On Flash vs. Javascript and how to change the game

I was just reading this:

Daring Fireball Linked List: Gawker Publishes Pro-Flash Comments From Anonymous News Publishers

Where Gawker (via John Gruber) posts some arguments, in my opinion partially valid, in favor of Flash.

The world needs a top-notch authoring environment for Javascript-based web apps.  A Flash Professional that isn’t Flash.

One could argue whether Flash Professional is or isn’t “top-notch” but it’s good enough to be widely used.  Adobe puts a lot into it simply because the more folks use it, the more Flash gets shoved onto the web, and the more the web becomes locked into the Flash platform.  Javascript doesn’t have an “owner” in the same way.  No major company that will live or die on the future of Javascript.

Funny enough, Apple has what I always think is on the brink of being that product.  I’m referring to Dashcode.  It’s not close to being a Flash Professional for Javascript – please don’t think I’m making that argument.  But the groundwork has been there for years.  I’ll watch the annual WWDC session on Dashcode’s newest features, and am always wowed by its progress but it’s never quite enough to do anything I need done.  Originally created to author simple Dashboard widgets it can do a whole lot more.  It’s powerful and as easy to use as Flash Professional.  And standards-based (with some obvious Apple focus).  And free.

Any web publisher (or user) thinking Flash is important for simple video, still-image slideshows, or fancy menus is living a decade behind the times.  But Flash is still quite justified, on the development side, for rich web application elements like interactive graphs and complex video interaction.  All these things are quite doable in standards-based Javascript but at a far higher cost of development time.  In Flash, one designer with moderate programming skills can create some really nice stuff.  It may require a proprietary plugin and kill your battery, but I can see where the cost/benefit analysis goes the Flash way.

Here’s how the world can put a serious dent into these areas where Flash is still justified.  First, pick a good Javascript framework – probably jQuery.  Bake it into Webkit.  Seriously.  That ends the need for the user to wait for the framework to download.  Users without it – on non-Webkit browsers – would still retrieve it.  This isn’t just for time savings (which would be minor for most users) – the main reason is it then becomes a widely used “standard” rather than a bolt-on.  Psychologically important if nothing else.  Enhance, significantly, the ability for Javascript to interact with HTML5 video, also with a baked-in framework.  In summary – make Javascript behave like a higher-level language for these purposes.

Then pump up Dashcode or something similar with these things built in, with less of an Apple-specific slant – additional templates for non-Apple devices, or at least a way to create and distribute said templates.  Basically, make it a Flash Professional for this “new” variety of Javascript.  Don’t give it away for free – sell it, promote it, use it, and support it.

Bottom line – quit trying to get the world to stop playing Adobe’s game.  Play Adobe’s game, under non-proprietery rules, and swing the cost/benefit math back towards the public good.

Tell me then, what justification would remain for Flash?

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