Mad, Beautiful Ideas
New Releases in Web Technologies

This week saw two major releases in Web Technologies. First, YUI released 2.6.0, which brought eight tools out of Beta, and hundreds and improvements to the YUI libraries. One of my favorite features is that the YUI Loader, which I tend to use on all my pages, can automatically combine files into a single download. Fewer HTTP requests is a huge win, which should overrule the cache miss performance hit. In addition, there are a lot of accessibility issues added to the system, which having a state job is an important consideration.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that any of the issues that I've submitted code for have been addressed, but several of them came up after the 2.6.0 pre-releases were made available (ie, post-code freeze), and I suspect my issues are somewhat fringe cases.. I'd still like to see some movement on them from Yahoo!, if nothing else to show that they've thought about the issue and made a decision on it.

But, in all I've been pleased with YUI 2.6. On the WSU Catalog upgrading was as simple as importing the newer version of YUI Loader. That simple. Of course, I'm only using a few different libraries, like the Menu and Connection Manager, so none of my modules were heavily affected, but I was pleased with the ease. I am most looking forward to YUI3 though, which will make YUI much easier to use and integrate.

Moving from the JavaScript side to the Plugin side, Microsoft finally released the first Release Candidate of Silverlight 2. Unfortunately, it's developer only with no go-live license, but it implies that the final is really close. I'm suspecting the end of the month at Microsoft's PDC. The conference release is consistent with how Microsoft has handled all Silverlight releases to date.

The release is a good one. It broke many things, but it's far faster, the default style looks better, and they finally added some controls we pretty badly needed. One of these is the dropdown box that is finally available, but still many things are lacking. We're having to use an external Rich Text Display, the dropdown box doesn't fit all our needs, so we're having to use a different one in a few places.

Mostly though, I'm not convinced the plugin route is wholly necessary. Sure, we're using one in our current project, but we could do most of that in DHTML and JavaScript, and the browser requirements wouldn't be much different. There has been so much work over the last six months in next-generation JavaScript interpreters which further makes me question if a proprietary plugin is necessary. The only reason Silverlight may catch on is for those users who simply don't want to learn JavaScript. It's an unnecessary technology today, and will become more so over the future.