Top 10 Rich Internet Application (RIA) frameworks

Rich Internet Application

What is a Rich Internet Application (RIA)?

A rich Internet application (RIA) is a Web application designed to deliver the same features and functions normally associated with desktop applications. RIAs generally split the processing across the Internet/network divide by locating the user interface and related activity and capability on the client-side, and the data manipulation and operation on the application server-side.

An RIA normally runs inside a Web browser and usually does not require software installation on the client-side to work. However, some RIAs may only work properly with one or more specific browsers. 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 and 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, calculations, reformatting and so forth, thereby lowering the amount and frequency of client-server traffic, especially as compared to the client-server implementations built around so-called thin clients.

Unique Feature of RIA

One distinguishing feature of an RIA (in contrast to other Web-based applications) is the client engine that intermediates between the user and the application server. The client engine downloads when the RIA launches. The engine can be augmented during subsequent operation with additional downloads in which the engine acts as a browser extension to handle the user interface and server communications.

There are much powerful development frameworks that effectively facilitates RIA Development. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Top 10 RIA Frameworks: A Deep Dive

1. Angular JS
2. React JS
3. Vue JS
5. JavaFX
6. Ember JS
8. Adobe Flex
9. Meteor JS
10. Knockout

1. AngularJS

AngularJS, now known as Angular is a mature, client-side JavaScript framework maintained by Google and is often the first choice of organizations to create responsive, maintainable and modular RIAs.

Angular experts understand that although HTML5 and JavaScript can play well together to create high-end web applications but the resultant code can become highly complex as well as expensive to maintain.

Thanks to the simplicity and beauty of Angular, which allows developers to notably reduce the amount of JS code required to be written thus making the web apps essentially abstract.

2. React JS

React is a declarative, efficient, and flexible JavaScript library for building user interfaces. It’s ‘V’ in MVC. ReactJS is an open-source, component-based front end library responsible only for the view layer of the application. It is maintained by Facebook.

React uses a declarative paradigm that makes it easier to reason about your application and aims to be both efficient and flexible. It designs simple views for each state in your application, and React will efficiently update and render just the right component when your data changes. The declarative view makes your code more predictable and easier to debug.

A react application is made of multiple components, each responsible for rendering a small, reusable piece of HTML. Components can be nested within other components to allow complex applications to be built out of simple building blocks. A component may also maintain internal state – for example, a TabList component may store a variable corresponding to the currently open tab.

3. Vue JS

Vue.js is the new rising star, it started as an individual project and quickly grew into becoming one of the most trending JS frameworks out there. There are many cool things about Vue.

First, it’s a progressive framework, which means that if you have an existing project, you can adopt Vue for one portion of the project and everything would work just fine.

Second, it also brings along the component architecture to play, and the Vue ecosystem can help you build a complete frontend application. Some people are wary of using Vue since it’s not supported by a big company like Facebook or Google, but that’s quickly changing as big names are starting to invest in Vue.

It’s a dynamic framework, which implies that in the event that you have a current task, you can receive Vue for one bit of the undertaking and everything would work fine and dandy. Second, it additionally conveys along the part design to play, and the Vue biological system can enable you to assemble total frontend applications.


Ext JS is a pure JavaScript application framework for building interactive cross-platform web applications using techniques such as Ajax, DHTML and DOM scripting. It can be used as a simple component framework (to e.g. create dynamic grids on otherwise static pages), but also as a full framework for building single-page applications.

Originally built as an add-on library extension of The Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI) by Jack Slocum on April 15, 2007, beginning with version 1.1, Ext JS retains no dependencies on external libraries, instead of making their use optional. Nowadays Ext JS can be used both as a single script (with all classes and components in one file) or by building the application with Sencha Cmd.

5. JavaFX

JavaFX, with its rich set of APIs and Oracle’s committed support, is a natural choice for high performance, data-centric rich Internet applications. A vibrant JavaFX community continues to develop and support JavaFX porting on mobile platforms.

Write once, run anywhere (WORA) was the Java punch line for decades, and it has helped companies save millions of dollars which otherwise would have been spent on porting the same application on different platforms. This capability was part of the reason behind Java’s unprecedented success. Java toolkits for user interface (UI) development also follow the same pattern.

The AWT library introduced in 1995 for UI development was based on the same philosophy. This library was dependent on native calls for drawing objects. Native dependency in a multithreading environment caused lock contentions, leading to deadlocks and heavy utilization of system resources. The look and feel of such applications depended on the native platform and was not uniform across platforms.

As we progressed in time, use of browser-based Web applications increased tremendously and other computing devices such as tablets, smartphones, set-top boxes, etc, became more powerful in terms of processing power and memory. The changed scenario demanded a common development platform which could integrate rich Internet features into the desktop environment and support a cross-platform, cross-device programming environment. JavaFX was the answer to this requirement.

JavaFX 1.0 was launched by Sun Microsystems (acquired by Oracle in 2010) in 2008 as the next generation UI toolkit and aimed to become the successor of Swing. It was designed to leverage new-age GPUs with hardware acceleration capabilities and added support for 3D, animation, media, WebView and CSS style. JavaFX1.0 was a script-based language for the Java platform that could interoperate with it. JavaFX 2.0 was completely based on the Java API allowing any Java developer to use it with the IDE. JavaFX by Oracle is available for desktop application development and on mobile devices by community support.

6. Ember JS

Ember was named the best Javascript framework back in 2015. Today, the Ember community is huge and it’s ever-expanding, with new features and releases being added regularly. Ember possesses the two-way data binding that Angular boasts and it comes with a lot of features and components that you can use out of the box.

It’s being used by Google, Microsoft, Heroku, and Netflix. Ember revolves around the developer’s productivity and attempts to maximize it by either eliminating the need for time-wasting activities or adopting some JS best practices in its core design.

Ember.js sprung out of the SproutCore project. For those who don’t know what SproutCore is, it is a JavaScript Model-View-Controller framework that enables you to write rich internet applications with a desktop-like feel, both in regards to the application being developed as well as to its source code.

Ember.js is a framework for developing Rich Internet Applications (RIA) the right way. It is rooted in the languages that shape our web experience (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript obviously), it helps the developer keep the source code in a clean, MVC pattern, while it leverages the strengths from SproutCore: a rich object model and automatically updating templates, powerful and consistent bindings that support rich views that are able to accept events, as well as a bunch of extra addons.


RIA performance comes from Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML), which uses client-side scripting to make web applications more responsive. Ajax applications separate client-side user interaction and server communication, and run them in parallel, reducing the delays of server-side processing normally experienced by the user. There are many ways to implement Ajax functionality.“Raw” Ajax uses JavaScript to send asynchronous requests to the server, then updates the page using the DOM. “Raw” Ajax is best suited for creating small Ajax components that asynchronously update a section of the page. However, when writing “raw” Ajax you need to deal directly with cross-browser portability issues, making it impractical for developing large scale applications.

These portability issues are hidden by Ajax toolkits, such as Dojo, Prototype,, and ASP.NET Ajax, which provide powerful ready-to-use controls and functions that enrich web applications and simplify JavaScript coding by making it cross-browser compatible. Traditional web applications use XHTML forms to build simple and thin GUIs compared to the rich GUIs of Windows, Macintosh and desktop systems in general. We achieve rich GUI in RIAs with Ajax toolkits and with RIA environments such as Adobe Flex and JavaServer Faces. Such toolkits and environments provide powerful ready-to-use controls and functions that enrich web applications.

The client-side of Ajax applications is written in XHTML and CSS and uses JavaScript to add functionality to the user interface. XML is used to structure the data passed between the server and the client. We’ll also use JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) for this purpose. The Ajax component that manages interaction with the server is usually implemented with JavaScript’s XMLHttpRequest object—commonly abbreviated as XHR. The server processing can be implemented using any server-side technology, such as PHP, ASP. NET, JavaServer Faces and Ruby on Rails.

8. Adobe Flex

Adobe Flex, another means of achieving that same goal. Flex uses Adobe’s ubiquitous Flash platform to deliver a rich graphical user interface backed by ActionScript 3, Adobe’s implementation of ECMAScript 4 (better known as JavaScript 2). The relationship between Flex and ActionScript is similar to that between Ajax libraries and JavaScript. The powerful graphical capabilities and cross-platform nature of Flash allow web developers to deliver Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) to a large user base.

The term RIA was coined in 2001 by Macromedia, the creator of Flash and Flex; Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005. Flex provides user interface library elements that can easily be accessed and customized. You can see these user interface elements in action using Adobe’s Flex 2 Component Explorer at

The user interface library helps you present a consistent user experience in all applications, a quality that various Ajax and Flash applications lack. Additionally, Flash has the advantage of a large installed base—98.6% penetration for Flash 6 and up, and 84.0% penetration for Flash 9 in the United States as of March 2007.1 This allows applications developed in Flex to be used on most Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. Since the Flash engine is virtually equivalent across browsers and platforms, Flex developers can avoid the cross-platform conflicts of Ajax and even Java.

This significantly reduces development time. The Flex framework enables a wide variety of web applications, from simple image viewers to RSS feed readers to complex data analysis tools. This flexibility is partly derived from Flex’s separation of the user interface from the data. Visually appealing and consistent user interfaces are easily described using the MXML markup language, which is converted to Flash’s executable SWF (Shockwave Flash) format when the application is compiled.

Flex is appropriate for online stores, where Flex’s versatile user interface library allows for drag-and-drop, dynamic content, multimedia, visual feedback and more. Applications that require real-time streaming data benefit from Flex’s ability to accept data “pushed” from the server and instantly update content, without constantly polling the server as some Ajax applications do.

Applications that require data visualization benefit from Flex’s Charting library which can create interactive and customized charts and graphs. ActionScript adds to the power of the Flex user interface library by allowing you to code powerful logic into your Flex applications.

9. Meteor JS

Meteor is a full-stack JavaScript platform for developing modern web and mobile applications. Meteor includes a key set of technologies for building connected-client reactive applications, a build tool, and a curated set of packages from the Node.js and general JavaScript community.

  • Meteor allows you to develop in one language, JavaScript, in all environments: application server, web browser, and mobile device.
  • Meteor uses data on the wire, meaning the server sends data, not HTML, and the client renders it.
  • Meteor embraces the ecosystem, bringing the best parts of the extremely active JavaScript community to you in a careful and considered way.
  • Meteor provides full-stack reactivity, allowing your UI to seamlessly reflect the true state of the world with the minimum development effort.

10. Knockout

Knockout is a JavaScript library that helps you to create rich, responsive display and editor user interfaces with a clean underlying data model. Any time you have sections of UI that update dynamically (e.g., changing depending on the user’s actions or when an external data source changes), KO can help you implement it more simply and maintainable.

Headline features:

  • Elegant dependency tracking – automatically updates the right parts of your UI whenever your data model changes.
  • Declarative bindings – a simple and obvious way to connect parts of your UI to your data model. You can construct a complex dynamic UIs easily using arbitrarily nested binding contexts.
  • Trivially extensible – implement custom behaviors as new declarative bindings for easy reuse in just a few lines of code.

Additional benefits:

  • Pure JavaScript library – works with any server or client-side technology.
  • Can be added on top of your existing web application without requiring major architectural changes.
  • Compact – around 13kb after gzipping.
  • Works on any mainstream browser (IE 6+, Firefox 2+, Chrome, Safari, Edge, others).
  • A comprehensive suite of specifications (developed BDD-style) means its correct functioning can easily be verified on new browsers and platforms

Developers familiar with Ruby on Rails, ASP.NET MVC, or other MV* technologies may see MVVM as a real-time form of MVC with a declarative syntax. In another sense, you can think of KO as a general way to make UIs for editing JSON data… whatever works for you

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