Rapid Application Development Environments on the Web


The Dec 6th Gillmor Gang features Ray Ozzie and Peter O'Kelly on the 20th anniversary of Notes. I expected it to be a retrospective of sorts, but instead was treated to a number of thought provoking ideas as Ray reviewed some design decisions and how they would play out today.

One thing that caught my attention was all the discussion of Notes as a rapid application development (RAD). I've never used Notes so I wasn't aware of that aspect of the platform. Rapid application development was one of the appeals of the early Web for me. I've never been much for coding GUIs and so the idea of a browser that took care of all that was immediately appealing to me. Write some script on the Web server and you've got an application.

Ray talked about how Notes started out as a RAD for business users to build tools they couldn't wait for the IT department to build for them, but over time it migrated to be more about "professional" development in IT departments. It occurred to me, as I listened to Ray that we've done the same thing on the Web. J2EE and other frameworks are large heavyweight tools for building enterprise-scale applications. Part of the appeal of PHP is as a counterweight to these heavyweight development frameworks, but PHP's really only lightweight in comparison. You still have to know enough to run a MySQL database and write code.

Maybe this is the appeal of things like Kwiki and JotSpot to me. I just open up my browser and I'm building something. For some time, I've been contemplating a Wiki-like tool that serves as a RAD environment for simple Web applications. JotSpot and other Wiki tools are moving in that direction as well. Even so, there's plenty of additional room for innovation in that space.