Technology

Why Flex and Apollo Will Prevail

InternetLast night I spent the evening with some friends.

The first 3 hours was spent at Borders working on a client site that had some cross-browser quirks. The site was written with perfect, valid CSS. However, with Firefox 2 on a PC the bulleted menu list had an ugly pixel shift and on Internet Explorer 6, one of the CSS methods didn’t work at all.

Firefox 2 (check out that weird pixel shift that makes it look almost italicized):
Firefox 2 Menu

This is how it should look:
Internet Explorer 7

Each time that we tested something, another browser broke. We were testing across OSX with Safari and Firefox and then XP with IE6, IE7, and Firefox. Bill’s expertise at CSS and my love of JavaScript eventually led to a solution that didn’t require browser specific hacks… but it was a ridiculous (but fun) exercise that web designers go through every single day.

The fact that Apple, Mozilla, Microsoft, and Opera are incapable of writing applications that utilize a Web Standard should be embarrassing to each of them. I could absolutely understand if each browser had its own features that could be supported through their own scripting – but this is basic stuff.

This is a perfect example of why Apollo and Flex stand a great chance of sweeping the Internet. I wrote a couple days ago about Scrapblog, an application written in Flex (and quickly ported to Apollo). If you haven’t had a chance to see it – go try it out – it’s nothing short of amazing.

Flex runs under Adobe Flash’s browser plugin. This is a plugin that 99.9% a lot of the Internet runs (you’re running every time you look at a YouTube video). Apollo utilizes the same engine but allows you to actually run in an application window rather than being limited to the browser.

What is Flex?

From Adobe: The Flex application framework consists of MXML, ActionScript 3.0, and the Flex class library. Developers use MXML to declaratively define the application user interface elements and use ActionScript for client logic and procedural control. Developers write MXML and ActionScript source code using the Adobe Flex Builder? IDE or a standard text editor.

Given our frustration at building a cross-browser simple menu, imagine trying to build an entire web application that is supported across browsers! Ultimately, developers have to write hacks or browser-specific scripting to ensure the same experience regardless of what kind of browser or desktop you find yourself working on. No cross-browser issues and the additional advantage of easily porting the application to Apollo to run in or out of the browser.

Aside from not worrying how it looks in each browser, there are other advantages. Writing for Flex does not require formal programming skills. I think that’s why many professional programmers scoff at utilizing Flex or Adobe. They’d rather you spent tens of thousands of dollars having them develop the feature in ASP.NET that takes a few lines of MXML.

If you’d like to keep up on Flex and Apollo, subscribe to my friend Bill’s blog.

7 Comments

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    Hmm.. This technology is really interesting. I am not a programmer, but as you write it doesn’t need it. Well done, I’ll go and check it up.

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