Friday, 7 November 2008

What Do VB & Applet Have In Common?

No, I am not talking about Victoria Bitter, which I quite like. I am talking about Visual Basic and Java Applets. They both have a bad reputation due to historical reasons, which is hampering their adoption.

In the heyday of IT, VB was probably the most widely used programming language at least in the Windows world. IT professionals and IT professional wannabes all flocked to write software to cash in on the golden era of IT. I still remember one of the managers at Australian Taxation Office (ATO) initiated an IT project and wrote the software in VB/Visual Foxpro by himself together with a public servant who had "13 years of programming experience" but also had trouble finding keys on the keyboard.

Today, VB has become VB.NET and the developer community is more mature. Still, there has been much discussion about why people perceive VB.NET to be inferior to C#. Many people choose C# over VB or even move from VB to C# simply because it will make them look better or making them feel better about themselves - real programmers use 'C-like' languages.

Unlike VB, the Java Applet never reached popularity since the beginning because those were the dial-up days. I can see three major hurdles for Java Applet in those days: slow internet links meaning downloading the JAR files was a big problem; 'complexity' in installing the JRE plug-in; awkward look-and-feel and lack of good frameworks.

Today, things have drastically improved: pervasive broadband access, improved browser plug-in capabilities, 80% new PCs are pre-installed with JRE, improved JRE (6 update 10), the imminent release of JavaFX 1.0 and more other applet-based frameworks. Still people doubt whether these frameworks can compete with Silverlight and Flex. I don't see the word 'applet' get mentioned much by Sun or JavaFX's promoters. The FUD is just too deeply entrenched in people's minds.

At the end of the day, great technology does not thrive on its own merit. The human factor has the final say. It's a bit like Wall Street.

No comments: