11 Sep 2002 jeremyw   » (Apprentice)

Mozilla steers clear of interactivity

Can it be true that Mozilla inherits Netscape's disability regarding dynamic content?

Now, the word dynamic is a red herring. For the NetMoz camp, it's a marketing term. What they mean is programmatic-properties-on-load. They sometimes mean a few mouse-responsive styles. They sometimes mean updating the contents of form elements and image swap. Big deal -- they really mean, "We have no interest in building interactive pages, without the help of Java or Flash."

What a change with MSIE 4. It began to support real, dynamic evaluation of arbitrary sections of code, styles and script. This is killer stuff. It means Webmasters can posit apps normally relegated to the desktop (and "programmers"), using uniform HTML, Javascript and a basic server-side scripting component. (Anders has some examples: 1 2) It's the difference between endless page loads and real-time interaction. That is, native app-like abilities by web page.

The other half of this equation is RPC. Here at least, we have cross-platform support (e.g. Brent Ashley's JSRS library -- although MSIE-specific code is achingly simple.) Further, both camps are starting to support browser-side SOAP and other protos.

But what's the point, if you can't update content? At the beginning of the Web, we gave up interactivity and direct manipulation for simplicity and portability. But it's ten years later. Can't we have both feature sets?

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