27 October 2010

It would seem hypocritical if I evangelized rich Internet applications but I didn’t make them a regular part of my life. To assure you that is not the case, I want to point out three RIAs that I use at least once a day. They span completely different genres as well as deployment methods, but the Adobe Flash Platform is the tie that binds them together.

Technology: Adobe AIR

TweetDeck is certainly one of the most popular Adobe AIR applications to date. The main feature that sets TweetDeck apart from its competition is its level of integration (which is unmatched in any RIA). TweetDeck integrates seamlessly with social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Google Buzz. In addition, it integrates with many utilities like Twitscoop, TweetShrink, TwitVid, and multiple URL shorteners. Finally, TweetDeck provides a quick way to view media content inline from Flickr, YouTube, and many other sites. 

I use TweetDeck for most of my Facebook and Twitter updates. I am not sure how much time it saves overall, but having all that functionality in one tool definitely helps me keep in touch with more people in less time.

TweetDeck is available to download for free today.

Hulu Desktop
Technology: Flash Player

Almost everyone has spent some time on Hulu catching up on an episode of their favorite television show that they missed. If you aren’t happy with pulling up the site in your browser, Hulu has provided another option that is much more like a traditional media center: Hulu Desktop. Hulu Desktop isn’t an AIR application, but the video playback still uses Flash Player. By leveraging the video support in Flash Player, the application delivers amazing HD-quality video.

In addition to the powerful video playback functionality, the application also features a well-thought-out interface that makes it easy for anyone to navigate, whether they are using a mouse or a remote control. I regularly use this application alongside Windows Media Center with my Media Center remote control, and the experience is great.

Hulu Desktop is available to download today for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux operating systems.

Technology: Ajax, Flash

Another tool that has more recently worked its way into my arsenal is Zillow. Zillow is an online real estate database with more than 92 million homes in the United States. Its web interface is an Ajax application that uses Flash Player where needed, especially when it comes to mapping real estate data.

I am currently trying to sell my house, and in looking around, no site provided better geospatial real estate data visualization than Zillow. The site accomplishes this by leveraging the Bing Maps library for ActionScript 3.0 and mixing that with powerful searching and filtering functionality. It is easy to view all the homes for sale within a specific zip code while simultaneously limiting the top price to $500,000. In addition, the map integration quickly enables you to see what part of the county has homes that are selling quickly or which area has the most rental properties. Without the effective geographic data visualization, this type of data analysis would be unavailable for most of us. 

Zillow is free to use today.


One of the interesting things about these three applications is that they each illustrate a different type of RIA. For example, TweetDeck is an Adobe AIR desktop application, while Zillow is an Ajax application. Hulu Desktop isn’t an AIR application, but it still brings the power of the browser to the desktop in a different way. No matter how they are delivered, rich Internet applications are a central part of my daily life, both at work and in personal pursuits.