Why does ‘rich client’ equal ‘bad separation of presentation from content’?

I started writing this post back when doing tech editing the “Rich Client Alternatives” chapter on Web 2.0, the book. Now, with Apollo getting some attention, it’s worth revisiting.

What do XUL, Yahoo! Widgets, OpenLaszlo, Silverlight, and Apollo have in common? All of them mix content with presentation to some degree. Years of experience on the web have shown that a properly-done CSS layout gives you:

  • smaller, faster pages
  • better accessibility and user control of rendering
  • better adaptation to different screen resolutions
  • easier repurposing of data, including microformats
  • better mobile compatibility

Initial HTML browsers didn’t have these advantages, and gave in to early pressure to implement things like blink and font tags. Today, most webfolks would admit that these presentational tags were a mistake, and contemporary web design avoids them.
So what is it about “rich” clients that’s different? Are developers missing out on the hard lessons learned on the web? Or is there something inherent in the definition of “rich clients” that changes the balance? Your comments are welcome. -m

2 Responses to “Why does ‘rich client’ equal ‘bad separation of presentation from content’?”

  1. Mark Baker http://www.markbaker.ca

    You nailed it. HTML is an improvement on most of those languages in the general case IME.

  2. Paul Downey :: Silverfish and Appallingo http://blog.whatfettle.com/2007/05/03/silverfish-and-appallingo/

    […] It’s funny how many people are trying to reinvent (own) the Web, with “rich clients” (rich vendors) and yet all of them miss the point by a mile. The Web is already great big repository of data. Burring that data inside propriety blobs of eye candy isn’t any kind of progress. Let’s continue to keep the style separate from the content, eh? […]