Macromedia reinvents the Web

by Simon St. Laurent

Related link: http://download.macromedia.com/pub/flash/whitepapers/richclient.pdf



Macromedia's Flash MX seems to be an effort to take over the Web with Flash, and discard the useless bits that Macromedia doesn't happen to control.



Remember the scene in Aliens where the baby alien emerges from the guy's stomach? Flash has been tunneling deeply in the innards of browsers and web site development, and its latest iteration (Flash MX) looks like a full-blown attempt to emerge and kill its host in the process.



Macromedia's lack of interest in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and its waffling, opposition, and sometimes departure on Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) always suggested that the company was more interested in technology it controlled rather than any notion of a shared Web. Flash MX cements that perception.



To take just a few choice bits from a whitepaper dripping in corporate hubris:



"The ability to deliver true value to users is forcing many companies to look towards richer models for Internet applications; models that combine the media-rich power of the traditional desktop with the deployment and content-rich nature of web applications. Companies are also anticipating a growth in the use of web
services, or reusable software components that are used as services over the network, and looking towards a world where applications will need to share functionality and data across many types of client devices. These trends are
driving the industry towards next-generation rich clients.
"


Perhaps that's news to Macromedia customers, but surely Macromedia itself has noticed the immense amount of effort put into specifications to do just that at the W3C and their implementations in Mozilla, Adobe, various Open Source, and even Microsoft projects.



"Efficient rendering through vector graphics. The core graphics-rendering engine in Macromedia Flash, whether for full images, animations, or simple user interface controls, is a vector graphics-rendering engine. Unlike bitmapped interfaces that must send data for each pixel in a screen, vector-based interfaces need only send the mathematical description of the interface. The result is much smaller files and faster transmission. Another benefit is that vector graphics scale much more easily to a variety of different form-factors, whether smaller monitors with constrained screen space on a desktop, or new device formats that we have yet to consider, such as tablet PCs or PDAs."


Right, right. That's why Macromedia appears to be ignoring Scalable Vector Graphics across its entire line of products, and doesn't so much as mention this competitor in the whitepaper.



"Unlike HTML, which relies on obscure formatting techniques such as GIF pixel positioning, frames, and table layout to emulate screen regions, or on style sheets that are plagued with cross-browser challenges, Macromedia Flash provides broad and
fine-grained control over text formatting.
"


Of course! Since multiple vendors can't seem to get CSS right, we must all march into the house of Macromedia, a company which has never really bothered to integrate such technology with the lovely Flash tools they offer.



And gee, it's so nice that Macromedia locks XML into the back room for program-to-program communications, data binding, and Web Services. They get to include XML as a check-box on their marketing information while completely ignoring the serious difference in philosophy between the mash that is SWF and open markup approaches and their separation between content and code.



For those already locked in the Macromedia box, I'm sure this looks appealing. I hope that the rest of us can stay away from the pure joy of vendor-owned solutions and put the effort needed into keeping the Web - the open Web with a big "W" - diverse and growing.



(And if you'd like an HTML-based introduction to Flash, Macromedia does offer one, though it seems to run in Flash if it can.)



Isn't Flash MX exciting?


41 Comments

nailbomb
2002-03-12 05:15:15
Don't blame Macromedia!
It's only gone so far because everybody else sucks.
theideaman
2002-03-12 07:25:52
Agreed...
Macromedia has been dragging its feet in their product releases. Initially I wondered why. I've been waiting patiently for Dreamweaver 5 and some (hope against hope) XML/XSLT support. But now it seems we're beginning to see a little of what they've been up to all this time.


I just hope their vision for Dreamweaver are a little less proprietary.


Just some thoughts.

cnordvik
2002-03-12 12:11:30
And SVG is SO much better??
SVG V1.0 is supposed to save the world? I think not. Just a "simple" thing like live data is a major concern. Believe me, I know. I tried using XML-RPC(simpler version of SOAP) and found out that the JavaScript implementation relied on XML support in Internet Explorer(using an ActiveX control). A lot of the SVG solutions made today are only working with IE6.0 and Adobe SVG Plugin 3.0. Portable? I think not. SVG may be big, but not if Adobe keeps on implementing their own functions outside the spec(like postURL) and we have to rely on Internet Explorer for data communication. Flash rocks, and the world knows it.
jdowdell
2002-03-12 12:32:55
So, what would you like?
Simon, if there's something specific you'd like to see Macromedia do, then it's easy to make a clear request and show why it would be valuable to you. That's more productive than going on about how you don't like other things!


If you're wanting the Macromedia Flash Player to also render any and all SVG-formatted documents, then that's pretty much a non-starter for two reasons: (a) it would make the Macromedia Flash Player as large as other SVG plugins and kill its distribution; and (b) it would give you the "browser war" problem all over again, by introducing competing proprietary rendering engines for that file format specification!


If you instead wish Macromedia tools to import, or export, SVG directly, then drop a note to the appropriate product team to log that request, and explain why any of the existing file-converters wouldn't suit your needs:
http://www.macromedia.com/support/email/wishform/


(Frankly, the only "SVG" requests I recall seeing were generic and high-level, where SVG fans wanted us to endorse the file format. We're really looking for what would actually make a difference to real people, so thanks in advance for any specific feedback.)


John Dowdell
Macromedia Support

adam@graphlab.com
2002-03-12 13:32:14
SVG2SWF
Information wants to be free... but don't expect it to be served on a silver platter ;^)


http://www.eskimo.com/%7Erobla/svg2swf/

darobin
2002-03-13 08:45:43
And SVG is SO much better??
I'm not exactly sure what enters your definition of "live data" but you are terribly misinformed. The EcmaScript implementation in ASV (Adobe SVG Viewer) does not rely on Internet Explorer for anything, it ships with its own interpreter (adapted from the Mozilla interpreter -- a high quality implementation).


Nothing in SVG -- no more that in ASV -- require IE6.0. That's just FUD. Hey, it works on Linux... and oh, in case you haven't noticed Batik now supports scripting and animation, and is implemented in Java.


SVG is portable, full stop. As someone that has had to implement large Flash site (1500 animations, in three languages) I can tell you that Flash doesn't rock for anything of any respectable size. It simply doesn't scale, and the tools one can use to generate it are quite simply awful. Publishing SVG is trivial: you can use any solution you're used to when publishing HTML. Some XML and a touch of XSLT, and you're done.


The web would be a better place without Flash. Especially for the people that have to create the content.

simonstl
2002-03-13 12:34:44
what I'd like is
for Macromedia to take XML seriously across their set of tools. That means supporting SVG and dropping their proprietary attempts to suck the Web into Flash. It means building tools that work with the Web as we know it - markup - rather than building more and more proprietary binary parts that only speak Macromedia.


Competing renderers for SVG already exist. One from Macromedia would be welcome, if Macromedia feels capable of providing such support when it may not reinforce its proprietary dreams.


If that's too "vague" for you, I'm sorry for Macromedia. Having the courage to be visionary doesn't take much courage when the vision is proprietary.


I'd settle for SVG support in Freehand, at this point. Seems easy enough, and it might make Macromedia look less demonic while not chipping away substantially at Macromedia's dreams for Flash MX. If that's too hard for Macromedia, then I'll be pretty well convinced that Macromedia is just plain afraid of SVG.

alsparber
2002-03-13 17:33:28
Macromedia Reinvents the Web?
Simon,


Maybe O'Reilly should be a shared resource, too? Last time I looked, they were a pretty solvent company :-)


Al Sparber
Author- Dreamweaver Magic


ps: I really have little use for Flash and less for SVG.

jdowdell
2002-03-13 20:42:06
what I'd like is
"I'd settle for SVG support in Freehand, at this point."


Thanks, that's a start. There's a couple of things that "SVG support" could be understood to mean, in a rough guess of plausible ascending cost:


-- import of SVG illustrations


-- export of SVG illustrations


-- export of SVG animations


-- export of SVG interactivity


-- export as various SVG variants (Tiny, Basic, ASV-specific, Croczilla-specific, etc)


-- conversion to SVG as native file format for the application


-- use of some SVG renderer as native renderer to visualize external SVG documents


-- shift FreeHand's focus from print to SVG


There could definitely be other things intended by "SVG support" too. What we've been wrestling with is which pieces of work would actually matter to paying FreeHand customers. After that can come a costs/benefits analysis.


Keeping in mind that saying "do it all and then some" would be more expensive than any individual engineering change, could you drop a note to the FreeHand team directly, telling them which feature(s) is most desired, and giving them an idea how much it's worth to you? That could help us in figuring if we can make money with such an investment, thanks. Here's the place: http://www.macromedia.com/support/email/wishform/


(Note that a change-request won't automatically get implemented, but these *are* useful as one means of judging breadth and width of desire for investment in a particular area.)


--


For the first paragraph, "take XML seriously" describes a perception of someone else's feeling (and a corporation's "feeling" at that!), so it's hard to translate this into an engineering change-request.


It sounds like you're then asking us to stop selling Flash, in order to help SVG along, which I *would* have trouble taking seriously...? ;-)


Regards,
John Dowdell
Macromedia Support

simonstl
2002-03-14 07:39:35
Freehand... and Macromedia
Import and Export of static SVG images would be a huge step forward from the complete non-recognition Freehand offers SVG today. The rest would be nice, but I guess Macromedia would have to consider whether or not it feels like competing with Adobe Illustrator on that front.


Taking XML seriously would, if I owned Macromedia, mean shifting from binary mashes like SWF to open markup like SVG, XHTML, and SMIL. Somehow I don't think Macromedia has the courage to shift from proprietary to open models. Dreamweaver's dipping into HTML is about as far as I've really seen them go.


If Macromedia really sees itself as a tools vendor, then I don't think the openness of the format used should kill sales. Unfortunately, I suspect Macromedia wants to own more than just software.

suraniz
2002-03-14 09:45:08
Free O'Reilly books?
Since I couldn't find a disclaimer which stated your views do not represent those of O'Reilly and since you are an employee of them I have to assume your views do represent those of the company.


In that light I will also assume that based on this attitude, O'Reilly will not be publishing a definitive guide to Flash MX or offer any other services related to Flash MX. We wouldn't want to compromise O'Reilly's integrity by making money off of such an evil enterprise.


In your rantings you forgot to consider the free market. If Macromedia has created a product that reinvents the web is not relevant unless the market decides to use it. People will have to decide that they want to use it, people will also have to decide that they want to view sites made in Flash MX. And there are a million mitigating factors for people to consider when making that decision.


Me thinks you worry over naught.

suraniz
2002-03-14 09:50:04
Macromedia Ad
Um, by the way, your running an ad for Macromedia on this page. Is this what they mean by irony?
ryanjcooper
2002-03-14 10:13:21
Come down from there....
I think what the author really wants here is to own the web himself. While the rest of the world recognizes that proprietary software like Dreamweaver and Flash have allowed web development companies to offer better products for less cost, exponentially accelerating the acceptance of the web in the public arena, Simon want's to keep web programming locked in the ivory tower.


Hopefully, we all understand the benefits of open-source... but we must also consider free market will. If 98% of the web can view flash content, why would MM want to spend precious development dollars to alter the product to appeal to a small audience of people who have actually downloaded the enormous SVG viewer? Open mark-up is a fantastic ideal, but in the real world, complex programmatical tasks take weeks to develop and months to de-bug, and can often be done more effectively and cost-efficiently by a simple function of a proprietary software like Flash. By sticking strictly to SMIL, XML, and open standards, MM would limit their potential and alienate their core users- common developers, graphic artists, and small business owners like myself, not cave-dwelling anti-corporate linux hacks who can only think about the good ol' day's when they were alone on the web. If you want to be a part of the future of the web, I've got a stock tip for you: MACR

simonstl
2002-03-14 10:40:06
own the web myself?
That's hysterically funny. I don't quite grasp how you conclude encouraging support for shared standards leads to me wanting to own the Web myself.


As for the stock tip, no thanks. I don't think you have much of an understanding of markup or its potential.

simonstl
2002-03-14 11:47:46
O'Reilly etc.
I don't think O'Reilly has ever presented itself as a united front - that's one of the ways it really distinguishes itself from other companies. My views don't represent the entire company, and I don't think any one person's views could possible represent the entire spectrum of opinion within O'Reilly.


If you read through the collected set of weblogs, you're not going to find tightly enforced coherence to a single set of company-determined opinions. I'm not sure anyone would bother reading these if that was all it was, of course.


If I shared your utter faith in the free market, I'm not sure there'd be any point in writing anything at all. I'm not exactly sure why you're writing if you think the free market will magically mitigate all of these issues whether or not we write about them, but I hope you're having fun at least.

jeb1
2002-03-14 12:28:34
Come down from there....
You might want to review MM's stock history before rushing into that good night: http://www.wsrn.com/apps/links/?s=macr&client_id=WSRN&f=RESEARCH


Good luck on your investment portfolio.

jdowdell
2002-03-14 13:11:02
Freehand... and Macromedia
"Import and Export of static SVG images would be a huge step forward [for FreeHand]" Good, could you drop a note to the FreeHand team, then? Good context would be what type of files you need to i/o (total SVG spec, partial, damaged files, etc), why existing converters like SVGFactory do not suffice for you, and any buying history you have with FreeHand, thanks.
http://www.macromedia.com/support/email/wishform/


--


Now, let's go back to Jeremy's whitepaper:
http://download.macromedia.com/pub/flash/whitepapers/richclient.pdf


I really think you should re-read this! At issue is much more than just vector illustrations in a browser... SVG covers only a fraction of what we're trying to enable with MX. Here is the summary of our action items:


o Provide an efficient, high-performance runtime for executing code, content and communications.


o Integrate content, communications, and application interfaces into a common environment.


o Provide powerful and extensible object models for interactivity.


o Enable rapid application development through components and re-use.


o Enable the use of web and data services provided by application servers.


o Embrace connected and disconnected clients.


o Enable easy deployment on multiple platforms and devices.


*These* are the problems we're working to solve. Vector graphics for the web was a preliminary problem, but this was solved back in the 90s and is only a small part of the total implementation today.


I know you care about this stuff, so I'm asking you to go back, read Jeremy's paper again, and consider what we're really attmpting to help with here. Thanks!


Regards,
John Dowdell
Macromedia Support

simonstl
2002-03-14 13:33:39
and perhaps
you should reread my original message.


I'm objecting precisely to Macromedia's efforts to solve all of those problems _with Flash MX_.


Do you get that I'm not fond of proprietary binary formats yet?


If all I wanted was SVG, I don't think I'd have titled the piece "Macromedia reinvents the Web". If you'd prefer, I can always go back and retitle it "Macromedia reinvents the Web in its own image for maximum customer lock-in."


You can call it "help" if you really need to, but I disagree.


(And yes, I did submit a request for SVG import/export in Freehand this morning. I'll take small victories happily.)

mdwong
2002-03-15 08:24:04
No SVG development tools
I agree that Macromedia has been lax in supporting accessibility, but that's no reason to abandon Flash MX. SVG is not an alternative right now because there are no development tools for creating content that is comparable to Flash.


Even Adobe, SVG's biggest supporter has yet to provide a development tool for creating SVG based content. Instead, Adobe has jumped on the SWF bandwagon with Livemotion.

hubertspall
2002-03-15 16:11:42
Markup - what the web is really all about...
Just a few comments:
"Macromedia's lack of interest in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and its waffling, opposition, and sometimes departure on Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) always suggested that the company was more interested in technology it controlled rather than any notion of a shared Web."


Why then have successive releases increase support for non-proprietary formats? And isn't that just a representation of how most software companies have moved in the past few years? As a result of responding to what their customers want. The fact is that markup is a very bloated data structure for some purposes. It will only work the way you want it to when everyone has broadband: who do you want to own the web, software developers or infrastructure monopolies?


"Since multiple vendors can't seem to get CSS right, we must all march into the house of Macromedia, a company which has never really bothered to integrate such technology with the lovely Flash tools they offer."


Oh, great, yet another non-standard implementation of a so-called "standard" - it's fine in theory, but in practice, you'd have to admit it is a developers nightmare which has helped to ensure microsoft's monopoly of the web browser market.


By the way, flash coding is done in ecma262, in case you weren't aware of this particular standard:


"Macromedia locks XML into the back room for program-to-program communications, data binding, and Web Services. They get to include XML as a check-box on their marketing information while completely ignoring the serious difference in philosophy between the mash that is SWF and open markup approaches and their separation between content and code."


What? Flash enables you to write (using ecma script) code which can receive and send xml data - isn't that separation between content and code??


In terms of vector graphics format (true, flash does not use open markup for that), unfortunately, markup is just too bloated a format to do this in the real world - see SVG for details. But on the other hand, it would be perfectly possible (and I am sure it will happen quite quickly) to create a runtime svg import using the xml object in flash, and the new vector drawing api. Note this: writing the code in ecma, exchanging data using xml.


"For those already locked in the Macromedia box, I'm sure this looks appealing."


Sure does!


Hubert

bons
2002-03-17 13:43:03
When did O'Reilly become negitive and unrealistic?
The O'Reilly I recall was usually positive and upbeat. Even at the worst of times, during the amazon patent issue, the O'Reilly network sought a realistic solution and looked at the situation clearly.


Apparently those days are gone now.


"That's why Macromedia appears to be ignoring Scalable Vector Graphics across its entire line of products, and doesn't so much as mention this competitor in the whitepaper."


Since when as any company portrayed their competition as an acceptable alternative in any of their publications? To expect Macromedia to be the exception is unrealistic. The very fact that Simon St. Laurent makes these comments indicates to me that his understanding of business practices is completely non-existant.


From "dripping in corporate hubris" to the aliens bit in the second paragraph to the "the mash that is SWF" it's become apparent that O'Reilly has moved from being a source of information to being a source of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.


When O'Reilly returns to being an informative source of information that advances the technology behind the web, let me know. Until then I will miss the days when they presented the good and the bad in an unbiased upbeat manner.

ronin212
2002-03-17 20:45:32
St. Laurent needs to read up on a Free Market Society
"Macromedia's lack of interest in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and its waffling, opposition, and sometimes departure on Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) always suggested that the company was more interested in technology it controlled rather than any notion of a shared Web."


I'm guessing you really WERE born yesterday, or you lost a bet at work and had to be the big dummy for the day. Either way, I'm hoping this is the case for the unrealistic, and shameful"editorial" written by St Larent. This IS still the US of A right? You know, capitalism and such..


I stumbled across Mr. Laurent's obvious lack of education and tact while researching Macromedia's new software. I'm sure they've gotten wind of this site's willingness to use free speech, but it's unwillingness to support a free market.


From the earlier posts I see that I'm not alone in saying that you've lost a prospective loyal member. Before this evening I was not a member of your site. I just joined to reply to Lauren's piece. Good evening. I won't be back.

hubertspall
2002-03-18 06:13:39
P2P makes MX the peoples friend
I think you may all have the motivation behind MX wrong: sure, Macromedia wants to make money, but it is an enabling technology, not a restrictive one. Many of the things Simon objects to are just the legacy of flash starting its life as an animation tool for designers, rather than a web developers tool. If you want something to fear, have a look at this:
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/issue_novdec_2001/lessig.html


Hubert

nickmain
2002-03-18 09:15:18
XML and Open SWF
A couple of points:


MM does take XML very seriously - the Flash player includes an XML parser and object model - and XML is the preferred way of talking to a server.


SWF is fairly open - I have written a well used open source Java wrapper for it (JavaSWF) which includes SWF to/from XML translation. This has been used on the server-side with XSLT to consume and create Flash movies.


There are also plenty of other open source SWF packages in various languages.
Check http://www.openswf.org

JohnE
2002-03-19 03:50:52
Good article
Simon,


Thanks for another enlightening, well-written article. Where is WSP now that we still need them??


I personally despise both Flash and Shockwave and have set up my browser to filter out such distractions.


Thanks again for a great article!

bry
2002-03-20 03:46:59
vml
how much would you like to bet that if w3 had accepted vml there'd be full support in flash mx?
bmoser
2002-03-20 14:17:01
what I'd like is
I truly have a hard time taking these comments seriously. First of all SVG is far from a Standardized format, coverting to a non-standard format is no different than using a proprietary format; any numbers other than 0 and 1 are not rational!

"take XML seriously" hmmm let us think about this....XML is a flat tag based file. No, hopefully Macromedia does not take XML seriously and leaves it implemented just as it is: a text file that needs parsed; for that is what it is!
Let us take database connectivity seriously! Macromedia needing to take XML seriously, is like saying that the JPG format must now include a XML socket. Only because Macromedia has provided you with a product that allows you to combine socket based communication and animated vector graphics do you even have anything to complain about.


"building tools that work with the Web as we know it - markup" Yeah and while you are at it, why not COBOL to parse your text based flat file world. How incredibly short sighted and ungrasping of computer science in general are you? You are actually publicly promoting tagged based languages. Pick up one of the books you publish.....

bmoser
2002-03-20 14:27:41
And SVG is SO much better??
I disagree with it doesn't scale.
Data structures do not scale.
Memory based applications do not scale.
Some peoples Flash apps do not scale.
Flash is as scalable as you the implementor makes it....
jdowdell
2002-03-21 11:23:00
vml
"...if w3 had accepted vml..."


Well, they sorta did... Vector Markup Language, along with Adobe's Precision Graphics Markup Language, were two of the main submissions to the W3C's SVG Working Group when it was first drawing up the new file format. (Rephrased, the W3C accepted VML as a submission, even though they didn't rubber-stamp it as their final document.)


--


"... there'd be full support in flash mx?"


Any particular type of "support" you'd be seeking here? Some Microsoft apps include a VML renderer, and I'm not sure of its size. Or would you be looking more at the authoring tool, whether for import, export, something else...?


--


Theme: The Macromedia Flash Player earned its initial reputation for efficient vector graphics in browsers, but it has come a long, long way since then, too. The new version tries to help with rich web applications which overtax existing HTML/JS abilities.


Regards,
John Dowdell
Macromedia Support

sand_man
2002-03-22 02:43:06
That's just the way it is
I believe that in a world were money is what matters, as longs as we have huge companies striving to own markets we'll have this kind of problems. I refer to the fact that it is still difficult to find webpages that will work correctly in different platforms. So much and too much to choose from and there isnt anything, except perhaps Java, that will work fine everywhere. Maybe we should all stick to good old HTML with the most simple tags and stay in the age of stone, but I believe that's not what we want. I like flash, I like the freedom it gives you to make whatever you want, making small files that run almost everywhere. It's true you have to download a plugin, but hey, even a 56k connection takes very little to download, no need to restart your machine or anything, so, I dont see why it could bother anyone. It's true what you say about Macromedia, but isnt that what everyone else does? I just think that's the way it is and complaining wont make such a difference when the results show that lots of people prefer Flash over other ways of web design. In any case, this is just an opinion.
timbearcub
2002-03-27 14:22:56
Web free of single vendors? LOL!
I really love this extremely idealistic concept of a Web with no single vendor companies and how we should strive against that...I put it down to the age of the writer (ooh I feel old now!) who might not seen that age come and go as I have...sadly.


Face it - large parts of the web ARE single-vendor owned, from Microsloth to Sun's Java, Broadvision to Vignette, PDF and Flash...with degrees of openness (or lack of it)


I think it's unfair to blame Macromedia for that; especially as they have done a lot more than Microsoft in this field in creating reliable cross-browser tools like Dreamweaver and set the standard for MMedia with Director...since Lord Jakob's article about Flash it has been fashionable to knock Flash sadly.


It's a cool tool, and a lot of the people picking it up are a new breed, code kiddies and new media designers who haven't learned HTML really - a lot of hacker (old and new term) types. This is what upsets some people - mainly old-school tech types.


And they will make mistakes, and do - but it's cool and exciting which is rare in the deathly dull world of HTMl, CSS, XML adn SQL...I love Flash MX, it's a sod sometimes, and annoying how different it is to Director :-( but it's a good standard...


So criticising Flash programmers for not having a back button or usability or open standards is a bit rich when many development gurus don't seem to know what a 'Boolean AND' is on their search engines!


And by the way it's not alone - you can't bookmark the pages from a million dollar CMS like Broadvision! So where are the kill Broadvision '99% bad' sites then?

bepstein
2002-04-03 08:27:27
O'Reilly will publish MX books
I'm a freelance editor for O'Reilly and their primary editor in the Macromedia space. I can assure you that Simon and I differ greatly in our assessment of Macromedia's products. Simon's passions for SVG and open standards notwithstanding, O'Reilly will continue to watch the MX space carefully.


For example, we will definitely be updating the well-known "ActionScript: The Definitive Guide" to address the changes from Flash 5 to Flash MX. Note that the exact release of the update has not been announced, but rest assured that O'Reilly is committed to this space.


We'll also have some other books on MX-related products coming out this calendar year, but I'm not at liberty to divulge details.


For what it is worth, I'm the editor and co-author of "Dreamweaver in a Nutshell" and the editor of "ActionScript: The Definitive Guide." I also wrote "Lingo in a Nutshell" and "Director in a Nutshell." I'm was not involved with the "Programming ColdFusion" book, so I can't speak to that directly.

cortlandt
2002-04-03 09:31:54
The role for Flash
I'm a bit confused by this article, Simon. I have a few of your books, which I've enjoyed, including "Inside XML DTD's", where a number of specific browsers and editors are used and discussed without such negative feelings.


What is the distinction between Flash and WebEq, in your eyes? I would like to describe how I relate them because I think you might be able to see some value in Flash if you look at it from my perspective.


A better way to look at flash is just another browser, one that you can nest in the larger ones and use to distribute xml content to folk with ie3 and netscape4 as well as the modern browsers. As long as the author cares about xml, flash will be an enabler, not a disabler.


Last year I was involved in creating a web based test engine. We evaluated in detail all the issues between Java, Flash and Browser only methods of allowing students to enter math formulas as data. Because of specific requirements such as requiring audio for instructions and specific problems such as Javascript on the mac not talking to applets or other plug-ins and the lack of a Java2 runtime on the macs, Flash was the only tool capable of doing the job. By doing it all in Flash it became quite possible and it eliminated the browser and platform compatability issues.


Unfortunately as for SVG and SMIL
A standard isn't a standard unless it's ... well, standard! Say I was to build this program today as a developer, what would you suggest I do?


The SVG plug-in for example wouldn't have been able to handle it because it doesn't have built in audio which would require an external audio engine and trigger the limitation with Javascript on old macs.


Now the nice thing is that we could create a palette of math ml symbols, allow students to edit their own content using just the symbols that they needed and not load any others, but the result can be sent to the server as standard math ml for use by the graders or teachers for editing, integration and posterity.


You know I submitted a proposal to the XMLOne conference this past summer on this. You remember the theme "XML, what really works?" I was going to create a small SVG editor in Flash similar to the Batik one, except that you could use it On macs and it wouldn't require a series of multi-megabyte download and instalation requirements.


It would be "What really works", but it wasn't accepted. No flash oriented proposals were, were they? And yet I have yet to see an xml based technology demonstration that wasn't running in ie 5 or 6.


Essentially when it comes to xml, many engineers have coped out and decided that client side state and parsing (and the accompanying responsiveness benefits) aren't important or that it's ok to lock out users like schools with old macs.


So to ask a specific question, what would you suggest that I do as a developer to allow a jr high student to edit mathml content in a browser without having to download, purchase and install software to do it? It needs to be integrated with an audio tutorial and interactive simulations.


If after almost ten years of web popularity, this capability still doesn't exist without Flash, how can you blame Macromedia for finally giving us something that allows it to work? All the data can be saved as XML easy as pie for storage on the server and folk with slow modems can access it reasonably.


I know you would like them to have the flash player implement SVG and SMIL also, but that's simply unreasonable given the size and complexity of the features which has been plainly apparent since their begining.


The real question is why don't the standards bodies learn to write component based standards that would allow incremental delivery based on what is needed. If SVG version 1 had been implementable with small plug-ins and could specify additional components to be loaded as developed and needed, you would have a lot of activity and I'm sure that flash would have implemented version1.


We might still have competing implementations to deal with, but an incremental approach would allow for synchronization points, dtd validation at those points, and allow small developers to contribute. Instead the standards creators demonstrate the lack of discipline of folk who don't have to implement it and they have nobody to blame but themselves if the standards are overshadowed by those who do have the discipline required to balance the many trade offs necessary.


I hope you read this response as I share your values, though I see Macromedia's work as having been a great help in enabling "What really works", but more importantly I hope that more standards representatives read it and find a way of implementing smaller, more implementable standards. The developers out there are willing to do the work, but they HAVE TO BE MORE COMPONENTIZED. Then the standards have a chance to live up to the lofty goals.

timoreilly
2002-04-03 10:04:42
Personal or company views
Sorry no disclaimer. In fact, all weblogs are the personal views of their authors, not the views of the company.


That's part of what distinguishes weblogs from our more official publications.


In fact, we are pursuing a number of publishing initiatives with Macromedia, and while, like Simon, I wish that Macromedia were incorporating more open standards, I also recognize that they've made Flash at least into a de-facto standard, and one that's pretty interesting. I just met with Macromedia the other day, and I'm impressed with their vision of how to deliver a better user experience over the web.


-- Tim O'Reilly

cortlandt
2002-04-03 11:43:42
And SVG is SO much better??
SVG requires using javascript to use sound or to work with smil.


Batik won't run on an old mac running less than os X and in order to use it with the new ones or with any other system you have a number of multi-megabyte downloads which lock it out for folk with slow modems. What's the Java2 plugin now, 16MB? And what's the batik download? 5MB?


Yeah SVG is great for publishing and it would be great for interactive work too, but only if you don't care about what your user has to do to view it or if you could give them the computers that they need to run it on.


I would love to be able to use SVG, but unfortunately the standards bodies don't seem to dictate to the users any better than they do to the tool developers. It would be better for standards bodies to treat both groups with a little more respect and humility and begin designing smaller extensible specs that are more practically usable.

cortlandt
2002-04-29 06:07:17
And a role not for Flash
After speaking to some other folk, now I know where this article came from.


If you are thinking of large text databases or applications that are webs of pages, which I now understand that you are, I think it's clear Flash does not fill that niche. I think you just read the marketing speak a bit too literally. I don't think they are even trying to do so with Flash. Flash's niche is tightly integrated application interfaces that can preload conditionally and save state on the client, not webs of dynamically linked information.


As a sort of technical proof, realize that the Flash stand-alone player doesn't allow you to set HTTP headers for proxying or implement ssl or anything like that. Though a browser, Flash relies on being embedded in a browser. It isn't trying to be a replacement for one.


I just overheard some over-zealous Flash developers talking about "the death of the browser" and I understand now why you might have sounded so paranoid to me before. Such a thing sounds so silly to me that normally I wouldn't pay any attention, but since there are folk who will get over-zealous like that, I felt compelled to make sure that my earlier response to your article isn't lumped together with them.

anonymous2
2003-01-26 01:06:55
No Back Button this!!!
If you are going to comment, then get the facts straight:


Don't tell me that Flash doesn't work with the back button!


http://www.teknision.com


navigate and use the back button.


MX is changing the game


Macromedia is not to blame for the non-adoption of standards.


If you want to use SVG and SMIL, go ahead. How many people will actually be able to view it effectively?


The problem is that the standards are crap.

simonstl
2003-01-26 12:22:34
sure thing
That's a fascinating commentary, on things that I didn't actually say. I didn't mention the back button in this piece at all, so far as I can tell, so I guess I've done what you wanted. It's very nice that Flash _can_ work with the back button, though it might also be cool someday for me to be able to bookmark the "About Us" area of the Teknision company area.


Next time you decide to cut and paste random flames, you might want to to include your name. It makes for a richer conversation.

anonymous2
2003-03-07 16:55:14
No Back Button this!!!
Bookmarks are coming on Teknision.com. Got a beta working!!!! To bad it only works in IE 6 on PC. Problem is that every other browser refreshes a page when you change anything after the hash.
anonymous2
2003-06-09 22:56:48
The role for Flash
ghff
anonymous2
2003-06-09 22:59:40
The role for Flash