Having just read/watched a post on the Channel 9 (MSDN) website, where Dean Hachamovitch talks tech to the programmers of IE9 and what this means for Adobe.

Listening as I have today to Dean Hachamovitch talking about the new features to be included in Internet Explorer 9, I must admit to being quite stunned, he was talking about directly accessing the computers Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) which would not only vastly accelerate page rendering times and adding a whole bunch of functionality such as enabling native 3D animations, but Dean was talking as though these features were completely new – which they’re not.

Adobe’s Flash 10 has been able to provide these features for over a year now and having “Star Wars text” is probably the first thing I programmed in Actionscript 3. What is new is being able to display these graphics natively in the browser without the need to include them as a .swf (Adobe Flash file).

I was also happy to hear that the JavaScript rendering times are now being optimised to the point where the engine is almost as fast as Firefox – lol

The Future of Flash.

What does all this mean for Adobe’s Flash? I had suggested to Adobe in June of 2008 that they might want to consider developing their own browser. This is not an easy task especially when considering gaining a sizable market share, however if anyone could do it properly, Adobe could.

I suggested that the future for Adobe was to be able to integrate Flash 10 with all it’s hardware acceleration, more directly into the browser. At the moment a very noble effort has been made by Tyler Larson with his website http://motionandcolor.com which talks to Flash using the browsers Document Object Model (DOM), as a work in progress it really is quite impressive, however the difficulty here is that creating a new layout or theme for his example website really is strictly for professional programmers and not for the faint hearted ones at that.

Are Flash’s days numbered?

No not really. I do think that some members of the Flash community have abused the technology somewhat. I’ve had a number of visitors to my site who have remarked “Your site loads really quickly for a Flash site…” Flash was originally designed so that vector animations which would take up an extremely small amount of space, load almost instantly and provide smooth crisp animation – However, there are many sites out there that the first thing they do is to load up huge files packed with bitmap images and mp3’s which take ages to load, it’s all very well having a loading progress bar but I think the very concept of needing one is wrong. If there’s any loading that needs to be done it should happen silently and invisibly in the background. Delaying site interaction is never a good thing and can utterly destroy the end user experience.

If a site is written properly in ActionScript 3.0 however, there are many advantages to using Flash, slick 3D animation being just one of them. So are Mozilla and Microsoft about to blow the gaff on Adobe’s long running website framework? Actually yes I think so, but not instantly. It will take a number of years to see Flash vanish from the Internet (in my opinion) and Adobe really have their work cut out if they want to not only stay on top but stay in the game.

If I were on the board of directors at Adobe or at least heading up a development team for them I would strongly suggest they make a very bold move: Get Flash and ColdFusion seamlessly integrating in a BIG way, develop a content management system along the lines of WordPress, provide a number of easy to impliment animation tools that could easily be included in any blog. Search engine ranking is the name of the game – that means getting found. Site optimisation is another one.

Summary

The battle of the browsers is as alive as ever. With Microsoft’s and Mozilla’s new 3D technologies emerging with direct access to the GPU features that have so far only been used by Adobe’s Flash will start becoming a web standard, users will have a FAR nicer surfing experience and you will usher in a new era of the Internet.

Wish list:

Microsoft – please start think about enabling authors to develop plug-ins for IE the same way it can be done in Firefox. Development tools like the Web Developers Toolbar and Firebug have been an absolute boon to web developers.

Mozilla – please speed up your Flash rendering, you may not be the slowest browser out there but you’re still way behind the speed of Microsoft’s IE. Firefox is a great browser, you are standards compliant in every way that Microsoft aren’t (though they’re getting better).

Reference material:

http://channel9.msdn.com/posts/Charles/IE-9-Surfing-on-the-GPU-with-D2D/

You can also have a look at the IE9 development blog here:

http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/archive/2009/11/18/an-early-look-at-ie9-for-developers.aspx

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