Why Use Plugins? - Java Script

In the beginning, Web pages were fairly static creations. Before the advent of the DOM, after a page was loaded its appearance remained the same until it was unloaded. Traditional developers lived in a world of dynamic interfaces, where everything the user did caused a change on the screen, but when they turned to the Web,they found the environment severely lacking in dynamism.Then came Java.

Java originally wasn’t designed for use in Web browsers because, at the time of its inception,the World Wide Web was nothing but a concept. However,as the Internet and the Web gained popularity, the original Java developers saw the opportunity to enrich the Web browsing experience by using Java.The result was an experimental browser called HotJava, which was written by Sun Microsystems as a proof of concept for how Java applets could be embedded into Web pages. For the first time ever, Web pages were no longer static; instead,there was movement, user interaction without page reloading, and a bright new future for the Web.

Around the same time, Netscape began developing an architecture for helper applications. The basic idea was to enable the browser to recognize the mime type of information and then launch the appropriate application to view the content.When Netscape 2.0 was introduced,it featured a new plugin architecture,essentially providing the capability to embed these helper applications directly into Web pages.

Since that time, Web browsers have come a long way. All browsers today allow Java applets to be embedded in pages, along with a whole host of other plugins.Of course,dynamic pages can be created today using the DOM,so is there really any reason to use plugins? The answer is yes.

Plugins continue to push the envelope for Web page interaction, offering a whole host of advantages over built-in browser technology. Although many browsers have built-in HTTP request capabilities for JavaScript, the only way to have true bi-directional client-server communication using sockets is through plugins. Likewise, the only way to embed and animate vector graphics is through the use of plugins. As an added bonus, most plugins work across browsers without any problem.

The bottom line is that plugins are able to provide functionality that the browsers either can’t or won’t provide natively. Because companies don’t have to wait for a browser to be updated in order to update a plugin, plugins are an attractive option for many developers.


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