Adobe wants to be the Microsoft of the Web

I suppose this will be the one “technical” post about the whole Adobe Engage thing.

Background
For several years, I worked on Chandler, a cross platform desktop app which uses the open source wxWidgets toolkit to hide platform differences from an application. I am currently managing the Cosmo engineering team, which is developing a web UI for Chandler data which is stored in the Cosmo server. In a previous life, during 2000, I built a rich internet app (RIA) using Flash and Java.

The problem as I see it
I think that a lot (but not all) apps will become RIA’s, and the base platform technology for RIA’s is very important. Too important to be controlled, or designed by any single party. The current vogue toolchain, AJAX, has this property. It also has the property of being a cross platform development nightmare. On the desktop, you commit yourself to a single cross platform library/technology, and then you spend the rest of your time wrestling with it. In AJAX, you have multiple browsers on each platform that you want to support. Not only that, you have multiple versions of each browser. If your use of AJAX is limited to simple animation and so forth, that’s not that big a deal. But when you want to build something that has rich interaction, all those versions are a compatibility nightmare. There are also the performance problems with Javascript. Firefox partisans will be shouting “Tamarin“. Only problem with Tamarin is that it doesn’t help IE or Safari or any other browser. So much for platform independence.

Flash/Flex
Enter Flash/Flex. Flash has a great cross platform story. One runtime, any platform. Penetration of the Flash Player is basically the same as penetration of browsers capable of supporting big AJAX apps. There are nice development tools. This is highly appealing.

What is not appealing is going back to a technology which is single sourced and controlled by a single vendor. If web applications liberated us from the domination of a single company on the desktop, why would we be eager to be dominated by a different company on the web? Yet, this is what Adobe would have us do, as would the many who are (understandably, along some dimensions, anyway) excited about Flex? Read Anne Zelenka’s post on Open Flash if you don’t think that Flash has an openness problem. I’m not eager to go from being beholden to Microsoft to being beholden to Adobe.

What to do?
Unfortunately, there don’t really seem to be many alternatives. There’s OpenLaszlo, but much as I like the Laszlo folks, perusing the mailing lists shows that it’s still pretty much a Laszlo show. So while the licensing is better, the community development part doesn’t seem to be much better. There’s also the possibility of Adobe having a change of heart regarding the openness of Flash and Flex. But it’s hard for me to see why they would do that. I guess we can only hope that Adobe’s experience with Tamarind warms it to the benefits of a more open model for the future of Flash. Sun has finally woken up, so maybe it’s not impossible for Adobe to either.

[Update: see my followup]

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66 Responses to “Adobe wants to be the Microsoft of the Web”

  1. […] Leung has a thought provoking post titled "Adobe wants to be the Microsoft of the web". From what I've been able to gather, Ted is a big open source advocate, so obviously he […]

  2. […] having dinner with Ted Leung tonight, and I'm excited to talk to him about RIA technologies and openness, but I take issue […]

  3. […] tedious development cycle and a lot of per-browser workarounds just isn't going to cut it. From Ted's point of view, that is what makes the idea of open source Flash so compelling (and important). We get all the […]

  4. […] fitting to give a presentation on “Openness and the Web”, based on the content of that string of blog posts that started my dialogue with the Adobe folks. The Ignite format (5 minutes, 20 […]

  5. […] of ES4 as the basis for AS3, and they’re “publically committed to sticking to [the ES4] standard” (source). The current update to ES4 includes many changes that we will probably see in a future revision to […]

  6. […] Source and Rich Internet Applications Since I’ve done some writing about the openness of various RIA technologies, I tried to drop in on talks that seem like they […]

  7. […] have the context which prompted the dinner and the posts. All of this took place in the context of three blog posts which I wrote last month where I took a look at Adobe’s Flex/Apollo technology […]

  8. […] of the web. Criticism of Adobe for the proprietary nature of its technology is hardly novel. A widely read piece by Ted Leung calling Adobe the “Microsoft of the Web” is about to celebrate its first birthday: If […]

  9. […] are many pieces to the puzzle of building an integrated desktop and web application platform. Ted has interesting posting today on this and Ryan has also commented on […]

  10. […] Ted’s post: Adobe Wants To Be The Microsoft Of The Web […]

  11. […] of ES4 as the basis for AS3, and they’re “publically committed to sticking to [the ES4] standard” (source). The current update to ES4 includes many changes that we will probably see in a future revision to […]

  12. […] various concerns voiced by bloggers of the form “what about other languages?” and “what about IE?”. Comments […]

  13. […] Ted Leung (see followups) blogged about this topic already, specifically in connection with Adobe. […]

  14. […] Ted’s post: Adobe Wants To Be The Microsoft Of The Web […]

  15. […] of the web. Criticism of Adobe for the proprietary nature of its technology is hardly novel. A widely read piece by Ted Leung calling Adobe the "Microsoft of the Web" is about to celebrate its first […]

  16. […] of the web. Criticism of Adobe for the proprietary nature of its technology is hardly novel. A widely read piece by Ted Leung calling Adobe the “Microsoft of the Web” is about to celebrate its first birthday: If […]

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