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Why would we need another web framework?

In the decade of AJAX-boom, web applications has evolved from being a bunch of linked web pages towards the highly interactive rich clients running in the browser. This experience is not just limited to the users of the AJAXed web applications. Programmers, too, try to align their development practices to what is actually happening in the application, rather than to tweak underlying HTTP protocol day after day. And the great variety of existing web frameworks is supposed to help them to get there.

Low-level web frameworks, like Struts, Spring or ASP.NET MVC remain very HTTP-centric and provide a generic set of utilities and helpers for handling HTTP requests and rendering responses. The AJAX support in such frameworks is very basic, encouraging developers to invent their own approach for effective client-server interaction. And they gladly use the opportunity in the fanciest ways, even within one product. The common result is the chaos on the server- and javascript floods on the client-side.

In contrast to the classical web frameworks, AJAX web application frameworks like GWT, Vaadin, ZK or Echo2 offer great possibilities for authoring highly interactive web applications with virtually no javascript, in a high-level language and in a very desktop-like style. The only caveat of those frameworks is their heaviness.

Such heavyweight frameworks offer a holistic approach to web application development, imposing own rules and even markup languages for creating layouts, binding data, events etc. Sometimes it works quite well. Sometimes, however, it feels like an overkill with a pretty steep learning curve.

Besides, many heavyweight frameworks seriously affect crucial technical aspects of a web application. For instance, to keep application state server-centric frameworks like ZK or echo2 extensively use server memory, which is not very good for scalability.

Probably, I got dazzled by the abundance of the existing AJAX web frameworks at some point, but I'm really missing a simple and handy one among them. So, I came up with my own.

What would I expect from a good lightweight AJAX web framework?

  • minimalistic and tidy client scripts
  • seamless and close integration of server and client code
  • server-centric approach for the business logic
  • fat-client programming model: plain and stateful objects, event driven development
  • simplicity and comprehensible mode of operation
  • high scalability
  • low intrusiveness and usage of the good old HTML-templating

The points 1-4 are pretty good addressed by many AJAX web frameworks, but unfortunately by sacrificing 5-7. In this framework I'm trying to reconcile all the points mentioned above. The next chapter explains how I'm going to get there.