Thursday, November 17, 2005


A high definition web experience

If you read a few of my posts, you'll notice that I'm not a fan of sites that use Flash, where particular examples which I've commented on include Flickr (now thankfully gone the AJAX route), Yahoo maps and most recently Google Analytics.

Robert Scoble just linked to the Flash Troll Generator, of which he says:
"Hate Flash? You'll like this site. Done by Oliver Steele. Personally I don't agree with Oliver."
This seems to suggest that Robert thinks this site is anti-Flash, whereas by trotting out the regular trolls, and labelling them as such, it seems to me that it's precisely the opposite.

On the other hand, Robert then notes, "It's time for a higher definition web", with the implication through proximimity that Flash is the way to a higher definition web (especially when you read his next post, which is about Laszlo mail, which is an email client written in Flash).

I'm fully in agreement with Robert in wanting a higher definition web, but Flash doesn't seem to me to be stepping in that direction.

A large part of higher definition to me means that I can zoom in at will to see the details I want. Examples of this in my regular browser, running regular HTML and AJAX based web sites are:

All of these features work on all web pages - that's a high definition web experience to me.

There are plenty of other examples I could use which are currently more specialized, but which all look forward to an even higher definition web. These include:

In contrast to all of these, tends to Flash provide me with a low definition experience. The data is trapped in what is often a fixed size box on the page. With it's gaming and presentation heritage, the artwork is often literally low definition - eyecatching no doubt, but not particularly useful. Simple web conventions and behaviours are broken - whether its the back button, chosing to open new links in new windows or tabs, bookmarking specific information, saving the page to disk etc.

I've no doubt that it's possible to program high featured applications in Flash, and Lazlomail is up there with the best of them, but for me high features on their own (rich client if you prefer that terminology), does not on its own make for a high definition experience, when I lose so much in getting there.

It's similarly possible to program AJAX badly, but when done well the result is also a rich client experience, without throwing out all the existing browser experience that makes for a high definition web.

Robert ends his note on Lazlomail with a comment that Lazlo are building a platform - and that Flash is just the first target of that platform, with AJAX yet to come. That gives me hope - we may reach a very high definition web when we can mix the existing high definition web browsing experience with the undoubted innovation that some rich client experimentation is showing us now.

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