iA


Popularizing a Standards Debate

by Aaron. Average Reading Time: about 10 minutes.

Let me take you on a small what-if scenario with Apple and Adobe — then let me tell you why I think this is important from a learning technology standards perspective.

By now, even the disconnected bush people on remote islands have no doubt heard of the forthcoming iPad.  And, if they know a Flash developer or a Farmville addict, they’ve heard the siren cry foul “IT DOESN’T SUPPORT FLASH!”  This was a hot debate when the iPhone was first released almost three years ago and while it was a sore point, it never reached the volume and (almost) backlash across discussion groups and social networks that it has now.

The Flash Format Argument

There was a pretty good comment by Sean Foushee that Chad Udell (@visualrinse) pointed out to me yesterday on Twitter which highlighted what the Flash community (not old guys like me who don’t work with Flash much anymore) needs to reckon with:

Flash is in the middle of an identity crisis. It’s no longer the only tool that can accomplish interactive tasks or even deliver rich content to users. In some ways I feel today nearly the same as I did in 2002-2003 when I began to leave Director development. It was too costly for clients to pay for multimedia content developed by Director because of all the hot shot Flash gurus with their cheaper software and internet delivery. Now Flash developers are facing free alternatives in many of the various JavaScript libraries and of course the HTML5 spec. I’m not good at predicting the future, but I honestly believe that Flash needs something to properly differentiate itself from the rest of these alternatives, because saying you rock at producing internet games isn’t a solution.

Purpose and Affordance of the iPad

I have a theory on why Flash fans, be they developers or just gamers, are so upset.  It was easier to take the hit about Flash not being on the iPhone because, well, it was a phone. The options for mobile Flash haven’t been stellar, and Flash lite doesn’t work with lots of content already, so… you’d hear the griping, but we all lived with it.  Browsing on a phone is different in general.  Speed and performance on a phone, even the iPhone, one does so with a different set of expectations over general web content.  To the iPhone’s credit, it handles this extremely well considering it is, in fact, a phone.

Notice I talked about phones… not mobile devices. Up until last week, the two were synonymous (almost).  Now there is distinction, and it has people freaking out.

We as higher order mammals are still very used to dealing with things in absolutes.  Black or White; Team Edward or Team Jacob (apparently it’s a “Twilight” thing); Bears or Packers; Red Sox or Yankees; iPhone or Computer (lumping laptops and desktops into that term) is just another distinction we’ve made to categorize what “bucket” we get our context from.

The iPad messes with our heads.  It looks like an iPhone or an iPod Touch.  But it’s bigger, like a tablet, which up until this point really meant a clunky laptop with maybe a small tucked-away keyboard and a stylus running Windows.  This is Apple, but with the exception of the ModBooks, we have no basis of comparison for what to expect out of a tablet but our most vivid, personal dreams.  What bucket does it fall into?  Is it a computer? Is the iPad a mobile device?

Clearly it’s a mobile device… and a computer.  Just like the iPhone is a mobile device and a computer.  We need to look at the word “computer” and break ourselves from the direct association with laptops with a big honking Operating System (of whatever kind you subscribe to) and go a bit broader to challenge ourselves that all manner of diverse machines are computers.  The iPad/no-Flash drama is elevated because, in my opinion, we are looking at the iPad more like a MacBook with a simplified, touch-screen GUI than a heavy duty iPod Touch that allows for productivity and creation that are limiting on devices with smaller interfaces.  Basically, the argument boils down to this: if I can run Flash content on my MacBook, why the hell can’t I run Flash on the iPad?

The Standards Argument

For whatever reasons altruistic, best intentioned or veiled as such for proprietary lock-out motives, Apple has drawn the line in the sand with WebKit that they’re supporting web standards.  Flash may be a de facto standard plug-in, but it’s still a plug-in, and not an actual standard that’s part of HTML 5.  Apple is basically saying that it supports standards as they are.  They may be flipping the bird to Adobe in the process of taking a principled stand, but that’s what they’re doing.  John Gruber had an EXCELLENT post on the history of Flash on the Mac, and why it performs kinda weak even today.  I think that’s all fuel for the fire that is simply that Flash isn’t a standard.

That’s where this gets REALLY interesting if you can connect some dots.

What if Flash were to become a standard?  Adobe could still monetize the IDE, much like Microsoft does with Word (yes, I know that there are several flaws with the example, roll with me a bit here), while the format each tool produces could be an open standard.  Adobe, given it’s position with ECMA could, in fact, make the Flash format part of HTML5 or some ISO standard that HTML5 natively supports as a standalone standard.  Basically, to me, HTML5 roll-in is the key, because WebKit supports HTML5 — it’s banking on it.  If HTML 5 supports Flash natively, and WebKit supports HTML5 fully (as it maintains it will), then Apple will have Flash support on every device it makes because Safari is built on WebKit.  This is the magic door Apple is pushing.  They may be laying it down as a challenge that they know Adobe won’t take, but there’s a reason why Adobe should (and might be) pursuing this avenue: getting it into the standards forces everyone to support it, including Google.

Expand the Flash Metaphor to Learning Technology

The debate around Flash on the iPad, from a standards perspective, where it is a popular (very popular) proprietary technology that has near ubiquitous adoption… well, that debate is similar to a longstanding debate in the learning standards community about open standards.  Pardon me if I grab another third rail (as if the flaming about Flash and Apple won’t incur enough wrath), but what about IMS-Common Cartridge?  Here, on a much smaller scale but very impactful, you have a de facto standard for many institutions, but it’s proprietary.  You can’t openly participate in the standards process that revisions IMS.  I’m not ranking on IMS here, I’m just explaining how it works.  It’s not “just like Flash” but clearly you’re not marching into Adobe’s offices in (lovely) San Jose or email Mike Chambers about whatever change to the Flash plug-in you’re passionate about and want to work on (note: it’s not like we’re buddies or anything, but this is in no way ranking on Mike Chambers — there’s few people as awesome as Mike, whom I’ve been lucky to meet a few times over the past too many years).  The Flash plug-in and format is not something you or I are going to work on.  It’s not open for us to do so.  And neither is IMS Common Cartridge.

Now the big difference in my examples is that you CAN join IMS, get into the Common Cartridge Working Group, participate and evolve it.  You need to pay to get in (it’s nominal, but for me it’s been a barrier), but you can do that.

That said, the barrier prevents further adoption and unfettered inclusion or integration with other specs and standards.  Common Cartridge might be the best learning technology standard since sliced bread — but without it being open, it has very little chance of revolutionizing public education systems, because the barrier to entry is high.

We see the same thing with IEEE standards, too.  You need to pay to get those standards.  Sure, you can always find a way to read the standards, but to modify them? To use them? You need to pay.  Like with IMS, I agree that these organizations are doing good work and need to be supported and the value they provide is worthy of compensation — but the fact that there are more end users of the specs these bodies produce than the people who make them — and many of these end-users have needs for interoperability with other standards that are beyond the scope of bodies like IEEE or IMS… this is where the drama comes in.  Because without it being an open standard — by open, I mean unencumbered — you can’t even try to make these things work together.

The Owner’s Manifesto

I subscribe to Make Magazine, and one of the very first maxims they put out there to their audience was “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.” If you can’t open these standards to mash them up, how are we going to create legitimate combinatorial innovations and mashups?

I think Avron Barr (@avron) put it best in his recent LETSI blog post on Content Interoperability is the Wrong Problem to Solve:

Innovation is key to realizing elearning’s true potential on the web – we have a long way to go. In various corners of the elearning world, teachers and content creators are exploring immersive learning environments, mobile platforms, multi-student collaboration activities, online tutoring, and intelligent tutoring systems. They are using online activities in constructive and discovery-based learning scenarios that fall outside of traditional computer-based instruction. However, to achieve portability, today’s content standards make 20-year-old assumptions about pedagogy, about the student experience, and about publishers’ business models that stem from a time before computers were connected by networks.

Walled gardens make it hard for the things inside them to grow and adapt.  Flash solved a content display problem for a very long time that was nigh impossible to achieve until browsers started really supporting W3C standards — and while IE 8, Mozilla, Opera and Webkit are each far from perfect, they’re a lot better at displaying HTML and CSS consistently than ever before.  The need for Flash to do this is fading, but the backlog of online content (especially “learning” content) that’s in Flash makes it impossible to edit, which everyone has complained about for years.  It’s not Flash’s fault, it’s not Adobe’s fault — it’s our fault for relying on a closed format for so long as for it to become burdensome to adapt the material to more open means.

The longer we depend on closed and rigid formats, the harder it will be to adapt and evolve what we do with them into whatever comes next.  This hinders evolution, innovation and future adoption when we need, more than ever before, to accelerate and lower the barriers to doing these very things.

One More Thing

There’s another message that Apple needs to hear from the Owner’s Manifesto.  One that as a fanboy it’s hard to process.  Ultimately, If I can’t be free to make bad decisions with my iPad, it’s not really my iPad, is it?

What I’d like to see is the removal of FUD and Draconian language in the terms of service so that there’s amnesty if we jailbreak our devices.  Let people play without fear, and marvel at what you empower them to create.

UPDATE:

It should be plenty obvious that I’m a big fan of Apple.  After receiving some comments about this post, I want to make it plain that I actually don’t have a particular beef with Flash; certainly not with Adobe.  Adobe has been a tireless sponsor of standards activity, actively participating and interested in standards discussions.  Plainly, they’ve championed ECMAscript.  They’ve been an ardent supporter of LETSI.  I’m just putting that out there.

What I tried to do (and probably failed at) is putting the Apple/Adobe debate over Flash as a metaphor for other debates that are generally less visible to a broad audience, and harder to follow with all the nuance, context and history needed.  Hence the title of this post “Popularizing a Standards Debate” because the waves of emotion around Flash and the forthcoming iPad are exposing the kinds of struggles the learning community still throws down over.  My hope is that in sharing my perspective with you, it helps you to view your position on these issues in a broader context.

  • ethan

    Not sure Adobe wants flash to be at the mercy of people like those involved with html5 – http://www.cssquirrel.com/2010/01/11/comic-update-the-html5-show-aka-a-mess/

    I’m concerned with the speed at which stuff gets done in a standard process. Just me but i don’t trust the ego’s i see over in the HTML5 dev community. They are all angling to own the process. Not much open-ness over there from what I see at all.

    One thing it would do is move the flash tooling from Adobe as the top builders of the content. I could see Flash Builder really becoming that tool if it tweaks the interface a bit for smoother drawing tools etc-it has the code thing down. (little more of an artist/animator interface gui)

    Maybe if Letsi was in charge of it, I’d believe it would not sink into a tar pit of political jockeying.

    • http://www.aaronsilvers.com/ Aaron

      The Flash/iPad deal is what it is. Flash is still the dominant media format on the web, but even if HTML5 isn’t what succeeds it, it’s pointing out that there’s an awful lot we used to depend on Flash for that can be replaced with other, lighter-weight measures. So I agree with the comment about the identity crisis. What Flash can do to improve, or what Adobe can do to improve the Flash product, I leave that now to people who full-on work with Flash — I don’t use it enough now to have a worthwhile opinion on how to improve the tool.

      It would be interesting if there were enough people really animated in the LETSI community to see what a content tool would look like that fully adopted web standards AND was really usable. I don’t know that LETSI is big enough for that yet or is even the right vehicle to do that work… but LETSI is what its members make of it. That is one of the very beautiful things about LETSI is that it will adapt to its membership while the members support common goals of interoperability and open standards allowing for derivative works.

      All that said, Ethan, empassioned debate always looks like political jockeying. If we all want to get over the politics-as-usual, we’re going to all need to come to grips with the fact that many (if not all) of us are trying to do the right thing. We lose sight of it, and it’s to our discredit when we do. Apple and Adobe are capitalistic, proprietary giants in one sense — operating on a plane of standards that includes things like HTML5, ECMAScript, SCORM, IMS-CC and standards organizations like the W3C, ADL, LETSI, IMS, ISO, IEEE, etc.

      Everybody has their own agenda. Rather than quibble about it, we need to just accept it and re-frame the debate in terms of why what’s good for “me” is also good for “you” and even better good for “us.” Whomever can make that argument the best means everybody stands to win, as long as it’s an inclusive debate.

  • ethan

    Not sure Adobe wants flash to be at the mercy of people like those involved with html5 – http://www.cssquirrel.com/2010/01/11/comic-update-the-html5-show-aka-a-mess/

    I’m concerned with the speed at which stuff gets done in a standard process. Just me but i don’t trust the ego’s i see over in the HTML5 dev community. They are all angling to own the process. Not much open-ness over there from what I see at all.

    One thing it would do is move the flash tooling from Adobe as the top builders of the content. I could see Flash Builder really becoming that tool if it tweaks the interface a bit for smoother drawing tools etc-it has the code thing down. (little more of an artist/animator interface gui)

    Maybe if Letsi was in charge of it, I’d believe it would not sink into a tar pit of political jockeying.

    • http://www.aaronsilvers.com/ Aaron

      The Flash/iPad deal is what it is. Flash is still the dominant media format on the web, but even if HTML5 isn’t what succeeds it, it’s pointing out that there’s an awful lot we used to depend on Flash for that can be replaced with other, lighter-weight measures. So I agree with the comment about the identity crisis. What Flash can do to improve, or what Adobe can do to improve the Flash product, I leave that now to people who full-on work with Flash — I don’t use it enough now to have a worthwhile opinion on how to improve the tool.

      It would be interesting if there were enough people really animated in the LETSI community to see what a content tool would look like that fully adopted web standards AND was really usable. I don’t know that LETSI is big enough for that yet or is even the right vehicle to do that work… but LETSI is what its members make of it. That is one of the very beautiful things about LETSI is that it will adapt to its membership while the members support common goals of interoperability and open standards allowing for derivative works.

      All that said, Ethan, empassioned debate always looks like political jockeying. If we all want to get over the politics-as-usual, we’re going to all need to come to grips with the fact that many (if not all) of us are trying to do the right thing. We lose sight of it, and it’s to our discredit when we do. Apple and Adobe are capitalistic, proprietary giants in one sense — operating on a plane of standards that includes things like HTML5, ECMAScript, SCORM, IMS-CC and standards organizations like the W3C, ADL, LETSI, IMS, ISO, IEEE, etc.

      Everybody has their own agenda. Rather than quibble about it, we need to just accept it and re-frame the debate in terms of why what’s good for “me” is also good for “you” and even better good for “us.” Whomever can make that argument the best means everybody stands to win, as long as it’s an inclusive debate.

  • http://pipwerks.com Philip Hutchison

    You said

    What if Flash were to become a standard? Adobe could still monetize the IDE, much like Microsoft does with Word (yes, I know that there are several flaws with the example, roll with me a bit here), while the format each tool produces could be an open standard.

    Adobe already opened the SWF format, allowing other entities to compile to SWF format. They’ve acknowledged they make their money from the IDE at this point, not from the Player.

    I think it would be better to restate the proposal as “What if the SWF format were to become a standard that didn’t require browser plug-ins?” Technically this is already possible… since the SWF format is open, browsers can be written to natively handle SWF files, just as they do SVG, canvas, and even the lowly PNG.

    It’s probably such a big task that browser vendors simply aren’t interested in the headache. Plus, Adobe has absolute control over the Flash Platform’s features, even if they allow others to compile SWFs without Adobe tools. This means Adobe would have control over what browser would be required to implement in their native Flash handling. No vendor wants to be told what to do without having their own input on the matter (see canvas and SVG). I’m sure Apple’s already tired of dealing with Flash Player in OS X; what’s the incentive for putting it in their other products?

    But, Adobe’s control over the Flash platform is precisely why they’ve been able to innovate, much like Apple’s ability to push forward because of complete control over operating system, hardware, and iWhatever mobile apps. Microsoft lags so much because (among other issues) they have to work with a bazillion hardware manufacturers.

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, I just think it’s a pipe dream at this point. :)

  • http://pipwerks.com Philip Hutchison

    You said

    What if Flash were to become a standard? Adobe could still monetize the IDE, much like Microsoft does with Word (yes, I know that there are several flaws with the example, roll with me a bit here), while the format each tool produces could be an open standard.

    Adobe already opened the SWF format, allowing other entities to compile to SWF format. They’ve acknowledged they make their money from the IDE at this point, not from the Player.

    I think it would be better to restate the proposal as “What if the SWF format were to become a standard that didn’t require browser plug-ins?” Technically this is already possible… since the SWF format is open, browsers can be written to natively handle SWF files, just as they do SVG, canvas, and even the lowly PNG.

    It’s probably such a big task that browser vendors simply aren’t interested in the headache. Plus, Adobe has absolute control over the Flash Platform’s features, even if they allow others to compile SWFs without Adobe tools. This means Adobe would have control over what browser would be required to implement in their native Flash handling. No vendor wants to be told what to do without having their own input on the matter (see canvas and SVG). I’m sure Apple’s already tired of dealing with Flash Player in OS X; what’s the incentive for putting it in their other products?

    But, Adobe’s control over the Flash platform is precisely why they’ve been able to innovate, much like Apple’s ability to push forward because of complete control over operating system, hardware, and iWhatever mobile apps. Microsoft lags so much because (among other issues) they have to work with a bazillion hardware manufacturers.

    I agree with a lot of what you’re saying, I just think it’s a pipe dream at this point. :)

  • http://www.letsi.org Avron

    I’m looking forward to Ellen W’s comments. She’s posted an interesting analysis of Apple vs. Flash in the past, in terms of platform wars, and I wonder if anything’s changed.

    Meanwhile, about open. There are two aspects of openness being discussed:

    1. Open and transparent participation in spec development vs. giving “members” a period of time, usually years, where they have advanced knowledge of the emerging proprietary standard. Open participation, even if non-paying participants can’t vote on ballots, helps startups, researchers, and other impoverished innovators to bring new technology to market that integrates immediately with systems already in place…. See More

    2. Unrestricted use of the standard in terms of derivative works. Again this aspect of openness takes away from the value proposition of a members-only standards consortium. Derivative works could also cause market problems if multiple versions of the standard propagate. The upside again is freeing innovators. In the case of learning technology standards, where disparate, relatively impoverished communities of practice are still trying to figure out how to make technology work in their particular context, derivations also facilitate experimentation and ultimately broad adoption. The cost of interoperability problems that result from multiple versions of the standard are minor compared to the likelihood that an accredited learning technology standards will never be adopted, ever. (There are dozens of examples of learning technology standards, each taking many man years to create, that were never implemented in a single product.)

    Bottom line, the reason LETSI.org is pushing for open standards (open on both ends, as it were) stems from a belief that teaching and learning remain a technological backwater, compared to the impact the Internet has had on other aspects of our lives. Ours is not a functioning, stable industry at this point, where the traditional standards process can work well for all stakeholders. Tipping the standards tradeoffs toward openness may help learning technology evolve more rapidly, driven by innovators who need to “play without fear”.

    • http://www.aaronsilvers.com/ Aaron

      First, for some reason this ended up as Spam and that’s really weird. I also don’t get email notifications from WP when I get new comments, which is kinda freaking me out… but that’s all a different matter.

      I, too, am interested in what Ellen (or even Tom) might say on this matter on one level, but you’re taking this conversation where I wanted it to go, and I’m very happy about that. While I don’t know if any industry is functional or stable from the vantage point of having standards processes that work for all stakeholders — we know there’s a lot we can do in the learning industry, across the board, to be better. I’m all for everyone making as much money as they can in this space, but I’m also for all of us focusing on the same goals — which is improving the human condition. Period.

      I can understand why people are hesitant to be fully transparent, because without context for it there’s no incentive to do so — there’s no reason why one organization should embrace transparency if it’s against their survival interests because their competitors are not transparent. However, being open and civil to other players in the game, considering what we’re all trying to accomplish, assuming the best of intentions and allowing for derivative works on the standards we put out there allows for emergent behavior that fills in a lot of gaps, accelerates incremental innovations and encourages everyone to participate and share openly about what’s working.

      I personally believe with all of my heart and mind that we’re about to finally hit an era of accerlated growth and opportunity in the learning technology space. If everyone can keep their wits about them and hold out just a little bit of faith, even if it feels justified to withhold it — I think we’re in for a really good ride.

  • http://www.letsi.org Avron

    I’m looking forward to Ellen W’s comments. She’s posted an interesting analysis of Apple vs. Flash in the past, in terms of platform wars, and I wonder if anything’s changed.

    Meanwhile, about open. There are two aspects of openness being discussed:

    1. Open and transparent participation in spec development vs. giving “members” a period of time, usually years, where they have advanced knowledge of the emerging proprietary standard. Open participation, even if non-paying participants can’t vote on ballots, helps startups, researchers, and other impoverished innovators to bring new technology to market that integrates immediately with systems already in place…. See More

    2. Unrestricted use of the standard in terms of derivative works. Again this aspect of openness takes away from the value proposition of a members-only standards consortium. Derivative works could also cause market problems if multiple versions of the standard propagate. The upside again is freeing innovators. In the case of learning technology standards, where disparate, relatively impoverished communities of practice are still trying to figure out how to make technology work in their particular context, derivations also facilitate experimentation and ultimately broad adoption. The cost of interoperability problems that result from multiple versions of the standard are minor compared to the likelihood that an accredited learning technology standards will never be adopted, ever. (There are dozens of examples of learning technology standards, each taking many man years to create, that were never implemented in a single product.)

    Bottom line, the reason LETSI.org is pushing for open standards (open on both ends, as it were) stems from a belief that teaching and learning remain a technological backwater, compared to the impact the Internet has had on other aspects of our lives. Ours is not a functioning, stable industry at this point, where the traditional standards process can work well for all stakeholders. Tipping the standards tradeoffs toward openness may help learning technology evolve more rapidly, driven by innovators who need to “play without fear”.

    • http://www.aaronsilvers.com/ Aaron

      First, for some reason this ended up as Spam and that’s really weird. I also don’t get email notifications from WP when I get new comments, which is kinda freaking me out… but that’s all a different matter.

      I, too, am interested in what Ellen (or even Tom) might say on this matter on one level, but you’re taking this conversation where I wanted it to go, and I’m very happy about that. While I don’t know if any industry is functional or stable from the vantage point of having standards processes that work for all stakeholders — we know there’s a lot we can do in the learning industry, across the board, to be better. I’m all for everyone making as much money as they can in this space, but I’m also for all of us focusing on the same goals — which is improving the human condition. Period.

      I can understand why people are hesitant to be fully transparent, because without context for it there’s no incentive to do so — there’s no reason why one organization should embrace transparency if it’s against their survival interests because their competitors are not transparent. However, being open and civil to other players in the game, considering what we’re all trying to accomplish, assuming the best of intentions and allowing for derivative works on the standards we put out there allows for emergent behavior that fills in a lot of gaps, accelerates incremental innovations and encourages everyone to participate and share openly about what’s working.

      I personally believe with all of my heart and mind that we’re about to finally hit an era of accerlated growth and opportunity in the learning technology space. If everyone can keep their wits about them and hold out just a little bit of faith, even if it feels justified to withhold it — I think we’re in for a really good ride.

  • ethan

    Phillip, the open part of the swf standard is to write swf’s. I think there is a clause in there (when you get access to the swf specs) to prevent you from building a plugin that plays back swf’s. So many tools can create swfs but only the flash player can playback the swf. That way we don’t get a bunch of distros like linux that handle swfs to different degrees and whipe out consistency.

    Aaron, there is a difference betweened empassioned debate and then what is going on with html5. It has select individuals trying to dictate what they want everyone to agree to. Empassioned debate in my world means compromise at some point. I’m not sure what is good for “Us” is to commit to a standard by one guy (goole employee), and I’m not sure what is good for us is to have flash/actionscript dev be frozen in similar “empassioned debate.” just my 2 cents.

    So based on that I can see Adobe’s concern with opening it up as a free standard if those are the types of people who join and then fracture/fork working groups. This was only to your “open up the spec and attach it to html5″ idea. Well what and when is html5 set in stone? This rolling google style beta thing will not work for a standard longterm.

    IF adobe went with making it an open standard then I think a key would be to get their devs to be writing back into the webkit trunk to make sure that the browser can handle the execution well. They already gave mozilla tamarin so they are connected there. IE will of course be a problem forever. Possibly also create some rules in the standard charter to prevent endless years of arguing and applying a more business attitude such as every 18 months we roll out an update to the standard.

    Also if Adobe rolled out a hybrid compiler tool in flash/ flash builder that converted the logic into js/svg etc they could own the next generation of development. They already have a c+ compiler to AS, which i think fed into the AS to iPhone byte code app ability.

  • ethan

    Phillip, the open part of the swf standard is to write swf’s. I think there is a clause in there (when you get access to the swf specs) to prevent you from building a plugin that plays back swf’s. So many tools can create swfs but only the flash player can playback the swf. That way we don’t get a bunch of distros like linux that handle swfs to different degrees and whipe out consistency.

    Aaron, there is a difference betweened empassioned debate and then what is going on with html5. It has select individuals trying to dictate what they want everyone to agree to. Empassioned debate in my world means compromise at some point. I’m not sure what is good for “Us” is to commit to a standard by one guy (goole employee), and I’m not sure what is good for us is to have flash/actionscript dev be frozen in similar “empassioned debate.” just my 2 cents.

    So based on that I can see Adobe’s concern with opening it up as a free standard if those are the types of people who join and then fracture/fork working groups. This was only to your “open up the spec and attach it to html5″ idea. Well what and when is html5 set in stone? This rolling google style beta thing will not work for a standard longterm.

    IF adobe went with making it an open standard then I think a key would be to get their devs to be writing back into the webkit trunk to make sure that the browser can handle the execution well. They already gave mozilla tamarin so they are connected there. IE will of course be a problem forever. Possibly also create some rules in the standard charter to prevent endless years of arguing and applying a more business attitude such as every 18 months we roll out an update to the standard.

    Also if Adobe rolled out a hybrid compiler tool in flash/ flash builder that converted the logic into js/svg etc they could own the next generation of development. They already have a c+ compiler to AS, which i think fed into the AS to iPhone byte code app ability.

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  • Steve

    I was thinking the same thing Ethan. I believe the future success of the IDE might be in producing alternate outputs.

    This is the problem with the anti-flash zealotry. While it’s possible to build equivalents using newer browser capabilities and standards, there isn’t a consistent or easy way to do some of these things using an authoring environment. I laugh a bit when I hear people say ‘You can do that in X, don’t need Flash for that’. Some people can, but platform to platform making it consistent is a serious pain. This is one of the powerful features of a runtime that is ‘mostly’ consistent.

    On the flip side, there’s plenty of stuff being done in Flash that doesn’t need to be. Since reading the us v. them stuff about iPad and Flash the past few days I’ve been trying to put together a visualization.

    On one side of this visualization are things (or probabilities) that shouldn’t probably ever be built in Flash, on the other side are things that the browser doesn’t do well by itself and have a high probability of being best implemented in a plug-in runtime (flash or other). In the middle is the gray area. I think there are a lot of misunderstandings at the heart of this debate. At the extremes there is plenty of zealotry fanning the flames. Regardless, there are likely ways to better define the situations where tools like Flash could be well employed, and when tools like Flash are doing little more than helping you to paint yourself into a corner.

    I think some of these same guidelines / principles could also apply to proprietary tools like the iPad. Any encapsulated development, that doesn’t future proof the content in open containers, is inherently temporary. How temporary is relative, but if we don’t consider closed tools, compiled files, and disposable hardware as temporary then we’re living under a magical delusion. On a device that lives on ‘there’s an app for that’ — double whammy –

  • Steve

    I was thinking the same thing Ethan. I believe the future success of the IDE might be in producing alternate outputs.

    This is the problem with the anti-flash zealotry. While it’s possible to build equivalents using newer browser capabilities and standards, there isn’t a consistent or easy way to do some of these things using an authoring environment. I laugh a bit when I hear people say ‘You can do that in X, don’t need Flash for that’. Some people can, but platform to platform making it consistent is a serious pain. This is one of the powerful features of a runtime that is ‘mostly’ consistent.

    On the flip side, there’s plenty of stuff being done in Flash that doesn’t need to be. Since reading the us v. them stuff about iPad and Flash the past few days I’ve been trying to put together a visualization.

    On one side of this visualization are things (or probabilities) that shouldn’t probably ever be built in Flash, on the other side are things that the browser doesn’t do well by itself and have a high probability of being best implemented in a plug-in runtime (flash or other). In the middle is the gray area. I think there are a lot of misunderstandings at the heart of this debate. At the extremes there is plenty of zealotry fanning the flames. Regardless, there are likely ways to better define the situations where tools like Flash could be well employed, and when tools like Flash are doing little more than helping you to paint yourself into a corner.

    I think some of these same guidelines / principles could also apply to proprietary tools like the iPad. Any encapsulated development, that doesn’t future proof the content in open containers, is inherently temporary. How temporary is relative, but if we don’t consider closed tools, compiled files, and disposable hardware as temporary then we’re living under a magical delusion. On a device that lives on ‘there’s an app for that’ — double whammy –