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I've been using GWT for an application and I get the same feeling using it that I first got using html. I've always sucked at building UIs. Starting with programming HP terminals, moving on to the Apple Lisa, then X Windows, and Microsoft Windows, I just never had IT, whatever IT is. On the Beauty and the Geek scale my interfaces are definitely horned-rimmed and pocket protector friendly. Html helped free me from all that to just build stuff that worked, but didn't have to look all that great. Expectations were pretty low and I eagerly fulfilled them. With Ajax expectations have risen again and I find myself once more easily identifiable as a styless geek. Using GWT I have some hopes I can suck a little less. In working with GWT I was so focussed on its tasty easily digestible Ajaxy goodness, I didn't stop to think about the topic of this site: scalability. When I finally brought my distracted mind around to consider the scalability of the single page webs site I was building, I became a bit concerned. Many of the strategies that are typically used to achieve scalability don't seem to apply in single page land. Here are the issues I see. Maybe you can tell me where I am off in my analysis?
  • Plus: a lot of state is maintained in the client. You don't need to keep session state on the server side. This is a win because you aren't slamming the database to reconstitute state. It's cached on the client. After more consideration it seems this is not always the case. Take your typical shopping cart scenario. You have the old problem of not storing prices in the client so some evil Mallory can attack your system by changing prices. And my shopping cart must outlast my browser session so its still there when I return. I would be heart broken if my carefully crafted Amazon cart disappeared every time Firefox went away. So server side state is often still necessary. Yet a lot of state is kept on the client side and that's a better thing.
  • Plus: a lot of business logic in on the client. The client can do a lot of the work which saves making calls to the server. An interesting comparison of the effects of Ajax on business logic partitioning is Google Calendar: Not As Fat as Other Ajax Apps by Dietrich Kappe.
  • Minus: Can't offload searching. The lack of a proper link structure means your site can't be spidered, which means it can't be searched. One useful scalability strategy is to offload search to something like Google's Custom Search Engine, not for the ad revenue (because there's little), but because it means I don't have to devote any resources to searching. That's a huge win.
  • Minus: SEO problems suck up developer time. The common response to the previously mentioned search engine optimization (SEO) problems are to make a shadow text site or insert hidden divs. But that's a lot of pretty useless effort. I would like to spend my time elsewhere.
  • Minus: Can't load balance static content from the client. RPC is used to slurp up data from the server and these requests must go back to the originating domain. This counters one common strategy of using a CDN and/or multiple host names for serving content so you can trick your browser into starting multiple simultaneous connections to different hosts when loading page content. This speeds up your site and spreads the load across different servers. Using RPC to serve content seems to lose this advantage.
  • Minus: Ajax calls add server load. You buy into that with Ajax, but it's still a concern, especially if you have to poll frequently for updates. Dietrich found that the Ajax requests may not be that much smaller than before, so you can't depend on smaller work loads to make up for the increased number of calls. See Yahoo Mail, Ajax and Your Server.
  • Minus: Lack of monetary scalability with AdSense. Without a page to parse AdSense can't figure out which ads to display on your site. So one common monetization strategy isn't open to you.
  • Unsure: When using a caching proxy like Squid, a major scalability strategy, is my cacheable content effectively cached when using RPC? I couldn't find a resolution to this issue. One solution around many of these problems is to use a combination of REST and JASONP. This converts your client into a big mashup, even if all the parts you are mashing are your own. And this approach makes a lot of sense to me, but then I don't really see the purpose of having a RPC mechanism. There are surely issues I've missed and misunderstood, but it seems single page apps present some distinct scalability challenges. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

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