After many years of dominance Adobe Flash (Formally Macromedia flash) is being challenged in the RIA (Rich Internet Application) space by a real challenger. Microsoft is currently working on the third release of SilverLight, a rich media technology that has a lot of parallels with macromedia flash, and it’s starting to really get noticed by developers.
Flash was initially created by Macromedia, and it first surfaced around April 1996 and has been pioneering the RIA space since. More recently Adobe acquired Macromedia and as a result helped further the technologies development. There were some significant changes to Adobe Flash as it hit versions 9 and 10 that are worth mentioning, with the introduction of action script 3, which was ECMA Script 4 compliant, which was a huge leap forward for flash developers in standardising development. In addition to that in version 10 there is 3D support, and inverse Kinematics and object animation, which has begun bringing a whole new wave of creative 3D websites into the RIA space.
SilverLight version 1 was released in December 2006, and version 2 was released in the last quarter of 2008 and is still a very young, but has some nice features that make it a real competitor for Adobe Flash. Firstly silverlight can be authored with visual studio 2008 and Blend. The files that make the RIA could be easily digested by a search engine. Search engines have always been a problem for Flash websites. There is no 3D support but Microsoft has hinted there may be support in the next version, along with some other features like dynamic bit rate changing for video streaming. Oh and one final thing, Silverlight can be authored in most common asp.net languages, that means that most asp.net developers already know how to develop Silverlight, and don’t have to learn another scripting language, that puts SilverLight in a very strong position to compete.
So in summery it looks like Adobe flash has the number one spot, with more time in the RIA development space, and over a decade of experience in delivering rich multimedia content. Anyone who has been on the internet for over 10 minutes will get a request to install Flash. Silverlight does not have that penetration, and there for will have to be around a while to get installed on any significant percentage of browsers. Installation might work better if it would be installed as a windows update rather than a browser add-on.
As a developer at the Alight Web Design Agency my hope is that both these seemingly competing technologies continue to push the boundary of the internet experience further for the user, and more people see the need for RIA’s and a better and more enjoyable internet experience.