Thursday, October 31, 2013

About client-side frameworks


Before any consideration about either client-side or server side framworks are good for one or other user case, you, as a programmer has to answer a simple question: is the Web browser a good development, integration, test and exploitation platform? My response is: No.



I love JavaScript. I programmed AJAX applications using hidden frames 13 ago, before this technology had a name. I regularly used client side technologies for editing documents, for example, Google Docs. But what makes great Google docs is the server integration of many client and server side developments.  



You finally must integrate different aspects of your applications: user data, different client-side applications , snippets to compose workflows and you have to decide where you integrate all of this.  Either you integrate it in the server of in the client.  if you do it in the client, you hardly will do multi-user stuff. you will not have a type safe, fast, multi-threaded environment under your control. You are restricted to the single threaded, single user javaScript environment. if you use some framework above that you still are restricted to the limitations of the JavaScript virtual machine and development environment. 



There are lots of client side frameworks that promise a declarative extension of HTML, but if you look at AngularJS, you will see a lot of JavaScript code, with all the big complexities of big server side frameworks, but, looking at the examples, these frameworks are devoted to present server data, in which they add little  additional advantages, except perhaps less server-client traffic. A server side framework can do it as well with adequate use of AJAX, (see this)


To summarize you have the problems of two tier architectures, the thick client problem aggravated with less power of the sandboxed environment of the web browser. Until you load all the client framework, the first page display can experiment delays. Although this could not be a problem in intranet environment where two tiered architectures have been good for a limited number of users, that is specially critical in applications with a casual usage pattern, such are all Web applications.  The dynamic HTML is not searchable. You must see how Twitter had to revert to the server side.

You may think that a server with application logic and a MVC event driven logic in the middle tier, can solve the problem, but, simple speaking, the business applications are not stateless. Neither you can store the state in the client allways. Have you seen a flowchart?, a user requirement document? all of them are filled with steps. Specially in a corporate environment, where it is necessary to integrate different software elements, departments, databases etc, much of the integration of different modules with the corresponding interfaces must be trough an stateful application that present different interfaces.

The question is not either client or server side. Both parts must believe that they are the center of the development. the user too. When you are programming in the client, you must think client centric. when you are in the server, you have to feel server centric. The intelligent way is  make everyone: The user, the front-end programmer, the back-end programmer, the integrator, to feel that they are the center of the development.

And the development process in which each one works at the highest level of productivity and abstraction is when you can package server and javascript functionalities that work together in easily pluggable, self contained widgets for the user interface. With these widgets, let the application programmer to compose single-page applications and finally with these single-page applications, integrate them in stateful workflows that accomplish the whole user case.  That is the aim of MFlow.






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