It is now more or less obvious that the browser wars are dead for good.
But that does not mean that the battle of the web is over. This time
the main battles are all about Rich Internet Applications.
A few weeks back Microsoft introduced Avalon and
XAML. Now it is time for
Macromedia to unveil their product, currently called Flex. Flex is
an XML UI language, much like XUL,
but contrary to XUL it requires both
a server side component and the Macromedia Flash player (which I don’t have
installed). However there is no need to update the client viewer. The server
compiles the MXML (the name of the Macromedia Flex XML format) to a normal
Flash movie that can then be used by the Flash player. This gives Flex a very
large user base since the coverage of Flash is supposed to be even larger than
the covarage of Internet Explorer. 98% for Flash according to Macromedia and
something like 90% for IE as far as I recall.
Flex, unlike XAML, is heavily based on existing technologies so one does not
have to relearn everything (MSFT decided to scrap every known standard solution
that is working today). Of course, they (Macromedia) are not short to point this
out. Some of the more interesting technologies they have listed are:
- DOM Level 3 Events.
Basically this means that they will also need to support at least
DOM Level 2 Core.
7 or Jscript.NET)
- Cascading Style Sheets. There wasn’t much info about what parts of CSS they
plan to support. Macromedia has always been a bit behind when it comes to CSS
and the code snippets in the white papers contained a few CSS errors.
for shapes and other vector drawings. This is very interesting since SVG is basically a Flash
killer technology. I wonder if they (or someone else) could output SVG 1.2 documents instead of
Flash movies at the server side?
I’ve never been much of a Macromedia fan but I must say that Flex looks
pretty promising. It is indeed going to be some very interesting years ahead.
ps. I wanted to do a few comparison comments to XUL but this post is long as it is. Maybe tomorrow.