Missing the point…

Thomas Fuchs recently released an extension to the Prototype JavaScript library (the library used to implement Ajax support in Rails) that enables drag’n’drop capabilities on your web pages. What is particularly significant is how the design of this extension makes adding drag’n’drop to your web app so easy. Backpack, which is a Rails web app, has already implemented this.

What surprises me are the detractors who insist that this is no big deal, with dismissals like:

  • been there, done that…
  • this has been around for ages, nothing new here, move along…

These nay sayers are completely missing the point. There are two mutually reinforcing trends in web applications that will eventually change the face of the web, and this is part of one of them.

Web applications, as popular as they are, have been saddled with two significant problems:

  • They have required inordinate amounts of manpower to create, extend, and maintain (i.e., poor productivity).
  • They have extraordinarily lame and dumbed-down user interfaces.

Ruby on Rails is the vanguard of a new style of developing web applications that pushes productivity to heights that we used to think were impossible. I have no doubt that many more high-productivity web app frameworks will follow. But, for now, Rails no only stands alone with a substantial lead, but also sets a very high bar against which competitors will be measured.

The Prototype library is enabling user interface features that were the sole province of desktop applications. Sure, this could always have been done with JavaScript and DHTML, but the development costs were prohibitive for most projects. Prototype has reduced the cost of these features to the point where they can be considered for any web application, and this is very significant!

The fact that Rails includes and leverages the Prototype library to full advantage, makes Rails a potent tool (no… a potent weapon) in your development arsenal.

I’m not interested in the whining about what’s new and what’s old. I don’t care about off-the-wall claims of non-robustness, can’t scale, and just-a-toy, when a myriad of highly functional, heavily used, developed-in-record-time, production web applications already exist to say otherwise.

I sincerely welcome the addition of more tools and frameworks to further push the envelope of sustainable productivity. In the meantime, I’ll use Ruby on Rails wherever possible.


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