The Problem with Technology Silos and Where Flash/HTML can Lead

There is a cool workshop being given by Jamie Kosoy called No Flash? No Problem and he had a great quote in the description:

There’s a long list of common complaints about the use of Flash, but many of the criticisms just aren’t true. Detractors say that Flash isn’t search engine friendly; Screen readers can’t understand Flash content; You can’t deeplink to specific pages…

You know what? They’re wrong. These criticisms are symptoms of misunderstanding by developers on the ways different technologies work together.

I think this is one of the biggest problems that Adobe has. Technology and development choices tends to be borderline religious in nature. And technology in general loves to have good guys and bad guys. That means the communities are very siloed and there is some resistance to incorporating or looking at other technologies. It’s HTML5 versus Flash, Microsoft versus Google, .NET versus Java, etc.

It’s also become a lot harder to be a generalist. Developers get rewarded (at least in terms of attention) for becoming experts in their niche. They’re asked to speak at conferences, they get better gigs, so becoming an expert has direct financial and publicity benefits. Who has time to dive into other technologies when there are so many advantages to drilling down into your own?

Because of that, I don’t think we’re seeing technology at its best. And it’s not limited to Flash. PhoneGap has been very successful by combining the iPhone with HTML/JS. But Flash suffers more than most. There are a lot of great integration points between HTML and Flash. We’ve got the Flex/Ajax bridge for Flex that lets you expose Flash methods to JavaScript and vice versa. We’ve got deep-linking support with SWFAddress that uses JavaScript and Flash. There are a lot of integration points but they don’t seem well publicized or well used. And there are no shortage of areas where Flash can augment JS/HTML to solve problems. File uploading, Webcam/Mic support, and charting.

But I also think Adobe is at fault. I don’t think we’ve done a good enough job of making it easy to integrate Flash and HTML. Even now internally you hear things like “HTML strategy”, or “HTML versus Flash” and I haven’t heard a lot of talk about how we’re going to take what we know about RIAs and web apps and apply that to both Flash and HTML.

But I think that’s changing. So part of the post is to give heart. We recently had a big re-organization and most of the Creative Suite web tools and the Platform (Flash/AIR/Flex,etc) are together in one business unit. I think that means you’re going to see a lot of Flash-knowledge applied to our HTML tools and hopefully you’ll see a lot more about using Flash and JavaScript together so we don’t need sessions like Jamie’s a year from now.

With the web design tools and developer tools in one place, I’m looking forward to talking a lot more about rich web solutions that provide some innovative examples of technology working together and encouraging HTML/JS developers to look at Flash where appropriate and Flash developers to think about HTML/JS when it makes sense. The easier we can make that for developers the more success we’ll have and the better applications we’ll see.

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