An audience with Optimus Prime
We talked to PrimeFaces’ chief about the recent development for the project, including PrimeFaces 3.4, Mobile 1.0 and more
JavaServer Faces has been around for as long as we can remember. Over that time, we’ve seen numerous companies crop up, offering their own spin on the tried and tested web-application formula, and also several fall by the wayside after failing to drum up interest with the JSF community at large. It’s still an innovative space, with new components continuing to push things on.
One project that is going from strength to strength is
Primefaces, the Ajax framework stocked full of JSF components. Lead
by Optimus Prime – sorry, Çağatay Çivici – the community has
expanded exponentially over the past few years, deciding that they
see a lot from PrimeFaces when designing a rich application.
Consequently, Çivici is seeking to broaden PrimeFaces’s reach
into other mediums
The most recent PrimeFace news is the changing of its funding model. While the company offers a paid ‘PrimeFaces PRO’ enterprise support programme, they briefly experimented with a ‘community funding’ programme in which new feature requests could be prioritised through donations. (Though the page has since been pulled, Google’s cache is still up as of time of writing.)
Çivici says the experiment was inspired by a funding model used by some video games. “We had delivered a couple of funded projects, funded issues,” he says, but it was disrupting the project’s roadmap. “Later we realised that maybe there was a better way to get more support from the community,” he says.
Instead, community members wishing to contribute financially can purchase a User’s Guide PDF. “The minimum price is $1, and there’s no maximum – so it’s more like a donation,” says Çivici. “For people who just want to support the project, they can just donate any amount they want.”
Çivici estimates there are “close to 20,000” active
PrimeFace users worldwide, but emphasises that it’s merely an
educated guess. “I wish there was a way of counting that, but this
is open source!”
Of more interest is last’s week release of PrimeFaces 3.4, accompanied by what has become a tradition for PrimeFaces: an epic, Hollywood-style trailer showing off its latest features (embedded below).
“We worked on it for almost two months, and added lots of new features – almost 140 changes,” says Çivici. The highlight of the release is PrimeFaces push, which is powered by the Atmosphere framework and allows for building of asynchronous web applications (there are demos available showing the tech in action).
Atmosphere framework creator Jeanfrancois Arcand actually flew out to Instanbul, where the team is based, to help work on Push. “We worked with him for a week,” says Çivici, “and also had some great fun as well!”
Meanwhile, PrimeFaces has been expanding onto further platforms. First up is PrimeFaces Mobile, a UI for creating mobile-optimised JSF applications based on jQuery mobile (a logical choice, since PrimeFaces is built on top of jQuery).
“We will be working on PrimeFaces Mobile 1.0 all through September,” says Çivici, who aims to the release of the first major version to coincide with JavaOne in October.
More controversial is PrimeFaces’ expansion into proprietary Microsoft territory, with an ASP.NET-compatible version called PrimeFaces.NET. Community reaction to the announcement in August was mixed, with some fearing that PrimeFaces’ focus would be lost with the addition of a third prong, while others questioning the choice of platform. “It’s like working for a non-profit organization and suddenly start working for the arms industry,” said one commenter.
“This is more like an experiment right now,” says Çivici. “We realise we have a lot of custom JS and we are currently limited to JSF and we would like to offer this solution to .NET [users].” It’s the beginnings of a larger strategy to expand PrimeFaces’ reach to further frameworks beyond JSF, with Çivici comparing it to “a game coming out for Xbox, PS3 and Wii”.
“In the future [we’d like to support] maybe any other library, any other framework, for people who like to do just plain jQuery and like to bind to the server side, to the jersey web servers, with no server-side framework at all,” says Çivici. “We would like to offer a solution for them as well, but right now the next step for PrimeFaces is .NET, and the main reason is because the architecture is similar.”
PrimeFaces for JSF will continue to be the priority, he emphasises, and a separate team will be working on PrimeFaces.NET. “We will make sure that PrimeFaces for JSF development is not affected by our new plans for .NET. We have the resources for [managing three projects at once] and we have planned accordingly.”