Artima today has some discussion about Ethan Nicholas’s mission to reduce the size of the JRE for Applet use.
Let me be frank. I don’t care. Really. Download size is not the thing that keeps people from using Applets instead of Flash.
Just some perspective here:
Obviously size is not the limiting factor here for adoption. *Acrobat* is nearly twice the download, but nobody is going “hmmm, maybe we should rethink using PDFs.” The reason I, and I think most, don’t use applets is the user experience is generally bad. The Java plug in is sketchy about working at all — on fully half of my machines, applets simply won’t start up in Firefox at all. It takes way to long to start up, and unlike Flash, you don’t get the option of having a nice wait screen while stuff downloads and spins up. Media support is nil, and lets face it, a lot of the time on the interwebs these days, you want to use some kind of media. Until 1.6, there is still no support for SOAP. Romain’s evangelism to the contrary, it is seriously hard to make a nice looking Java application.
I am not opposed to a general use library manager and a slimmed down set of core libraries that can be grabbed at runtime — how many times has that wheel been invented? Maven, WebStart, etc — but I think it is a bit of delusion to think that solving that problem will in any way affect the penetration Applets see in the RIA space.