Thursday 29 April 2010

Experience with Flash - Good & Bad - Our Story

Today, I was reading Steve's Rebuttal of Flash Platform - Thoughts on Flash. I thought I would share our story.

In 2006/2007 we started building our first version of FarmLinx Integrated using OpenLaszlo::Flash for our web platform.??

There were many reasons why we choose to go this path. Here are few which I can remember
  • Consistency??over all the browsers.
  • Good usability & animations for showcasing data.
  • Good backend libraries to access our FarmLinx??web-services / Java Platform in general.
  • A bit of??oomph??factor (have a look at few of the demos of that era).
I should say while many of the factors here were genuine & Flex was still not known to us. We were very please with our choice. But, there was a catch. OpenLaszlo would only perform better if we compiled into SWF7 (this was a killer for us). Also from time to time we had the Flash plugin eat up most of the CPU while our web app was running. We did conquer that aspect by doing some weird hacks.

Now the part of Developer experience comes to mind. I should say while OpenLaszlo platform was just right & easy to get started ~ it was really hard to debug. I think Flex in many ways has conquered this by providing some good tools/IDE support??(I was impressed with their demos at the recent Adobe Roadshow).??

In 2008 when Flash 10 was released much to our horror we found our software was not working no user interface - nothing (primarily due to incompatibilities with the runtime & mostly due to OpenLaszlo unable to support Flash 10 Runtime). We tried to solve this issue by changing our runtime to OpenLaszlo DHTML, but the results were not exactly spectacular. This led to our decision to scrap OpenLaszlo altogether.??

We are now using GWT for building most of our User-Interfaces (As we limited our use of OpenLaszlo to just UI it was easy for us to move), to say the least, we will not go back to tooling the whole web-application using Flash/Proprietary??platform.??

These are few things which we have learnt along the way:
  1. Stick to open standards when possible
  2. Use Flash/Proprietary technologies??for components which are generally not possible via an open standard ~ video / viewers in general.
In conclusion I believe we do need proprietary &??technologies based on??open standards for building great applications. Demarkation of applicability for each one of them is very important.??