Flash and PGML
Tuesday, April 14, 1998 by Dave Winer.
Yesterday I reported on Netscape's SWAP and Adobe's PGML.
Today there are important follow-ups to both stories.
The behind the scenes SWAP story was told earlier today by Keith Swenson of Netscape in a posting to two public mail lists.
SWAP is just getting started, there's no spec yet, no process, it's just an informal agreement between the companies to work together.
I always wondered how press releases like this come together, and Swenson explains. It's fascinating reading.
This morning Macromedia did something I asked them to do in June 1997, they released the specification for their Flash vector graphics format.
Here's what I said last year: "Flash is what we need. I have an idea! Let's not wait for Microsoft and Netscape. Let's ask Macromedia to hook the Flash editor up to web content tools, let's ask the tool vendors to work with Macromedia, and let's get on with it."
Now, we can finally get on with it!
But did Macromedia wait too long to open up Flash?
If they had acted earlier, things would be different, but Adobe has moved.
PGML is the XMLization of Postscript, and there's a lot of power behind Postscript, and a lot of potential in XML.
A lot more people know how to program Postscript than Flash, which until earlier today, was a closed format.
And don't miss the power of XML. If you've made an investment in handling XML in your software, you're already in good position to work with PGML. We still have a lot to learn about the format of Flash.
So where is Flash at, right now, compared to PGML? There's a single tool for Flash, and no tools for PGML. There's a substantial base of content for Flash, and no content for PGML.
But both Flash advantages will fade if products like Illustrator, Freehand, PageMaker, Fusion, Corel and XPress are converted to read and write PGML.
A lot of the power is in the hands of tools developers.
Runtimes may also be a problem for Flash.
Microsoft announced that they were supporting Macromedia, so it's reasonable to assume that Flash support will be provided in a future version of Internet Explorer without requiring a plug-in.
And of course since the Navigator source is public, anyone can add Flash support, but the old question arises, will Netscape ship it? Netscape is on the list of supporters for PGML, and may have already chosen sides.
When my mind boggles, it's time for a survey...
If you're following the Adobe and Macromedia developments, please register your preference. Thanks!
Could the two proposals come together?
Could a PGML to Flash converter be created?
A Flash to PGML converter?
What would be lost in the translation in each direction?
Right now there are two ways forward.
Could there be just one?