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Adobe Flex: Article

Adobe Has Inherited Web History from Macromedia...

...and will be making more web history in 2006, with Flash

One of the "inflexion points" of the development of the Web, when commentators and analysts draw breath for long enough to chronicle its history, is certain to be the day that Google, through first Gmail and then Google Maps, opened the eyes of millions to the fact that the Web can be smarter, more responsive, and interactive...above all, that it doesn't have to involve "click, wait, and refresh."

 Google happened to use AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) for those two bellwether apps. But those of us who have followed the Macromedia, now Adobe, story know of course that AJAX is very much a Johnny-come-lately to the Rich Internet Applications party.

Whereas "AJAX" is barely a year old (Jesse James Garrett having coined it Feb 18, 2005), "Rich Internet Applications" as a term was in circulation many years before. Already at the beginning of the new century, Macromedia's developer-innovators were using the term, so that by 2003 for example "Flash-enabled RIAs" was really quite a common term in developer mailing lists and Macromedia user groups.

Macromedia anticipated AJAX in every way, pioneering the RIA approach of which AJAX is merely a subset, and in 2006 its prescient approach is productized in Flash and Flex and FlexBuilder and Flash Player, products which over time Adobe is likely to help turn into the best-known suite of software on the planet.

From a personal perspective I shall never forget a session that Christophe Coenraets gave at one of the SYS-CON Events conferences I was fortunate enough to Chair, namely Web Services Edge Conference & Expo (East) 2004, in Boston. The session was called "Code-Based Rich Internet Applications with Macromedia Flex" and covered using components, layouts, and managers to build user interfaces as well as using Flex's XML-based language, MXML, to create and manipulate client-side data models. What I remember above all was that the delegates in the completely packed room were spellbound, literally spellbound, by Christophe's agile demonstration of how much could be done with the Web vs. how little anyone was (then) doing. It was as if we'd lost our collective critical judgement, his presentation seemed to imply - as users, and therefore as developers, we'd begun to accept latency that ought never to have been tolerated, and had almost been self-brainwashed into thinking of the Web as "pages" when that in many circumstance was far from the best metaphor. For many in the room, it was an epiphany, you could sense it.

So in reality the inflexion point came long before AJAX, and even longer before Gmail and Google Maps. And it came from Macromedia as much as anyone.

SYS-CON Events - a wholly owned subsidiary of SYS-CON Media which brings you MXDJ each month)has been working with Adobe behind the scenes just recently to bring you the RIA story in a major educational event so that you don't fall into the trap of failing to see the wood for the trees. After all, Flash also interacts with JavaScript on a web page, and it's a highly suitable, lightweight tool for highly responsive web apps. Google Maps could just as easily have been done in Flash several years before it was done in AJAX. Why it wasn't, who knows? Perhaps this will be one of the enigmas discussed at our upcoming Rich Internet Apps Conference in August 2006 (www.RIAConference.com).

So, will Adobe try and crush AJAX, Microsoft-style? And/or openLaszlo? Most definitely not. Under Kevin Lynch's technologically nuanced and developer-centric leadership, it seems much more likely that Adobe's Platform Business Unit will concentrate on inspiring developers to use Flash and HTML "with an AJAX approach" to build Web 2.0-style applications. Especially since it is Kevin himself who oversees Adobe's developer relations program.

As he wrote just recently, in the last issue of MXDJ - in the article based on his industry-respected blog:

"There is clearly a resurgence in how HTML can be used to deliver application user interfaces and terrific progress has been made on that. In addition, Flash brings capabilities that HTML doesn't currently have, and they can be used together to great benefit -- in fact, Flash has already been architected to fit perfectly in the Web 2.0 model.

For example, Adaptive Path has been working on a great new application called MeasureMap that helps people track traffic on their blogs and is being built with a combination of HTML and Flash on the client. Another is how Flickr is using both HTML and Flash, for example implementing the organizer and slideshow with Flash and the photo index with HTML. The language in Flash is ActionScript which is the same as JavaScript, both ECMA standard languages, and it's very simple to call between code in HTML and Flash, enabling smooth integration with a free open-source integration kit."

In the February issue of MXDJ, I'm delighted to give you a heads-up that Adobe's Christian Cantrell - the author of numerous tutorials and white papers as well as being coauthor of Flash Enabled: Flash Design & Development for Devices and of the JavaScript/Flash Integration Kit‹will be writing for us about AJAX to Flash integration, on which he's probably leading expert in the world.

The Adobe product roadmap, mark my words, will continue to keep you as developers far ahead of Microsofties and Ajaxians and all the rest. As it emerges later in the year, you'll be blown away. Meantime, enjoy this issue. And do please keep your 2006 feedback and suggestions coming, by e-mailing [email protected]. "None of us is as smart as all of us," as they say!

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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