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Rich Internet Application

A Rich Internet Application (RIA) is a web application that has many of the characteristics of desktop applications, typically delivered either by way of a site-specific browser, via a browser plug-in, independent sandboxes, or virtual machines. Adobe Flash, Java, and Microsoft Silverlight are currently the three most common platforms, with penetration rates around 99%, 80%, and 54% respectively (as of July 2010). Although new web standards have emerged, they still use the principles behind RIAs.


Users generally need to install a software framework using the computer's operating system before launching the application, which typically downloads, updates, verifies and executes the RIA. This is the main differentiator from JavaScript-based alternatives like Ajax which use built-in browser functionality to implement comparable interfaces. While some consider such interfaces to be RIAs, some consider them competitors to RIAs and others, including Gartner, treat them as similar but separate technologies.


RIAs dominate in online gaming as well as applications which require access to video capture (with the notable exception of Gmail, which uses its own task-specific browser plug-in). Nevertheless, web standards such as HTML5 have developed and the compliance of web browsers with those standards has somewhat improved. However, the need for plug-in based RIAs for accessing video capture and distribution has not diminished, even with the emergence of HTML5 and JavaScript-based desktop-like widget sets that provide alternative solutions for mobile web browsing.