Web apps big in 98, bigger in 99

Headlines last year were abuzz with Web application announcements: "Oracle dives into Java," "Tools provide Web access to databases," "Sybase unwraps development tools," "Big iron gets a case of Web fever," "ESuite developer's pack ready to roll." The Web is omnipresent, and vendors will continue to react this year. And next year, more Web sites than ever will run off databases.

Headlines last year were abuzz with Web application announcements: “Oracle dives into Java,” “Tools provide Web access to databases,” “Sybase unwraps development tools,” “Big iron gets a case of Web fever,” “ESuite developer’s pack ready to roll.” The Web is omnipresent, and vendors will continue to react this year.

“What the concept of a Web application does is it allows users to have a more customised experience” on Web sites, says Ron Rappaport, an industry analyst at Zona Research in Redwood City, California. Companies will need to adapt their approach to Web site construction accordingly and use tools that are database-aware and so forth, he says. “Look at a company like Oracle that has Internet-enabled its product line.”

Web development tools rushed in at the beginning of last year, and according to analysts, we will see more results from those tools this year in the form of new applications on Web pages. “The reality is that there are going to be more Web sites in ’99 running off databases,” Rappaport says. “Oracle is going to be the big boat on that riding tide.”

He adds that “you’ve got to create sites with the foreknowledge that the database is sewn into interactivity at the site rather than just relying on applets. ... That database is part of the site that gets tapped and touched regularly.”

As companies start to use the Web as a channel for supporting a wide variety of customer, supplier and employee interactions, the task of integrating Web front ends with existing back-end systems will continue to be a major theme this year, says Andrew Bartels, an analyst at Giga. But he emphasizes that “the issue is not at the front end/Web interface, it’s the integration of that interface” itself.

Bartels also says we will see Web sites becoming more “customer friendly -- making doing business easier, more intuitive, faster, simpler and more secure.”

“The type of Web applications you’re going to see in ’99 in the commerce arena won’t simply focus on allowing a user to consummate a transaction, but rather to engage in the transaction that is linked to other Web sites,” Rappaport says.

That will be the year “when E-commerce doubles or triples in dollar volume,” and the number of companies with significant Web presence will grow two to three times, Bartels says.

But underlying all the viability and effectiveness of Web applications will be the adoption and embracement of XML, Rappaport says. “XML is a branch of HTML that has a few core tenants that will make it very valuable, very soon. The benefits of XML: It’s a standard, and it’s extensible. Anyone who extends it, extends it as a standard.”

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