Friday, August 04, 2006

Information Week on Flex...

Charles Babcock in Information Week wrote a horrible article on Flex2 last month that I just got around to reading...I love the use of the word "cranky" in relation to JavaScript. I have heard about cranky developers- but the language has always seemed rather good natured to me, although I can't say the same of the IE engine it runs in. The bit about the proprietary version of the international standard is also nice- reminds me of J++.

....Flex 2 implements a new version of the Flash scripting language, ActionScript 3.0, a proprietary version of the international standard EcmaScript. ActionScript competes with Ajax' notoriously cranky JavaScript and surpasses it when it comes object-oriented behavior...

And then they drag Mr. Raad into the debate- where he bluntly displays his view on the whole static vs. dynamic typing debate. I like Pragmatic Dave Thomas' thought on the matter- "once code hits the network, all typing is dynamic."

"ActionScript is a much more powerful language," said Mansour Raad, chief architect for a unit of ESRI, the supplier of geographic system services and software. ActionScript in its third version traps programming errors and enforces variable typing, which lead to clearer runtime results and avoids some tampering exposures. JavaScript, in comparison, "is kind of strange and loose. It let's you do anything you want and continues on its merry way."

Mr. Babcock didn't interview the pragmatic one, of course. But then, he's got think of the advertising dollars.

Don't get me wrong- I think the Flash player is very cool, and a good thing overall- see AFLAX, the various JS wrappers, using it to do XML parsing, etc. I think adding ActionScript and Adobe's XML variant into the development mix makes it not something I would want to do. I wouldn't touch the server side stuff.

I also like seeing Flash inside of an html container, interacting with the page. Having your whole app be a .swf seems silly. I think we should see more widgets like Adobe's cool charting widget- and less of the rest of it.


Anonymous said...


ActionScript is not a proprietary version of the ECMAStandard. It is an actual implementation of the standard. We are part of the ECMA Committee and helping to approve the standard. The new version will be approved next year. AS3 is a version of what is likely to be approved, and we will fill in any gaps with the final version when it is approved. We are committed to the standard.


Matt M said...

You're right, of course. I apologize for not pointing that out amongst the various malapropisms in the story. I think it's some horrible reporting by Information Week...unfortunately read by lots of Enterprise Architects, CIOs and the like.

I don't really get what "proprietary" means in this case anyway. How can a language be proprietary? I suppose if Adobe went around suing people that made ActionScript interpreters, that would make it proprietary, but it seems like Open Laszlo is doing fine...

I guess the salient points are this- JavaScript and Action Script are both (incompatible) implementations of the ECMAScript Standard. Action Script 3.0 is actually an implementation of a more recent version of the standard than the version of JavaScript implemented by the browser platforms. So, Action Script might look a lot like the next version of JavaScript- but do they really need a separate language???

In a way, Adobe has a huge advantage here with Flash- they own the platform. As long as they can get people to upgrade their Flash players regularly- coders can write one version of their code that will run anywhere. Then again, looking at my recent browser stats- not many folks are on Flash 9- yet.

8.0 24.18%
8.0 r22 16.99%
9.0 r16 12.42%
8.0 r24 10.46%
9.0 7.84%
none 5.23%
7.0 3.92%
8.0 r24 3.27%
7.0 r19 3.27%
7.0+r63 3.27%
6.0 2.61%
9.0 r16 2.61%
7.0 r25 1.96%
7.0 r63 0.65%
7.0 r14 0.65%
8.0 r22 0.65%