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Modern Web solutions resemble desktop applications, enabling sophisticated user interactions, client-side processing, asynchronous communications, and multimedia. A pure HTTP/HTML architecture fails to support these required capabilities in several respects. The "network as platform computing" idea, strengthened by Web 2.0's emergence, has accentuated HTML/HTTP's limits. This is the reason why many developers are switching to novel technologies, known under the collective name of rich Internet applications (RIAs). RIAs combine the Web's lightweight distribution architecture with desktop applications' interface interactivity and computation power, and the resulting combination improves all the elements of a Web application (data, business logic, communication, and presentation). This special issue briefly introduces the main characteristics and benefits of RIAs and highlights the research challenges in their development. The issue features two articles that address some of these open problems. One focuses on language and architecture issues, whereas the other deals with the methodological principles at the base of a model-driven approach to RIA development. Despite these efforts, the research community must continue investigating to propose novel methods and tools to make their development more systematic and efficient.