Using Flash and Silverlight to move web standards forward

Using Flash and Silverlight to move web standards forward

Summary: Via John Carroll I saw a blog post by Paul Ellis in which he talks about the shortcomings of open standards, or more specifically, standards bodies, and how that affects the open web. In short, it's led to the innovation and widespread adoption of proprietary technologies like Flash and Silverlight.

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Via John Carroll I saw a blog post by Paul Ellis in which he talks about the shortcomings of open standards, or more specifically, standards bodies, and how that affects the open web. In short, it's led to the innovation and widespread adoption of proprietary technologies like Flash and Silverlight. If you really step back and look at it, despite all of the amazing things people are doing inside of the browser, real, ground-level innovation just isn't happing unless it comes from companies like Adobe or Microsoft.

People are definitely doing innovative things with Ajax, but they're taking the same basic set of technologies and rearranging it in different ways with varied results. All of the Ajax frameworks? Great stuff, but there's not much in the way of core technology innovation going on. Flash and Silverlight on the other hand are pushing the boundaries when it comes to video, cross-domain security, offline/desktop access, deep zoom technologies, manipulating sounds, file access, filters and effects, and more.

I'm not trying to disparage the open web. I think if the open web could move at the speed of a private company, we'd all be better off. But it can't, and really, the W3C wasn't made for innovation and people are starting to realize that. Alex Russell realizes it, and more importantly Google realizes it. And they realize that lack of innovation is actually starting to hold them back as a company that relies very heavily on the browser. That's one reason you're seeing so much going into Gears. Google needs to move the open web forward but the W3C is too slow, so they're coming up with their own solution.

In the end, I think the web is pretty robust and it's self-healing. The W3C and other open web advocates should look to technologies like Flash and Silverlight as a way to see what works on the web and what doesn't. If there's a genuine threat, then hopefully that causes people to get up and help fix a broken standards process. The open web is in a good position. It's still the best solution but now it has a bunch of companies fighting to innovate around it. The community can pull good ideas from that battle and move everyone forward.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Browser, Microsoft, Software Development

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  • The Outer Limits

    [i]The open web is in a good position. It?s still the best solution but now it has a bunch of companies fighting to innovate around it.[/i]

    s/innovate/put fences around/

    The fundamental problem with all of these remote execution schemes is that they take control of the users' systems. Once you allow a Flash process to run on your box, the only way to get control back is to start killing processes, possibly by logging out or sometimes by using the Big Red Switch. It's all or nothing.

    Thanks to that kind of "we will control the horizontal, we will control the vertical" takeover, enabling Flash in a browser rapidly ends you up with your CPU redlined and your user session stalled as all of the Flash advertisements compete with each other for control.

    Thanks very much, but I'll stick with data description. Data at least can be halted.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
  • Flash does not move web standards forward

    It just makes my CPU usage skyrocket with useless ads and animations.

    I do not know about Silverlight, because of the few sites that use it.
    markbn
  • flash really does move things forward

    I truly believe that Flash has really pushed forward in a lot of areas, just like this article says. I'm very excited about re-thinking a lot of different ways that I do things on web pages, by now considering how Flash can be leveraged, not just as a presentation medium for fancy animations, but as a true workhorse in the browser.

    For instance, in the area of secure cross-domain security, I've built and released "flXHR" (pronounced flex-er) which is a flash+javascript drop-in replacement for the native XHR object, but with cross-domain communication support using Adobe's server policy framework. Because it's so capable, and because it's fully API compliant with the native XHR, it can be dropped in as a replacement for XHR and used seamlessly with all major frameworks and existing code. Check it out at http://flxhr.flensed.com/

    I believe this is just one of many exciting new ways that these technologies can be leveraged to re-think and re-define how browser RIA works.
    shadedecho
  • RE: Using Flash and Silverlight to move web standards forward

    You're obviously right that flash has been abused a lot. But that doesn't make it an inherently bad technology. It just means more people need to re-think and innovate with it. That's the whole point of this article, is that flash (and silverlight) have so much potential to be used for good and not evil. You can stay stuck in your old mindset all you want, and rebuff flash, but then there are those of us who are trying to move forward and see what can be done in a positive way with these technologies.
    shadedecho
  • Overkill..

    ...is what Flash is and probably always will be. I don't buy into this "web needs saving" crap. Beautification != saving. The whole RIA buzz talks kills me since RIA has been possible all along. The issue is that no one really needs it. Its great for things where glitz and glamour are needed such as movie releases, entertainment, social gadgets. But for the most part in a business setting its simply overkill. And to be honest even for social gadgets its often overkill. These things are just like desktop effects like Aero and Compiz. Its nice for a while but once people realize it doesn't actually help anything they turn it off or pear it down to the things that actually do help.
    storm14k
  • Then a question:

    Why is the W3C process slow(?), so slow that companies are justified in ignoring the organization.

    Quoting:

    I think if the open web could move at the speed of a private company, we???d all be better off. But it can???t, and really, the W3C wasn???t made for innovation and people are starting to realize that.
    Anton Philidor
  • Flash is a cancer

    Something that was once good, but has mutated into a disease that consumes resources, rarely benefits the user, and takes control out of the user's purview. For my money, most Flash implementations are nothing more than trojans or malware.

    If you are an ad seller, then Flash is great, because it does what YOU want it to do, which is bombard the user without an opportunity for them to escape. For some teenage boys who are easily mesmerized by bright flashy objects or grainy porn clips, then it is the holy grail of mind-numbing web-narcotics. If you are an average person using a "personal computer", then it is a step back and a loss of personal control.

    Don't get me wrong, the technology itself is not the main issue. But the packaging and usage of it is. It should be labeled for what it is: a black-box doorway into your PC that you have little or no control over. That makes it ripe for abuse and that abuse is rampant in today's web. It will only get worse.

    Thank God for Firefox and NoScript, it is rehabilitated the web for me. And Flash-only sites? They are invisible to me, and will remain so.
    terry flores
  • Good point. A bit late.

    Considering:
    - Apple published Flash specifications a little while ago
    - Apple open sourced the ActionScript (ECMAscript compatible) engine behind Flash
    - Flash is converging with SVG + Javascript (see above and W3C discussions)
    - HTML 5 includes real audio and video capabilities

    I'd say the W3C didn't wait for you to come up with that system. However, guess what? The most used browser out there still doesn't support SVG at all, doesn't support Javascript correctly, doesn't support DOM 2, doesn't support HTML 5 video and audio... It supports Silverlight.

    So, the W3C has already defined everything necessary to NOT HAVE to use Silverlight nor Flash; Firefox, Opera and Safari already support enough of it to do nice stuff with it.

    It's just that IE doesn't have Web support - so, nobody (but hobbyists programming games in SVG+JS) uses that; they use the first widely available plugin instead, that being Flash.

    On the other hand, I have yet to find a Silverlight website (outside of Microsoft).
    Mitch 74