Despite significant improvements to the responsiveness of web applications over the last few years, they remain hampered by the fact that web browsers can only communicate with servers over HTTP. “It’s as if everyone’s using fancy phones, but they’re still using ham radio to communicate with the server, where you have to hold the button down to talk,” is one metaphor Kaazing CEO Jonas Jacobi uses. He also described it as a kid on a car ride, asking, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” instead of just looking out the window to see whether they’ve arrived or not.
Jacobi relies on such metaphors because he’s trying to describe an as-yet-unseen paradigm shift in real-time web speed being pushed by his company, Mountain View, Calif.-based Kaazing, by way of a new protocol called web sockets. Rather than AJAX-type hacks to make web apps speedy, web sockets are a full browser upgrade to send and receive data between a web client and server simultaneously. That two-way communication is supposed to make web applications dramatically faster (and cheaper, too, because they require less infrastructure, says Jacobi). This could be super useful for things like chat, live event Twitter feeds and automatic lookup features like Google Suggest.
Kaazing’s team wrote the web sockets (aka TCP communications) proposal that was included nearly wholesale in HTML 5. Now, as it waits for browsers to implement web sockets (the latest Chrome version include it, and Mozilla is supposed to be next up), Kaazing is trying to build a business around real-time bi-directional communications. The company, founded in 2007 and privately funded (though raising venture capital now), already has customers in the financial services and gambling sectors — the kind where a difference of a split second on a site is material. Kaazing has built a web socket server and emulator so that users who visit web sites through older browsers can get a preview of what web sockets will provide.
Jacobi recently came by our office for a video interview to explain some of these concepts in person and talk about Kaazing’s place in such an early market.
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