Check out The New Web War, the first of Rob Scoble’s Fast Company columns. It’s a nice compact summary of the Apollo/Silverlight/JavaFX arena. There’s a startling sentence in the conclusion: If your competitor builds a more interactive site than yours, customers will flee to the “flashier” foe. Uh... Google? eBay? Amazon? Facebook? All plenty interactive, and pure non-proprietary native Web technology. The evidence seems clear to me: quality content and useful functions trump both flash and Flash. All these people keep saying that “Rich” Internet Applications win, and they’re right: but I do not think that word means what they think it means.


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From: Jesper (Jul 01 2007, at 10:21)

This is stupid. The thing about "rich" internet apps is that use of those kinds of technologies should almost always be called "poor" internet apps.

Use technology to be truly useful, and you're right, that's "rich". (E.g: Gmail and well-implemented progressive reloading.) If you're using technology for *any other reason*, there's a fork in the road. Flash games, stupid flash cartoons and flash to actually technically enable something that's not widely supported using any other standard - great. Flash for any other reason - not great.

Frugality for its own sake seems foolish, but conserves bandwidth and support worries. On the other end of the scale is flashiness for its own sake, which actually *is* foolish. Web pages shouldn't be animated brochures, and web apps *really* shouldn't. The Web apps that actually put Flash or related technologies to good use are those using it to display video - there are fields, endless fields, where mutually incompatible, patent-encumbered and vendor-backed video codecs are no longer born, they are grown - or support drawing - since the canvas tag is just coming into the mainstream and probably still hasn't eclipsed 10% of browser support.

And as for Silverlight and Apollo... I really believe the most interesting things about them are the technology behind them - Silverlight for its .NET dynamic language runtime, and Apollo for amongst other things beating Apple to use WebKit on Windows for rendering. Neither is going to overtake Flash, and what surprises me most about Apollo is that Adobe doesn't just roll this into the next generation of Flash.


From: rick gregory (Jul 01 2007, at 10:53)

Amazon? Google? Heck even the new darlings aren't flashy...

Facebook? Digg? Youtube? For god's sake MYSPACE... Trashy, yes, but flashy/rich?


From: Dennis Doubleday (Jul 01 2007, at 11:30)

I agree. The simplicity and uniformity of pure non-proprietary HTML/DHTML/JavaScript interfaces is a key usability ADVANTAGE for 95% of applications. And most don't even really need JavaScript, and are simpler to develop and maintain without it.


From: Robert Scoble (Jul 01 2007, at 14:24)

Google Maps was "Flashier" than Microsoft, AOL, or Yahoo's offerings and saw pretty sizeable market share increases because of that. The data offered by all of these was pretty much the same, though.

MSNBC got to be one of the biggest news sites on the Web by being "Flashier."

Hell, Maryam's new iPhone does pretty much the same thing that my Nokia does, but it certainly is "Flashier."

Flash DOES matter to normal people. That was the point I was trying to make.


From: Mark (Jul 01 2007, at 17:30)

> Google Maps was "Flashier"

And yet it still managed to work flawlessly on my box running Iceweasel on 64-bit Debian GNU/Linux. Without proprietary add-ons. From day 1.


From: Aristotle Pagaltzis (Jul 01 2007, at 17:58)

How is Google Maps flashy? When I look at the interface, what I see is starkly utilitarian. There is some technical flashiness, but there is a purpose for that.

The iPhone *is* flashy, but the main selling point is that using is supposed to be Not Painful. It’s flashy in the way it accomplishes that, but the flashiness itself is a secondary concern.

Flashiness sells if it was employed to meet a particular goal. It doesn’t sell when it’s done for its own sake. Incidentally, flashiness of this sort matters to those who are not “normal people” (what a condescending moniker) as much as to those who are.


From: Drew (Jul 01 2007, at 19:16)

Rob, all you really needed to say was "inconceivable". Also--for me at least--google maps won over msn/yahoo/mapquest by having cleaner, faster loading, pages.


From: Len Bullard (Jul 01 2007, at 19:37)

Scoble is right.

Those who say that a web site should only be forms or limited graphics miss the fun. Take an ASP.Net culture class and use it to generate personality phrases for X3D blogBots. The creation of site personalities asking and responding to mundane forms input for mundane interactions could be great fun.

It isn't bad web design. It is entertaining web design.

Jakob Nielsen and the rest of the 'web must be simple' community miss out on the fun of real-time interactive app building. Why not cross-breed tech such as the culture object and an XML 3D language for real-time bots? Ney, that's cheap and it rocks. Why not enjoy it? Different strokes for different folks as the oldsters say, and there are platform wars but one of the big points for markup was to get beyond this nonsense in the content and make whatever we frikkin' want to make.

Pick up your prize. You Tube, Facebook, yadda yadda all get the crucial point: the web can be fun.




From: Robert Sayre (Jul 01 2007, at 21:29)

"And yet it still managed to work flawlessly on my box running Iceweasel on 64-bit Debian GNU/Linux. Without proprietary add-ons. From day 1."

Some newer Google Maps features require Macromedia Flash. The streetview thing that everyone loves is an example.

I don't think that feature sucks. Maybe HTML should get a little flashier.


From: Mike Champion (Jul 01 2007, at 21:35)

The iPhone's success (or not) is going to be a very interesting data point here. It is "flashy" and extremely proprietary, more or less the antithesis of the open and standardized approach that at least initially won on the web. It doesn't do anything AFAIK that a high end phone doesn't, but does so more easily and with more pizzazz.

That's the Silverlight/Flash vs AJAX story in a nutshell -- Google can hire a bunch of Ph.D's who are smart enough to get something like Google Maps looking great most browsers without plugins, but that's a bit hard for ordinary mortals whose bosses want the department's intranet site or the internal business process applications to be as slick as what users expect from using the major web sites.

Also, the iPhone's non-free (in both senses) nature seems to be a big part of its appeal. If rich-as-in-flashy comes to be perceived as appealing to rich-as-in-money users, and the terminally hip find the need to install some plugin an appealing differentiator over non-proprietary native web technology, who knows where fashion will take us? If it becomes fashionable in the next year or two, it will probably become ubiquitous in the next decade, as some standardized version of or amalgamation of the "flashy" technologies become part of the "native" web infrastructure.

I wish and hope that we lived in a world where function will beat flash in the marketplace, but I'm not going to bet against iPhone or the flashy web technologies just because they aren't particularly utilitarian.


From: Alex Waterhouse-Hayward (Jul 01 2007, at 22:27)

Mis dos centavos (my two cents)

As a photographer I found out as soon as I started doing gallery exhibition work that it was a bad idea to invite fellow photographers to my shows. They were mostly poor and did not buy work. They were extremely critical. As soon as I started thinking of others to put into my invitation list I began to sell.

It seems that those that are commenting here seem to be all in the same line of work. The situation is not too different from the above.

After studying the web sites of my colleagues for three years I had my web page designed with nothing flashy or that moves. I did not want to make my web page look like one of those where you first have to register a credit card.

Nobody who approached me on web design ever told me that search engines had a tough time finding photographs in web pages or that it was very easy for the same search engines to find them if they were inserted or mentioned in a blog. To this day people ask me why I have a blog if I already have a web page.

For me the web is a place that quickly deadens my sense of colour and which also quickly makes me grab for my bifocals. It seems that few in web design know anything about typography and that letters and words are out there so we can read them.

For me no matter how much flash and Flash is put into a web page the result is a mishmash that begins to look all the same. Sort of like so much of web photography (and images) look like stuff that’s posted on Flickr.

As a paid subscriber of the New York Times I can not only access the on line version (like anybody else who does not have a paid subscription) but I can also get stuff that is in the archives or stuff written by the very good columnists. I am able to access them, select them, copy them and send them to my friends with comments on why I am sending them the essays.

Compare that with the very active digital Vancouver Sun, where you must be a paid subscriber. As a paid subscriber I have found that selecting articles to send to my friends in some cases is all but impossible. For me all the flash of the Vancouver Sun site fails.

In the end is all that flash to show off to other web designers or to attract reader/customers? A photograph has the limitation of being in two dimensions. Photographers have been using “rules” of composition to artificially insert that third dimension. The rules of composition make a viewer’s eyes move when the viewer looks at the photograph. If the photograph is static the photograph dies. If the emphasis of web design is going to be video then sooner or later the computer will catch up with the TV. Once that happens, you will have a small-screened TV on your desk.



From: Peter (Jul 02 2007, at 01:33)

I agree with Scoble, with the addition of "all other things being equal."

And they never really are.

Heavier download times, broken back buttons, mystery meat navigation, excessive paging due to the developer's phobia of scrolling and his love of "above the fold," less text visible on a single screen in a site where text is important, bad browser support, etc.: These are often byproducts of some of this "flashy" technology.

If you simply add more interaction and flashiness without screwing up other stuff, users will prefer it, or at least a significant segment of users will, and few people will flee it.


From: Dare Obasanjo (Jul 03 2007, at 19:11)

>Uh... Google? eBay? Amazon? Facebook? All plenty interactive, and pure non-proprietary native Web technology.

Google, Amazon and Facebook all use AJAX and Flash in different parts of their site. Given that AJAX is dependent on XMLHttpRequest/InnerHTML and other proprietary extensions originally invented by Microsoft, it seems that pretty much all your examples are actually counterexamples.


From: Tim (Jul 03 2007, at 20:06)

Dare: Haha... resistance is useless. XMLHttpRequest and InnerHTML ain't proprietary any more, the great spongy amorphous Internet absorbed 'em. A gift to the world from Bosworth, Wilson, Isaacs,et al. Seriously, all those sites work fine on a modern Linux or Solaris install; they're pretty standard. Interesting to hear that there's Flash in the picture; except as a movie container, seems to me I'm seeing less of it these days.


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