Flash vs. AJAX is The Wrong Question

Following my post on the Flex 3 and AIR launch, a number of you have pinged me privately about the Flash vs. AJAX question. It goes something like this: “I know you are going to write that you prefer Flash/Flex because you were chief architect at Macromedia but what are you telling your own companies? Should they go with Flash or should they go with AJAX?” Flash vs. AJAX is the wrong question for a number of reasons, the most obvious one being that Flash is an application runtime environment and AJAX is a design/implementation pattern for applications.

In the next few days I’ll collect my thoughts and do a post on real question, which is about technology/tool/platform choices for building Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0 and Mobile Web 2.0 applications. 

About Simeon Simeonov

I'm an entrepreneur, hacker, angel investor and reformed VC. I am currently Founder & CTO of Swoop, a search advertising platform. Through FastIgnite I invest in and work with a few great startups to get more done with less. Learn more, follow @simeons on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.
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5 Responses to Flash vs. AJAX is The Wrong Question

  1. robi sen says:

    I hear this all the time and I suppose it is not unlike any other of these types of questions in the IT world. My usual response is “well what do you want to do” and often the vagueness of the response dictates where they need to focus their time. At the same time we often work with companies who know very well what they want to do but are not familiar with AJAX or doing things via Flash/Flex and there begins a long education process.

    I really look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic because I am always looking for sources to help educate people on this decision.

  2. Filipe Abreu says:

    Hi Simeon. I hear this too all the time. I’ve been a Flash developer since Flash 5 and I’ve seen the Flash system evolve very much, manly the actionscript. And I guess that’s the matter because people always compare Flash to AJAX. That should be translated to Actionscript vs. AJAX, then. Perhaps the question most people want to ask is really Flash vs. Flex. And that is something to think about. The improvements of Flash based manly on the script and the bundled classes, and lately, with the fusion with Adobe, the functionality with Photoshop and Illustrator also was improved. Now Adobe is developing Flex, wich also uses Actionscript. The question is: will Flash be left behind for Flex advance, as Macromedia left Authorware for Director, and then left Director for Flash MX?

  3. Tony Confrey says:

    Looking forward to the follow up post on this!

    I think there’s a lot of confusion on the roles and relationships between Flash, Flex and ActionScript that muddies the waters.

    What I see the question/decision being for many developers is – Do I build my Rich Internet App in ActionScript, using Flex and deploy on the Flash runtime. Or do I build in Javascript with Ajax libraries (prototype, Scriptilicious etc) and deploy in the browser. AIR changes the equation somewhat but really only adds an extra set of considerations (vs Gears for example)

    IMO Adobe has the better more homogeneous toolkit for building and deploying something rapidly. The downside is vendor lock in and a less ubiquitous platform.

    -Tony

  4. Tony, you are right–this is the key question.

    I’m not sure though whether Adobe is the “less ubiquitous” platform. I can argue that given browser differences the Adobe platform is the most ubiquitous one.

    I’m not saying this ‘cos I’m an old Macromedia guy. I’m saying it because I see it on many sites all the time. For example, I just co-founded a new social media startup in SF. Our team had to put a demo together quickly using basic CSS+AJAX. They have done this type of work before. They worked on Firefox. The demo looked great there. It looked pretty bad on IE.

    Sure, this can and will all get fixed. We will most likely end up going with AJAX because we have to deal with a lot of text and the new text engine in Flash 10 won’t have enough of the components around it to help us. My point is that getting AJAX to work cross browsers adds a fair amount of dev & test overhead that few people talk about. It’s like developing for the vairous Unix flavors. It’s all the same but at the same time it is not.

  5. diseño web says:

    Not why they compare AJAX with Flash, fodder that are not due to compare since both have great differences. Each of them has advantages marked according to the project to realise for that reason I insist on saying that they would not be due to compare.

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