Last Tuesday at JavaOne, Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith staged a mock-debate: Ajax Versus JavaFX™ Technology. I say “mock” because it wasn’t a debate, it was a mugging.

Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith presenting Ajax Versus JavaFX

Ben left, Dion right.

These guys both work for Mozilla and run, so you wouldn’t expect them to be particularly neutral on this subject, and they’re not. I will grant that they’re entertaining. They strap on ties; to recreate the spirit of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, they say. Well OK, and the retro-themed slides were cool.

Ben took the Ajax side and Dion JavaFX’s; I see that they switch roles. I’m not going to walk through the debating points, and since I haven’t had any FX hands-on, I wouldn’t have much to offer as to the rights and wrongs. Ben and Dion probably feel they left the case for JavaFX in a heap of smoking ruins.

This talk was useful but should definitely have been billed as an assault not a debate; it was a few minutes into the preso before I figured it out, and I’m a little worried that some of the audience might not get what was really going on.

Why This Matters · I don’t see the competition among models for GUI construction as particularly central to progress on the Web—I trust the market to pick what works—but Larry Ellison picked this topic to highlight. Ben and Dion owe Larry a vote of thanks for cranking up the spotlight on their hobby-horse, I’d say. And FX’s advocates need to figure out some snappy comebacks PDQ.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Mike Kozlowski (Jun 05 2009, at 18:10)

I think it's extremely central. Whether the web is true HTML, or some sort of proprietary opaque stuff (whether that be Silverlight, Flash, or JavaFX) is a very big deal.

I agree that it's tacky to do that at a Java conference, though.


From: Christopher (Jun 05 2009, at 19:06)

Young designers learn Javascript or Actionscript which is Javascript. Frontend coding is done by interactive designer who choose the coding route (or mostly the other way round: the code their way up until they are head of the interface group). I see this as JavaFX biggest problem concerning future mind share.


From: Drew (Jun 05 2009, at 20:13)

I've yet to see much real-world examples of javafx at work. While javascript and ajax that depends on it are as imprecise as most anything else on the web, they have mindshare, get the job done and the barriers to adopting them are small. If FX wants to get off the ground it needs better/more points of entry.


From: Tony Fisk (Jun 06 2009, at 04:20)

As a self-taught web programmer (ie without any formal 'indoctrination' in Ajax or JavaFX), I fail to see what there is to make a fuss about.

As far as I can see, Ajax is simply the use of the XMLhttpRequest object to make ad hoc requests to a server script, and then returning the result to the client to be poked (via javascript or whatever) into the web page currently displayed.

Wonderful stuff, but there isn't actually much to it!

Yet I see vast tomes devoted to AJAX on the bookshelves!

Sure I may be missing something, but I thought I covered the subject pretty well here (if I didn't, I'm happy to hear it!)

So, if the space that AJAX occupies is actually pretty slim, why the fuss over javaFX?

Seems to me that a bit of 'strategic positioning' in browser capabilities is going on. (After all, it's hardly an accident that SVG is handled pretty effectively by most browsers bar the one that weighs 800lbs and prefers to gaze at the moon through glass)


From: John McGrath (Jun 06 2009, at 05:28)

Do you have a link to their presentation anywhere? It's impossible to judge the merits of their arguments without seeing them.


From: JulesLt (Jun 07 2009, at 03:06)

While the central part of Ajax is simple enough, most of those books spend their time on the whole JavaScript manipulating the DOM side - i.e. dynamic manipulation of the page - which doesn't actually have a whole lot to do with remote requests.

And while I agree with the first comment (that it's important the web remains open) I do have huge concerns about the suitability of this whole model for application development, and even just a basic one around lack of competition.

(remember, open standards could compete)


From: Anon for this (I am one of Larry's minions) (Jun 07 2009, at 09:28)

I honestly cannot fathom why, of all topics, Larry picked this one, which to me looks like a big loser.

Ajax (or DHTML, or whatever you want to call browser-side javascript/html/xml/http) won the UI battle years ago; the desperate attempts by Microsoft, Adobe and Sun to reignite the war are clearly failing... This is even clearer now that SVG and open codecs are finally being implemented (albeit slowly) in browsers, which will remove the need for Flash and other proprietary platforms.

I hope he knows something we don't. Maybe this is all tactical posturing, so that MS and Adobe keep wasting time on their doomed projects while Oracle goes on to pillage their other markets...?


From: Stuart Marks (Jun 08 2009, at 16:18)

Were we at the same session? I think I we were, and I didn't think there was anything particularly biased about it. As in any debate, there are rhetorical darts tossed in both directions. I particularly liked Dion's slide showing the "CSS Is Awesome" mug (do an image search; they're pretty easy to find). Then there was the slide Ben used to describe Java deployment: it had a photo of a train wreck. Ouch! But yes, I'm forced to admit that Java deployment to browsers has problems and can be quite painful.

At this point I should disclose that I work for Sun on JavaFX. Despite this I try pretty hard not to be a partisan for any technology.

I didn't feel that Ben and Dion felt they left FX in a "heap of smoking ruins." Indeed I was surprised at Dion's vigorous defense of Java, based on the maturity and performance of the JVM. I do note that he shifted ground from JavaFX to Java and the JVM. But this wasn't a rigorous debate, and there was a lot of ground-shifting going on all around. Ben's "attacks" on JavaFX included a series of criticisms of JavaFX Script syntax compared to Java. Sure, the syntax is different, but criticisms of syntax are pretty weak. Given what I know about JavaFX, there are plenty of other areas that are much more vulnerable!

Finally, I got a chance to chat with Ben and Dion over dinner afterwards. (I didn't know them beforehand, but they're pretty friendly with some of my colleagues.) They're pretty reasonable guys, and they understand that all the technologies have different tradeoffs. I wouldn't assume that they're biased based on their current work affiliations.


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