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Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) use technology like Asynchronous JavaScript, XML (AJAX), and Flash to free Web users from HTML's often painfully slow post-reply mechanism. RIAs combine desktop-like interactivity with a rich media aesthetic. Done right, RIAs blend the benefits of instant Web access to centralized data with a user experience that is both easy to use and cool to watch.

Google Gets RIAs Right

Google Maps, implemented in AJAX, is a good example of a successful RIA (for examples of Flash/Flex implementations, The quality of the Google Maps user experience leapfrogged past AOL's MapQuest, a brand that's been the market leader since the early 90s. Google Maps' market share has grown to reflect its user-experience advantage: while 2007 saw no growth in MapQuest's site traffic, Google Map's traffic grew by 135%.

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