A paradigm shift in web application architecture and why performance testers should care

A Paradigm Shift in Web Application Architecture and Why Performance Testers Should Care

Modern browsers are turning into miniature operating systems. They can multi-task browsing processes, allocate and manage memory, collect garbage and much more. They are capable of running complex web applications on their own with minimal server interaction. There is now a paradigm shift in the web application architecture as a majority of application processing is shifting from the server to the web browser. The web browser, once called a “Thin” client has become a big fat cat lately.

The Browser Wars
Meanwhile, leading browser makers are fiercely competing against each for dominance in the web browser market share. This so-called “browser war” has set off major developments in the capabilities of popular browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome as more and more features are built into them. Browsers are now capable of processing data from multiple sources like Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), Ad Networks and Analytics providers and present them to the user. Browser makers are also scrambling hard to bundle as many new features and enhancements as possible to their browsers to stay ahead in the race. Mozilla, for example, recently announced a new rapid release schedule in order to bring faster updates to their Firefox browser. Google has been doing this to its Chrome browser for a while now. However, as browser capabilities are improved, it has also introduced additional complexity to web application architecture.

Mobile Computing and the Rapid Adoption of Newer Web Standards
On the other hand, W3C, the organization that sets Internet standards has also realized the need for newer web standards in this era of mobile computing. HTML, the core technology for structuring and presenting content for the web is undergoing a major upgrade as part of W3C’s new HTML5 specification. Among other things, the new

HTML5 standards will make it possible for users to view multimedia and graphical content on the web without having to install proprietary plug-ins and APIs. Related standards like CSS (that defines the layout) and DOM (that defines interaction with data objects) are also getting an overhaul. Technologies like CSS3 and XMLHttpRequest (XHR) are gaining wide adoption and popularity. These newer web standards have put the onus on the web developers and front-end engineers to build interactive web applications that are fast, highly responsive and that behave like a traditional software application.

Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web
At a time when information technology professionals and end-users are getting acquainted with the web 2.0 technologies, work is already underway in defining specifications for web 3.0, what is popularly referred to as the “Semantic Web”. One can only expect rapid developments in this trend in the days ahead and this new web application architecture is here to stay. It is also becoming more and more important that modern web applications are developed to make best use of these technologies.

The Arrival of Mobile and Cloud computing
A recent study by Nielsen research found that 4 in 10 U. S. phones are now smartphones. Morgan Stanley also predicted that the number of mobile Internet users will exceed desktop Internet users by 2015. These studies and predictions aside, there is no doubt that smartphones and tablet PCs have revolutionized the way users browse the web.

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A paradigm shift in web application architecture and why performance testers should care