The app dev undead: 5 technologies limping along

Famo.us, io.js, JavaFX, Objective-C, and Spring.Net have all faded away, but for different reasons

The app dev undead: 5 technologies limping along
Credit: Courtney Rhodes

Sometimes, technologies are introduced to great fanfare and then, well, fizzle.

For whatever reasons, they do not gain much momentum or get displaced by a theoretically better successor. Not all are inferior tools -- in fact, they may even be superior to what was already available. However, superiority and innovation don't always translate to successful adoption, though some establish cult followings.

The year, we've seen five such technologies aimed at developers fail to live up to their initial promise and thus fade away.

Famo.us: Rich Web tools can't displace native apps

Last year, Famo.us was flying high and looked to give native mobile app development a run for its money. Equipped with a 3D physics-based animation engine, Famo.us positioned its open source JavaScript framework as taking Web development for mobile to the next level and simplifying the building of complex UIs.

The company scored tens of millions of venture-capital dollars and looked to make a killing with a wrapper service for mobile apps. But lately, Famo.us has has gone proprietary, abandoning its open source focus. The company’s open source team was fired, in fact. Famo.us also abandoned its wrapper-service business model in favor of micro-app development and the Famous Micro-App content management system for digital marketers.

Despite the product shift, Famo.us CEO Steve Newcomb says the technical vision remains the same: building native interfaces with Web technologies. Still, the huge impact that Famo.us promised simply didn't happen.

io.js: Ugly divorce resulted in a strengthened marriage

Spun out as a fork of the Node.js server-side JavaScript platform in late 2014, io.js was intended to expand the horizons of the Node realm after devotees got tired with the platform's slow pace of change and restrictive governance model.

Io.js was going to change all that. But the divorce did not last. The two factions, which included some of the same people, agreed to make up this spring; previous releases of io.js are now considered Node releases. Node.js itself did move to the jurisdiction of the Node.js Foundation rather than its original governor, the application virtualization vendor Joyent.

Everybody appears happy with the resolution, and the months of dissonance had no significant consequences on developers.

JavaFX: The rich Internet technology that never took off

Introduced with lofty expectations by Sun Microsystems in 2007, JavaFX was Java's entrant into the rich client application space that Macromedia's Flash and Microsoft's now-all-but-dead Silverlight then dominated. Although it has a loyal following and still exists, JavaFX never took off.

Over the years, JavaFX has been eclipsed by Web technologies such as JavaScript and even Flash (which has problems of its own and is on the road to obsolescence). JavaFX's decline started years ago: Oracle discontinued JavaFX Script, a scripting language associated with the platform, in 2010.

"It is a technology with relatively narrow appeal. We are seeing less and less Java at the front end outside of Android in terms of new projects, and the various Java front-end technologies are not expected at this point to be a major influence,” said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. Indeed, a 2014 thread in Reddit asked, "Why is JavaFX being continued? Nobody uses it." And a recent search on Dice.com found only 30 job postings that mentioned JavaFX skills.

Objective-C: Apple replaced it with Swift

This venerable language has been best known as a platform for developing applications for Apple's software platforms, particularly the popular iOS smartphones and tablets. But with Apple's introduction of the successor Swift language in June 2014, the writing has been on the wall that Objective-C shall decline.

Although there were still more than 6,400 jobs citing Objective-C skills on Dice.com recently, the language has been tanking on the Tiobe index of language popularity, dropping from third place a year ago to 15th place this month. During that time, Swift rose from 17th place to 14th place. Objective-C also has been dropping on the rival PyPL index.

Although Objective-C will be around for a while, it is certain that new development that might have been the domain of Objective-C before will move over to Swift -- because Apple has decreed it so.

Spring.Net: Bounced around, then essentially abandoned

Derived from the popular Spring Framework for Java development, the Spring.Net open source framework enables development of enterprise .Net applications via Spring technologies.

But it has changed hands over the years. In 2009, VMware acquired SpringSource, which developed Spring technologies. Later on, VMware spun out Pivotal, which got jurisdiction over Spring. These days, the Spring.Net community leads the Spring.Net project, according to Pivotal.

A check of the Spring.Net site, though, features on its front page an announcement from December 2012: "We are pleased to announce that the M2 (Milestone 2) release of Spring .Net 2.0.0 is now available." The Downloads page shows version 1.3.2 was the latest production release. The Twitter feed has not seen any activity since March 2014.

Oracle, meanwhile, has been busy trying to persuade Spring Framework Java users to switch to Java EE, arguing that Spring no longer offers developers advantages over Oracle's enterprise Java, such as dependency injection, which Spring had first. The lack of movement at Spring.Net certainly gives Oracle's argument practical credence.

This story, "The app dev undead: 5 technologies limping along" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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