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Most Java applets for web pages are either navigation systems or other "interactive" features that can be implemented in plain HTML or via scripts.

There are actually very few Java applets that are truly indispensable to a web site.

So if you think you simply can't live without Java, take another look at what you're trying to do. There's probably a non-Java way.

Your audience will double the day you remove Java from your site. That's why no major site on the Net uses Java applets any more.

The Curse of Java
Java programs that run on any machine and applets that run in any browser are a great idea! Unfortunately, they're also an idea that's been thoroughly trashed ever since Internet Explorer and Windows95 debuted. Everyone who's had to do a full reboot because of this problem has both Microsoft and Netscape to thank for it.

Back when Win95 was still on the drawing boards, Microsoft decided that since it didn't own Java it would try to invent its own "MS Java". So they built components into their Windows operating system which cause lock-ups and crashes if you use a Netscape browser to view a non-MS Java applet (ie almost every applet built without using Microsoft's tools). Golly! What a surprise!

As as result - if you decide to add a Java applet to your web page right now - you can expect to say goodbye to at least 50% of your audience (and for some sites, as much as 75%).

This is because your Java-enabled web page will cause anyone using Netscape's browser (which doesn't have a true Java compiler in it) to lock up and/or fall over. And if you think people will visit you a second time after you've given them this sort of interactive "Java experience", please think again.

Java applets have steadily disappeared from all the Net's biggest sites ever since this problem began in 1997. The browser lock-up problem is the principal reason why - which is a great pity, considering Java's potential.

But is the situation hopeless? Possibly not. From IE 5.x onwards, Microsoft promised to adhere to common Web standards with its browser. And the new Netscape Communicator 5.x (which will debut in 2000) may finally overcome the "Java bomb" currently built into every PC.

If this happens, then Java applets may become safe to use on your web site again and Java applet developers (who've suffered right along with the rest of us) may start to make money again too. But given how long it takes people to upgrade their browsers, you can't really expect this to occur before mid-2001.


How Do Applets Work?

Java applets are small, self-contained programs that are added to web pages in a similar fashion to images using the <APPLET> tag.

Most applets also accept parameters. These are settings that allow you to control such things as height, width, colour and so forth.

You don't need to be a programmer or a technical guru to use them. But they do impact on page download speeds.

So if you use them at all (and our recommendation at the moment is that you don't), you need to bear this in mind.

One applet per page (or even site) is usually enough.

Riada are a small software company in Sydney, Australia who began operating in October 1996 when founder Dan Adair decided to reverse his surname and start a business producing drop-dead simple Java solutions for web authors. Riada now make several superb out-of-the-box Java applet tools you can use to add exciting hoopla to your pages without needing anything more than a cursory understanding of the language. And you can be productive with each one in anywhere between 15 and 30 minutes! All products are only available for The Win95/98/NT platform (sorry, Windows 3.x and Mac users!) and are distributed as fully functional 30-day trialware.

OpenCube are commercial Java applet developers who produce a large range of industry-standard applets and make many of them available on their site as either freeware or trialware. We liked OpenCube's applets so much we bought a bundle ourselves - but once the "Java bomb" problem emerged, we had to consign them to our hard drive (which is where they've stayed ever since late 1997). If you're operating a personal home page or other non-commercial site where audience reach isn't important and/or you know the majority of your viewers will use Internet Explorer (eg: a corporate intranet) - or if you'd simply like to experiment with Java applets - these are a delight to work with! Many of OpenCube's applets are quite unique and worth seeing in their own right.

WebGenie are another Australian software company who've been quietly replicating HotDog's success with several applet products that handle common CGI and JavaScript functions. All of WebGenie's products are distributed as 30-day demos and you can even test and mount the CGI forms on WebGenie's own server if you don't have access to your own CGI-bin (which is a thoughtful touch!). Once again, the products are only available for Windows95/98/NT and fully-registered versions range from $US19 or $29 (the most common) to $US99 for CGI*Star Pro. This company wrote $2 million in sales over the Internet in its first 12 months of operations. We're not at all surprised!

Search for more Java tools and applets in our Resources directory!

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