Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) combine the best user interface functionality of desktop software applications with the broad reach and low-cost deployment of Web applications and the best of interactive, multimedia communication. The end result is an application which provides a more intuitive, responsive, and effective user experience.
More specifically, the best of the desktop environment includes providing an interactive user interface for validation and formatting, fast interface response times with no page refresh, common user interface behaviours such as drag-and-drop and the ability to work online and offline. The best of the Web includes capabilities such as instant deployment, cross-platform availability, the use of progressive download for retrieving content and data, the magazine-like layout of Web pages and leveraging widely adopted Internet standards. The best of communication means incorporating two-way interactive audio and video technologies.
This means that in a RIA environment, the client is capable of doing more than just rendering pages. It is able to perform computations, send and retrieve data in the background asynchronously from the userâ€™s requests, redraw sections of a screen, use audio and video in a tightly integrated manner, and so forth, independently of the server or back end to which it is connected.
An RIA environment provides a strong technical platform that effectively restores the clientâ€™s abilities to be more like that of desktop software applications, or a traditional client in a client/server system. It fits into the traditional n-tier development process and integrates into legacy environments to extend existing applications without the need to rework them. And it also can serve as an interactive presentation layer above underlying Web Services. It is able to address various kinds of complexity. It enables development of applications that have complexity requirements, reducing the cost of development and frequently making development of such an application possible in the first place.
Because of their architecture and capabilities, RIAs have the potential to fundamentally change the way companies engage and interact with their Web users, leading to more effective user experiences with top- and bottom-line results.