Rich Internet application

A rich Internet application (RIA; sometimes called an Installable Internet Application) is a Web application that has many of the characteristics of desktop application software, typically delivered by way of a site-specific browser, a browser plug-in, an independent sandbox, extensive use of JavaScript, or a virtual machine.[1] HTML5 is the current standard for delivering rich internet applications, supported by all major browsers.

Older (Before HTML5) Techniques

Adobe Flash

Adobe Flash manipulates vector and raster graphics to provide animation of text, drawings, and still images. It supports bidirectional streaming of audio and video, and it can capture user input via mouse, keyboard, microphone, and camera. Flash contains an object-oriented language called ActionScript and supports automation via the JavaScript Flash language (JSFL). Flash content may be displayed on various computer systems and devices, using Adobe Flash Player, which is available free of charge for common web browsers, some mobile phones and a few other electronic devices (using Flash Lite).

Apache Flex, formerly Adobe Flex, is a software development kit (SDK) for the development and deployment of cross-platform RIAs based on the Adobe Flash platform. Initially developed by Macromedia and then acquired by Adobe Systems, Flex was donated by Adobe to the Apache Software Foundation in 2011.

Java applet

Java applets are used to create interactive visualizations and to present video, three dimensional objects and other media. Java applets are more appropriate for complex visualizations that require significant programming effort in high level language or communications between applet and originating server.


JavaFX is a software platform for creating and delivering RIAs that can run across a wide variety of connected devices. The current release (JavaFX 8, July 2016) enables building applications for desktop, browser and mobile phones and comes with 3D support. TV set-top boxes, gaming consoles, Blu-ray players and other platforms are planned. Java FX runs as plug-in Java applet or via Webstart.

Microsoft Silverlight

Silverlight was proposed by Microsoft as another proprietary alternative. The technology has not been widely accepted and, for instance, lacks support on many mobile devices. Some examples of application were video streaming for events including the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing,[2] the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver,[3] and the 2008 conventions for both major political parties in the United States.[4] Silverlight was also used by Netflix for its instant video streaming service.[5] Silverlight is no longer under active development and is not supported in Microsoft Edge, Microsoft's most recent browser.

Other techniques

RIAs could use XForms to enhance their functionality. Using XML and XSLT[6] along with some XHTML, CSS and JavaScript can also be used to generate richer client side UI components like data tables that can be resorted locally on the client without going back to the server. Mozilla and Internet Explorer browsers both support this.


The term "rich Internet application" was introduced in a white paper of March 2002 by Macromedia (now merged into Adobe),[7] though the concept had existed for a number of years earlier under names including Remote Scripting, by Microsoft, c. 1999, X Internet, by Forrester Research[8] in October 2000,[9] Rich (Web) clients, and Rich Web application.[10]

Security issues in older standards

RIAs present indexing challenges to Web search engines, but Adobe Flash content is now at least partially indexable.[11]

Security can improve over that of application software (for example through use of sandboxes and automatic updates), but the extensions themselves remain subject to vulnerabilities and access is often much greater than that of native Web applications. For security purposes, most RIAs run their client portions within a special isolated area of the client desktop called a sandbox. The sandbox limits visibility and access to the file-system and to the operating system on the client to the application server on the other side of the connection. This approach allows the client system to handle local activities, reformatting and so forth, thereby lowering the amount and frequency of client-server traffic, especially versus client-server implementations built around so-called thin clients.[12]

HTML5 trend

In November 2011, there were a number of announcements that demonstrated a decline in demand for rich internet application architectures based on plug-ins in order to favor HTML5 alternatives. Adobe announced that Flash would no longer be produced for mobile[13] or TV[14] (refocusing its efforts on Adobe AIR). Pundits questioned its continued relevance even on the desktop[15] and described it as "the beginning of the end".[16] Research In Motion (RIM) announced that it would continue to develop Flash for the PlayBook, a decision questioned by some commentators.[17] Rumors state that Microsoft is to abandon Silverlight after version 5 is released.[18] The combination of these announcements had some proclaiming it "the end of the line for browser plug-ins".[19]

See also


  1. RIA War Is Brewing
  2. "Microsoft Silverlight Gets a High Profile Win: 2008 Beijing Olympics". Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  3. "Microsoft Wins The 2010 Olympics For Silverlight". Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  4. "Microsoft Working to Make Political Conventions Unconventional". Archived from the original on 2010-05-19. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  5. "Netflix Begins Roll-Out of 2nd Generation Media Player for Instant Streaming on Windows PCs and Intel Macs". Archived from the original on 2010-05-29. Retrieved 2010-02-23.
  6. "Transformation". 2012-09-19.
  7. Macromedia Flash MX—A next-generation rich client
  8. Forrester Research
  9. Erick Schonfeld. "JavaFX Tutorial". JavaFXTuts. AOL. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  10. Nations, Daniel. "Web Applications". Retrieved 20 January 2014.
  11. Erick Schonfeld. "Once Nearly Invisible To Search Engines, Flash Files Can Now Be Found And Indexed". TechCrunch. AOL. Retrieved 2 May 2015.
  12. Living in the RIA World: Blurring the Line Between Web and Desktop Security, 2008
  13. "Adobe Flash Player Turfed for Mobile Devices". Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  14. "Adobe Scrapping Flash for TV, Too". Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  15. "PlayBook has a Flash-filled future; RIM's worst decision to date?".
  16. "The beginning of the end for Adobe's Flash". Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  17. "PlayBook has a Flash-filled future; RIM's worst decision to date?". Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  18. "Silverlight 5 - the end of the line". Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  19. "Flash, Silverlight and the end of the line for browser plug-ins".
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