Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Web Programming is a Hack, Part Deux

Our current app displays again why web programming is a just a hack. It's sort of a wizard approach - it has an intro, many steps, and a conclusion. To get to the next step of the wizard, the user clicks our "next" button. We also have a "back" button, but then a browser also has one of those thingies. Any developer or casual browser user knows where I'm going with this. "Back" and "Next" are for hyperlinked documents, not applications.
It's just so fundamental. We're sitting here debugging a problem that happens when the user mixes the browser's "back" with our "next". We're tempted to yell at users, "don't click that button", but it makes perfect sense for them to do so. The problem is that web apps are hacks. Browsers don't make good platforms.
Of course, we fixed the "bug" (by "fixed the bug" I mean "made a better hack"), but the overarching hack remains.

It sure seems to me that there needs to be something new for applications. Browsers work great for HTML, but why isn't there something else (just as ubiquitous and standardized) for applications? It seems like RESTful apps are much less hacky than web applications, but not quite there. Plug-ins like flash and silverlight embed applications in the browser, and while I know nothing about actionscript, silverlight can make for a full fledged clean application. AJAX, hell no, but application plug-ins maybe. But these plug-ins are always mixed with HTML...
It may be that the hack will continue for a very long time simply due to the fact that people keep making ever more hacks at an increasing rate.

Hack on, I suppose.