The Rich Internet Application (RIA) has been a driving force online for the past several years. RIAs provide an improved user experience compared to what’s possible using HTML alone and the somewhat clunky interface that is the Web browser. A good RIA turns the Web experience into something much closer to what users have become accustomed to with desktop applications: easy to use, without too many overt server requests, and clearly the work of a professional Web developer.

RIAs can be created using a handful of technologies, but the top two choices are certainly Flash and Ajax (“Ajax” being the name often given to the combination of HTML and Java-Script). People commonly think of Flash as an animated, timeline-driven thing designers ...

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