Ajax and Flash: Perfect Enemies

The web is going nuts over Jesse Jame’s Garrett’s latest essay on Ajax web apps, and I blogged it myself, if a bit tangentially …

But I was thinking tonight as I was revisiting the concept and turning it around in my head: how would I feel about this if I was Macromedia? Not too happy!

In fact, at http://www.macromedia.com right now, the ad at top of of the page says: “Great digital experiences unleashed.”

If that’s the case, why didn’t Google use Flash for Google Maps? or GMail? or Google suggest? Why isn’t Flickr built in Flash?

The answer, I think, is fairly simple: Flash is fat, and Ajax is slim.

Flash has deep roots in the world of images. Its bad name – a heritage that still lingers, to a degree – is almost entirely due to its overuse of images, dancing bears, and other glitzy gew-gaws that are good demo-ware but bad anything-else-ware. And even today, for the simplest of things, Flash apps are going to set you back something a minimum of tens of kilobytes – and that’s a bare minimum.

Whereas Google suggest which does things that absolutely blow your mind like provide sensible real-time suggestions and results as you type in search terms, is, wait for it, all of 4 kilobytes.

Ajax needs speed like Mario Andretti needs speed. Providing desktop-type performance over a thin wire a thousand miles long is capital H hard … and to do it, you need to be skinny. Really skinny.

The question is, is it skinnier than Flash can ever be? I think it is, and I think Macromedia better watch out.

Right now Ajax is hard. It’s a combination of a 4 or 5 leading-edge technologies that few web developers fully understand. You’ve got to use them and put them together just right to make everything work.

But just wait. Very shortly, some smart start-up, and probably more than one, will start providing pre-built Ajax engines: everything you need to get Ajax web apps up and running in less time than it takes to install Microsoft Word.

And there’ll be a nice user-friendly GUI tool in which to build and publish your app. Connect the dots, add your content, link in to your data sources and voila: Ajax for dummies.

At that point, Flash will once more be relegated to the image-intentive ghetto Macromedia is trying so hard to escape.

Flickr does use Flash, but only (I believe) for image editing purposes – where you would have to say it makes sense. Tagging, etc. are Ajax functionalities.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

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  • I think that ajax has a bright future. Flash is an expensive and closed enviroment. I mean if Macromedia discontinued the development of flash you would be stuck at that version. Also I have looked at flash but i find it a nightmare to use. I like the fact that i made the effort to hand type html and css. Now i find dreamweaver a bit of a myth. Anything that dreamweaver can throw out, i can hand code with no tables in about the same time, it would take me on dreamweaver. And then using bbedit i can start to develop my php codes and then finally come back and drop in javascript fx’s. Cost of my rig (bbedit and photoshop elements) = $200. Flash $700 dreamweaver $700. I would advise to anyone save yourself the money get a couple of books on html and css etc and in 6 months you will be hand coding. If money is no object then i would still hand code as i find swicthing to code view in dream weaver a complete mess. Ajax is easy as well. In flash you need to learn action script. So i would say ajax apps are no harder to develop.

    However i will say that fireworks is an amazing program. Soooo much better then photo shop for the casual web designer.