{ by david linsin }

April 13, 2008

Applets Cross Browser Support

Reading the release notes and various blog posts about Java 6 Update 10 beta aka Update N aka Consumer JRE, I'm starting to get the impression that Java's "cross platform-write once run anywhere" days are over.

I've been following the development of the new JRE and wrote about it a couple of times before. You probably already know that I like the new stuff. I also mentioned, that there are a couple of issues which really need to be reconsidered. One thing, which I was secretly hoping for would get improved, was cross browser support for the new Java plug-in. Unfortunately it seems as though it won't happen anymore. Update 10 beta only supports IE7 and Firefox 3, which in my opinion is a real disappointment. This move is neither cross browser nor cross platform friendly in any way.

I'm not going as far as calling the browser plug-in broken or useless, but I really think it needs more work. All the companies which are stuck with IE6 or consumers which are not updating Firefox every other week - they don't benefit from these improvements. You probably think that they don't care about Java and Applets anyways and that's exactly the point. They shouldn't care about it! They should surf to any website and have the same experience with Applets as they have with flash.

To me the browser plug-in seems like a half baked solution, which is supposed to bring Java Applets back into the game. I'm using Safari on a Mac so for me the game is probably lost anyways.

4 comments:

jtheory said...

If you're using Safari on a Mac, is it relevant to you? You are only affected by the browser support that Apple puts into their version of Java and their plugin (which obviously supports Safari currently, and likely will continue to in released updates).

Second, I would expect that Sun will extend support for the new plugin after this initial release -- they're starting with the most used browsers (assuming FF3 will be released before Update N) and will presumably expand the new features to other browsers and versions as it makes sense. They're doing a gradual replacement of the existing plugin.

Finally, I can't find a definitive discussion of this... but I think the older version of the plugin will continue to be included in the install (to support browsers other than those 2) -- it just won't include *all* of the new features.

I should also point out that some of the new features are already usable even without any Java update -- I'm already using the JavaScript deployment script; it degrades nicely for all versions of the JRE (including 1.1).

So... it'd be nice if they could roll out more thorough support from the get-go, but I don't follow your gloom & doom at all. No step backwards, and a huge step forward for many of my users (hopefully soon to include all of them).

skroderider said...

The improved plugin that they have now should have been there years ago, if people were to have a better experience while surfing websites which contain applets. Freezing the browser while an applet loads is not exactly user friendly. Although the new plugin is a commendable improvement, its too late, IMO. And as you mention, the huge spectrum of existing browsers which have older plugins are completely exempted from these benefits.

Patrick Wright said...

You're right, but Sun also has to decide where to concentrate their (at the end of the day) limited resources--not just in development, but in extensive testing--and get the most bang for the buck--which includes two browsers which will cover a large number of existing and newly purchased laptops at the time of rollout. I'm sure they'd want to cover all of them. The Apple issue is, well, an ongoing issue, but that's apparently more about Apple wanting to control the development of Java on OS X than it is about Sun. And the source code for this will be free if someone (such as Opera developers) want to port it to their browser. Criticism is warranted, but I myself understand if they want to make the best of what resources they have at hand. Note that I'm mainly an Apple (home) and Linux (work) user, so I'm also (negatively) affected by these decisions.

Cheers
Patrick

david said...

Hi guys,

thanks for your comments.

@jtheory
Yes the plug-in is relevant to me, not to me personally, but professionally. Apparently I'm not the only one using a Mac and complaining about the cross platform support. There's a huge number of people out there using IE6 on Windows NT or Safari on Mac and Sun is just not letting them join the fun. It seems like I'm just whining about it, but I'm thinking in terms of potential clients.

With the current plug-in there is no way I'd suggest to implement/deploy any application as an Applet. I was hoping that Java 6 Update 10 would help me reconsider my position, but if it stays like this it won't!


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