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Macromedia Flash

Monday, June 9, 1997 by Dave Winer.

I've spent the last few days hanging out with Marc Canter. He's working on a dynamic HTML site to show off features of Internet Explorer 4.0.

Last night we got side-tracked, he showed me Paul Allen's website with a Flash-equipped web browser.


I was blown away! What a gorgeous home page.

Great for brochures Permalink to Great for brochures

Flash is perfect for a site that's basically a brochure. Text flies in from the right, gets larger as it finds its place at the left margin. A sun-like cloud moves to the right and up and gets smaller. A bit of text appears where it lands. It moves. More text appears. A picture fills in.

The whole sequence takes about 30 seconds. It's stunning. I'm sure this kind of animation will become the norm on presentation oriented websites.

Just as animated GIFs invaded the web, special effects are coming next, and it appears as if Macromedia got there first, with a development tool and a runtime.

Tools tools tools (and scripting) Permalink to Tools tools tools (and scripting)

Flash is important because it has a mature development tool, and at this time, dynamic HTML does not. I'm sure Macromedia will make Flash generate Netscape and Microsoft-compatible web graphics, and if they do, they have a product that's worth learning to use now.

It's even more important that Macromedia's more powerful Director be positioned as a development tool for dynamic HTML.

Also, if the development tools are scriptable they can be hooked into CGI applications for truly dynamic HTML, not just stuff that moves, but stuff that displays timely information.

Recalculating graphics is an important direction, and I believe scripting support is the key technology in making this happen quickly.

Installation Permalink to Installation

With MSIE 4.0 you do almost no work to install the Flash plug-in. Visit the Macromedia site. A dialog appears saying you don't have the plug in. OK. A brief download and a confirmation with a certificate confirms that you want to install it.

You don't have to restart the system or the browser. Text starts moving, a little, awards awkwardly tumble into position. Lots of commercial messages.

Flash uses vectors Permalink to Flash uses vectors

At a technical level, Flash is more efficient that the GIF and JPEG bitmaps that populate websites now. There's no reason why it shouldn't be as quick to download as HTML text. And of course HTML is going that way in the next browsers from Netscape and Microsoft.

Times Square Permalink to Times Square

Someone should do a site that scrolls the news in an entertaining way using a Flash file in a web page that refreshes every 30 seconds.

WebCollage Permalink to WebCollage

Check out StarNine's WebCollage, a little-known product that's pioneering this area.


Good stuff, not-so-good stuff Permalink to Good stuff, not-so-good stuff

As with animated GIFs, some of the stuff will be ugly and distracting.

I remember when Alta Vista started running animated ads that pulled down menus with unseen ghosts typing into a text entry field. Totally burnt my braincells. Goodbye Alta Vista, my old friend. I switched to Excite and Infoseek and Hotbot.

Good taste will be appreciated! Allen's site is wonderful and appropriate. The Macromedia site is pretty, at first, but gets old really quickly.

Take the high road if possible, ease into this stuff.

Flash-back Permalink to Flash-back

I wrote about Flash 1.4 years ago, in Charlie Has a Dream Too, 1/5/96.

I said "If Charlie and company can really deliver the technology, it's a no-brainer -- everyone is going to want this stuff."

They delivered!

Dave Winer

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."