTML was providing too little desktop-like experience. This is going to change. HTML 5 is not yet standardized, but elements of it are already introduced in Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera. Microsoft promised they will support HTML 5 too.

Some of the new features to be introduced in HTML 5 and web API proposals from W3C and WHATWG are: canvas, video, geolocation and web workers. Examples are already online and can be tested with the appropriate browser version. It is difficult to predict how HTML 5 is going to progress, it’s adoption rate, if it is going to reach the necessary consensus among major browser companies. Even its standardization is many years ahead. But things are changing anyway, and Google is pushing hard with Wave which is making extensive use of HTML 5. At the Google I/O conference, Vic Gundotra, VP Engineering at Google, said the company is “betting big on HTML 5”. He showed demos of using canvas, video, geolocation and web workers during his keynote. Also, HTML 5 features were demonstrated in Waves.

Nick Gall, a Gartner analyst, evaluated Wave’s possible impact on RIA:

The Wave client is a major proof of concept (or pilot project) for HTML5. If the wave client becomes a killer app, it will have a major (negative) impact on other RIA architectures.

Taking it even further, Sridhar Vembu, ZOHO’s CEO, placed HTML5/Wave against RIA/Silverlight in his blog post entitled Microsoft Silverlight vs Google Wave: Why Karma Matters. While praising Silverlight as a great technology, Sridhar sees Wave’s negative impact on Silverlight as a result of Microsoft’s bad karma: “Microsoft just has so much bad karma in this industry that I cannot imagine a company like us trusting them on much of anything.” It all boils down to openness:

That brings us back to Google: today, it is Google which is driving web standards forward. That is why we at Zoho are firmly aligned with them, even if they are our primary competitor. We believe in an open web, there is plenty of opportunity for all of us. Could Google abuse its position? Well, I am sure they understand karma!

Tim Heuer, a PM for Silverlight, dismissed Sridhar’s claims:

Sridhar in that article should really change the title. It’s misleading and he doesn’t prove the point of the title.  What he explains is the buzz behind early alpha like Wave versus early stuff from Microsoft. … Sridhar tries to draw some analogy to Silverlight, but I think fails. He’s just throwing more FUD around Microsoft in general.

He is also defending Microsoft’s openness:

What I also find interesting is this buzzword of “open” – something Google is praised for.  Let’s take a look at Google Wave Federation Protocol.  What’s open about it is that they’ve created something and put it out in specification form (and put a .org domain around it).  If that is the definition of open, then why is Microsoft hammered for XAML?  We have a spec out there?  What about C#?  Heck, that’s an ECMA standard.  I see a bit of a double-standard here.  I’m not saying that organizations like Google and Microsoft shouldn’t continue this practice…in fact, the opposite.  But it does seem odd that a protocol built to serve a specific need that wasn’t already available in existing standards is being praised when that is what other organizations have been specifically slandered for in the past.  Seems odd.

Tim does not see Wave as a real competitor to Silverlight/RIA:

So is Wave going to threaten RIA platforms?  I don’t know.  Is it even an RIA platform?  I just think that all the messages about how Wave is pushing out things like Flash, Silverlight or JavaFX are unfounded at this point.  They all serve purposes.  Is HTML5 really what people are talking about here?  Fine, then draw that comparison and put some meat around it.  As far as I could tell, HTML5 is a working draft still.  To me as a developer (and as a user) this means that even once ratified as a standard, browsers will have to decide to support that (I know some have already)…and even beyond that-people have to use those new browsers.  The slowness of standards leads me to believe that RIA platforms will be around a while as there is some flexibility in providing RIA frameworks from commercial vendors.

Commenting to Tim’s post, Sean saw a different competitor for Wave: “[Wave] is more about competition with Exchange + IM + OneNote w/Sharepoint Integration + Outlook”.

A remark. Lars Rasmussen, one of the Rasmussen brothers that came up with Google Maps and Wave, confirmed Google's commitment to open source the code:

The primary reason we want to open source our code is actually adoption of the protocol. It’s not a simple thing to build a Wave system — we’ve spent two and a half years on the first one — and so we think adoption will go a lot faster if you can grab our code, look at it, and start out with that.

Perhaps this is a good moment for our readers to answer the question: Is HTML 5/Wave going to have a negative impact on RIA/Silverlight?

The article Google Wave’s Architecture explains why Wave is not just a tool.

PS. A clarification is needed. Wave and Silverlight do not compare with each other directly. Wave's effect on Silverlight is indirect. HTML will enter in the RIA space with HTML 5, taking a share from Flash and Silverlight. Google's heavy support for HTML 5 will contribute to that. There will be certainly companies rallying with Google around Wave and consequentely supporting HTML 5, plus companies interested in working in HTML. That's how Wave is going to have an impact on RIA/Silverlight/Flash. I'm not saying HTML 5 will kill Flash or Silverlight, not at all. It will have an impact. Readers are invited to express their opinion on how significant the impact will be through the poll. Thank you!

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