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Flash: Is it a viable medium or a passing fancy?

By Philipp Eirich -- January 23, 2002
Is it possible to develop excellent Websites with Flash?

This question splits the majority of Web designers: “Anti-Flasher” prioritize fast loading times and ease when it comes to updating websites. Therefore no multimedia objects are embedded, since they usually take longer to download and often require special Browser Plug-ins. Other Web designers however stress the importance of graphics and try to make their pages more attractive with the use of multimedia objects. They accept longer loading times and possible update difficulties.

Phil Eirich

The ones who are not in favor of multimedia objects usually think of Flash as a “suspect” application. Most of those Web designers underestimate the potential of Flash or simply don’t use it in the right way. Lately, however, there is a trend that shows the number of Flash Sites increasing.

Since the release of Flash 5 in Fall 2000 many Web designers who formerly weren’t in favor of the application had changed their minds. The enhanced graphic features and Actionscript, which now is a “grown-up” programming language with a new ECMA-262-Syntax [the Syntax Java is based on] has convinced many Web designers to finally embed multimedia objects. Of great importance is also the enhanced updating features as well as the reduction options of file sizes.

With Flash 5 there are almost no limits: everything is possible; from a simple animation to a complex e-commerce website. However, users exactly have to know their target audience because of the end users system power. 

System Power

Usually Flash movies do not require high-end systems. However, if one implements high-end animations the situation becomes more difficult. This is especially the case if a Flash animation contains Form-Tweening [Morphing]. When a processor has to calculate thousands of vectors while playing a movie, graphic cards often run out of fuel. This means less complex animation and constant testing on slower systems.

Preloading Instead of Streaming

In many cases preloading of a Flash movie cannot be avoided. This is especially true if the animation contains larger objects, like clips, sounds, and bitmaps. Because of Actionscript Flash has the option of preloading a complete or partial movie.

Updating and Communicating

Since version 5 Flash interprets XML. Over an XML object XML documents can be loaded, created, and send out of Flash. This new feature makes it easier to exchange data and is especially useful with e-commerce applications in which users are communicating with servers in real time. Flash also interacts with other well known Web-Script languages, such as JavaScript, Jscript, VBsrcipt, PHB, Pearl, and ASP to read data in databases, send and format forms, receive dynamically generated content and much more. 

Result: 

Flash offers countless options for the development of Web publishing, however requires profound knowledge; not only in the field of programming and handling the application, but also in the field of knowing the Web neighborhood. Programming and the professional use of the application becomes the most important part of every Flash development. Since connections and transfer rates all around the world improve steadily, more and more TV-like presentations will dominate the Internet. Assuming this trend continues, Flash-enhanced Web sites will become standard to the Internet community and on the long run will shove pure HTML based Web sites into the background.

Copyright 2002
All Rights Reserved
Philipp Eirich

About the Author
Phil is the Vice President of Award Sites . . . and is a skilled web designer and owner of the 5.0 rated retired StarSite Award Program and several other sites, Phil's talents extend into 2D and 3D animation and other highly acclaimed multimedia web-projects that bear his mark . . . with the TV-market being his next horizon.  Another major involvement is with Eirich Machines, a global company that shares his name.

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