Why Mozilla Matters

Jon Udell writes about Mozilla for developing rich Internet applications, comparing it with Flash and InfoPath:

Flash’s greatest weakness, though, is the browser’s greatest strength. The browser is an engine for displaying — and interacting with — structured documents. The mission of Flash was always to complement the browser, not compete with it. That remains a proper division of labor. But our notion of what documents are is changing, thanks to Web services. Tear open the envelope of a SOAP packet, and you’ll find an XML document inside. That document, representing a business transaction in flight, lives in two worlds at the same time. To applications and services, it’s an XML payload. To people, it’s a document to read, annotate, and pass around. Given the novel convergence of these two modes, the browser’s future as an all-purpose Internet client may be brighter than we think.

Consider Microsoft’s InfoPath. It’s not built into IE (Internet Explorer) but it’s built like IE, relying on the same XML parser, schema processor, XSLT transformer, DOM, CSS renderer, and script engine. InfoPath can receive XML payloads from a Web services network, and inject payloads back into the network, but the data users work with is displayed, updated, and validated locally. Microsoft hasn’t chosen to reposition its browser for these purposes, but Microsoft’s browser isn’t the only game in town.

As Web services redefine documents, Mozilla, an open and extensible document-handling engine, looks more strategic than ever.

Adds Navneet: “Jon tends to feel Mozilla offers a lot strategically. I tend to agree with Jon. XUL is truly cool and Mozilla Firebird is a great browser, but as long as it does not catch on, I believe Flash is the strongest contender for RIAs.” [RIA = Rich Internet Applications]

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.