Most of the time, my work involves mostly run-of-the-mill information management systems. Lately however, I’ve been asked to look into some new tech, and that got me interested in what’s called Rich Internet Applications (RIAs for short). The primary platform for RIAs is Flash, which apparently is already owned by Adobe and Macromedia is no more. Yeah, I never really paid attention to Flash, like most people I assumed it was only for making amusing movies and annoying ads. Also, Flash has always been a tool oriented towards people who are more design-oriented, not engineers or programmers like me. I mean, I load up Flash 8 and I have no idea how to do anything.
The real power of Flex is the fact that it generates files that run on Flash Player, one of the most ubiquitous platforms on the web. I’m betting that Flash Player has a larger install base than Internet Explorer. So it’s really hard to compete with Flash as a web platform.
That doesn’t stop people from trying however. Lately, Microsoft announced Silverlight, a .NET-based RIA SDK of some sort. The screenshots seem to denote that it can do really cool things as well. Gee, it would be nice if I could experience it directly, but here’s what I got when I tried to install the runtime:
Gee, way to challenge Flash: make it difficult to install the runtime. I’m not even sure if I really don’t have Admin privileges on this machine, and you know what? I don’t care about Silverlight enough to find out. With Flash Player, sometimes people don’t even know it’s being installed.
Before Flex existed, the ability to create Flash-based webapps was mostly limited to developers who were patient enough to understand the Flash authoring tool. Flex opens up that platform to any developer with decent programming knowledge. Will this change the face of the internets? We’ll see…