Top Webdesign/development Stories – 2009

Ahh… that time of the year again. Time for everyone’s top ten end of the year lists. I used to write ones for record albums or movies, videos games etc. Here I am taking a slightly different slant. I haven’t ever put one together focused on the industry that I work in, the web/rich internet app design space. This is my attempt at that. These aren’t really in an order or “awesomeness” or anything… I welcome comments and your additions. Please feel free to shoot down my suppositions or add more!

  • Google Releases Galore – The list was staggering. I couldn’t possibly get them all here, but some notables were Voice, Chrome, Chrome OS, new Android devices, Wave, and major revisions to the Maps and Earth APIs. A really strong list of stuff, and virtually all of it is highly useful and usable. They are definitely on a roll now. Are they making good on their promise to “not be evil”? It can’t be easy with that many outlets.
  • Twitter Goes Main-Mainstream! – When Twitter’s publicized race between CNN and AK to reach a million followers hit the mainstream press, that was a wake up to virtually every media outlet out there. Twitter was for real. Now, you can’t even watch your local affiliate, pick up a small town paper or even talk to your aunt without them telling you to follow them on Twitter. Numerous high profile magazine covers on Fortune and other “old media” stalwarts have signaled a changing of the guard, if you will.
  • People Finally Notice Facebook Privacy Settings – Facebook has taken some heat in the past for Beacon and various other advertising techniques they have employed to provide users with targeted content. With later 2009′s changes to the privacy settings page and a note from Zuckerberg to all users about the changes coming soon, it obvious that Facebook’s privacy policy is on a lot of people’s minds. I know I’m not too keen on my wall posts showing up in Google searches or things like that, and I have had a lot of novice FB user friends and relatives ask me how to restrict their content so that only close friends can see things. Now, will this help people finally realize the difference between a private message and a wall post! ;-)
  • Oracle Buyout of Sun – “The database giant swallows the beleagured server system maker”, lots of headlines like that spun out after news of the buyout. Most, if not all missed the simple fact that Sun controls the MySQL Open Source Database. Even the Oracle press release neglects that fact. Since a large majority of notable Open Source projects use MySQL as their database, this has a large number of people in the community apprehensive and readying thei exit strategies. Will it result in a fork of the DB? Stay tuned for this one.
  • Piratebay Rollercoaster – Is it up? Is it down? Are they in jail? Ever since the fateful day when their offices were stormed, the future of the tracker had been in question. They went to trial and all were found guilty, sentenced to jail for a year and a hefty fine was leveed. These convictions are all in appeals now. Then in the summer, Global Gaming Factory X AB announced they were intending to purchase the largest BitTorrent tracker in the world. The deal fell through. In November, they announced they would be shutting down the tracker portion of TPB, stating that it was unnecessary in today’s technological world of torrent distribution. While not technically a “web design topic”, it is important due to the huge amount of content trafficked via Torrents (estimated to account for up to 25% of all bits travelling the tubes.)
  • Flash and Silverlight Play Feature Tag – No question about it, I’ve been tough on Silverlight. It’s too be expected, I’m a long time Mac user and a Flash developer. You couldn’t hardly expect me to jump on the bandwagon of a plug-in that directly competes with my favorite one and doesn’t offer proper development tools on the platform I spend all of my time on. This year at PDC, however, the newest version of Silverlight was unveiled, and man, does it look sweet! It finally is reaching a new feature parity of Flash. It still has no Mac dev tools, though. :-( One thing is certain with all of this, it is really pushing Adobe to make Flash better. The 10.1 player update is bringing massive memory and performance updates and the AIR 2.0 update is bringing a ton of great improvements that will allow it to get a lot more powerful as an app development platform. I’m really happy to see the 2 way competition here, it’s good for everyone on the web.
  • IE9 Announces Hardware Acceleration For The Browser – I have really mixed feelings on this. No actually, I really don’t like it much after further review. The features it will bring to websites are going to be amazing, no doubt, but with it being a Direct X implementation, there is little question that it is going to lead to a further forking of the web. Will anything programmed to take advantage of these IE9 features work on Firefox? Safari, Chrome? Older version of IE? In all likelihood, no. It’s probably not possible.
  • OGG Theora Not Chosen for HTML5′s Media Format – This really put a crimp in HTML5′s ever shining hope. A single, dependable unified system agnostic video codec would be a huge thing for the W3 to get pushed through. Alas, it doesn’t seem to be. At least not right yet. Too many vendors, PC makers, software developers and everyone else are still squabbling for turf. They seem to have hit an impasse at this point, but Mozilla says they have no intention on giving in.
  • Firefox Surpasses Any Single IE Version As The Most Popular Browser - Granted, Firefox has taken a beating lately by Webkit in many performance tests, but the venerable open source browser has recently overtaken IE as the world’s most widely used browser. Most impressive. From the linked article: “As of last week, Firefox 3.5 claimed 21.93% of the market, edging past IE7′s 21.2% share. That said, Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8 still collectively hold over 55% of the pie.”
  • With Smartphone Success, Comes a Mobile Version of Everything! – Smartphone market share keeps growing, and with it, mobile data usage. As this market continues to develop, content developers are caught in a very interesting pickle. Create a mobile version of their site for use in the handheld’s browser or build custom tailored apps that accomplish the user’s goals. Seems as though most major providers that can swing it are hedging their bets and building both. ESPN, New York Times, LinkedIn, Twitter, the list goes on and on. Will this continue? It doesn’t seem like a sustainable model to me, with development costs skyrocketing with each new device or platform coming to the markets. Luckily with a great SOA back end, building the new discreet UI for a device is only a marginal cost, relatively speaking, but there is only so far this can go.

So, there you have it. My list, what do you have on yours? I thought I did a pretty job scouring back through my feedreader and various other sources, so I feel pretty good about the list, but I really am looking for insights from others on this topic, too!

I created a couple URL Shorteners, check ‘em out…

This past weekend, I spent a little time getting my own URL shortening services up and running. I launched http://fnla.me and http://fnaweso.me on Saturday, August 15th, 2009. Crazy, huh? With so many services out there already, why would anyone waste their time on such a project? Does the world really need more shorteners? What do these two shorteners provide that wasn’t already available in the myriad other services out there like TinyURL, Bit.Ly and the rest? Good questions.

At last estimate there are something like 90+ publicly known URL shorteners out there. There is most likely a lot more than those in the wild, though. With this many out there, it’s difficult to know which one to use. With the high profile blowout of Tr.im, and the subsequent rebirth as an Open Source toolkit it’s even muddier. How do you know you links will be safe? How can you protect your self against Social Media Link Rot? This will assist me in making sure my shared links are indeed safe!

There are a lot of opinions on URL shorteners out there, ranging from condemnation, to simple quiet acceptance. I was vehemently against them until relatively recently, as I saw them as yet another creaky layer of redirection and pointers in the web ready to break down at any moment due to another server going down or a service running out of $.

For now, the services are pretty spartan, they simply take a URL and shorten it using a base 36 algorithm. Custom URLs are also possible. I do indeed have a number of features planned like stats, import/export and others, but it all takes time. I do hope that the service will prove to be useful to others, but making money on it or getting millions of shortened URLs isn’t my main goal. I’m building this because it seemed like a fun project to take on over a weekend.

One thing I really like about the domains I have chosen for my shorteners is that the URLs allow for some personality to come through. Is the link lame content? Politically devisive? Something you can’t believe? Than you can use http://fnla.me. On the other hand, if the content is something you can get behind and highly recommend, use http://fnaweso.me


F'N Awesome!

F'N Lame!

Both sites are powered by the open source URLShortProject currently.

So what do you think? Do you have a URL shortener you have created? Care to share it?

2 Years Later… An Update on Why Microsoft Silverlight Will Fail

2 years ago, I wrote a pretty dismissive post about my views on Silverlight and where it would go. Then, a year ago I followed it point by point with another post to see where things had improved. It wasn’t that impressive. So, here you go… a bullet point by bullet point update, 2 years into it.

  • No IDE for me – With some work, you can compile Siliverlight using Eclipse. I still want Blend on my Mac.
  • No plug in for Linux - If you are a Linux user, you can download yourself a hobbled Silverlight version. Sounds fun, right?
  • Market Penetration = Demand - A few months in, Flash player 10 is already over 60% market penetration. Microsoft still has yet to publish any sort of numbers on what sort of percentage of web users can use Silverlight content. It’s been two years! It’s estimated that the number is around 25%. Here’s the kicker though, IMHO, not a single remarkable rich media site has been created to showcase a new movie or recording from a band or singer using Silverlight as it’s sole delivery platform. MS is getting killed here. I’d love to get some info that disproves this, so if you can share something, some links, etc, please comment on this post.
  • The Growing Mobile Content Market -Alright, so Adobe’s mobile strategy is pretty shoddy. MS hasn’t really capitalized on this though, so I’d call it a wash.
  • Maturity – SilverLight is just entering it’s 3.0 version. They’ve added some cool features like multi-touch, that clearly eclipse the interactive design features on the Flash platform, but most of the additions and tweaks are really just MS playing catchup (eg. H.264 support). SilverLight out of the Browser doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at all. If you have the .Net platform to deliver to, why worry about delivering a hobbled .Net app when you could have a fullblown WPF exe?
  • The Developer Community - Obviously the .Net crowd is huge, but I’m not seeing any high profile defections, even in this down market, where developers should probably be trying out new tech to improve their marketability.
  • CS3 Microsoft still has no creative suite competitor.

So, beyond the bullet points, some things to consider. Silverlight was the video platform for MLB. They got pitched out for Flash. Silverlight was the video platform for the Olympics on NBC. They got dumped unceremoniously. Ouch. These two Defections really have to hurt. Silverlight needs customers like this to push adoption, but as it is right now they have a big chicken and egg situation on their hands.

That said, the tech is good for the industry. Really, Silverlight is doing a lot to push Flash’s advances. I also believe that the duoply of binary plugins, Flash and Silverlight is leading to a ton of innovation in the non-plugin RIA dev space. JQuery is super advanced, HTML 5 and CSS3, the Canvas tag, on and on. A lot of good things are happening right now because of this healthy competition.

There are some cool RIAs coming out in the Sliverlight space, Redliner being one of the best, IMHO. BTW, my favorite Silverlight “feature”? The fullscreen alert that appears when watching a video and the transition from an embedded video to a fullscreen video view on Silverlight is way nicer and smoother than the same function on Flash. Don’t believe me? Go to that Redliner site, watch the video and then jump to fullscreen… then do the same on Youtube. Which one looks designed? Which one looks cobbled together? Flash needs to allow for skinning of this message and better handling of the blank screen syndrome when going fullscreen.

Also, the recent additions of streaming services for Silverlight to IIS is a great move. Adobe, are you paying attention? FMS/FMIS might be priced a tad high now, comparatively, don’t ya think? Hmmm… free versus $995.

So what do you think about all of this? Is 2 years of Silverlight “experimentation” by MS enough to expect better results? Is this about where you thought it would be? I’d like to know what metrics MS is using to gauge it’s success.

360 Flex is just a week away… Are you ready for the awesomeness?

So, a quick reminderĶ the only 360|Flex event of 2009 is next week, and there are still some tickets left if you are interested in seeing what is going on in the Flash platform’s RIA development toolset!

Why should you go? What does $550 of your hard-earned cash (or your companies) buy you at 360|Flex Indy?

First off… I’m speaking there! I’ll be covering designer/developer integration issues in RIAs. It going to be an hour of insights for all those involved. So, beyond that… what else do you get? As if you needed anything else. ;-)

  • Almost 60 sessions of Flex, AIR and ActionScript goodness
  • 4 days of conference sessions
  • 4 days of lunch (great for networking)
  • 3 evening receptions at Rock Bottom (again, great for networking)
  • 2 (maybe more) different launches of products (Axiis and others)
  • 1 Bug Quash event on Sunday (come make Flex better)
  • 1 Flex 101 hands-on also on Sunday (to get you prepped for the week)
  • 1 Charity Code Jam over the course of the show (to earn some Karma points)
  • 1 USB drive jam packed with copies of the sessions and code samples, plus some extra surprises
  • A chance to attend the only 360|Flex of 2009

You can check out the schedule for the conference and see who else will be there, and what there presenting here: http://360conferences.com/360flex/downloads/schedule.pdf

There is also an iPhone version of the schedule… check it out.

If youve been thinking about going, register ASAP, as the tickets are almost gone. Register at http://360flex.eventbrite.com now to make sure you get in.

If you register for the event because I told you so, come say hi to me at the event and I’ll buy you a beverage.

The Open Screen Project Bears Fruit: Flash in Your Living Room Coming Soon.

Last year Adobe announced a partnership with device manufacturers to bring the Flash platform to devices other than PCs and Mobile. There was some question as to what types off devices would see the widely distributed runtime first, though. It looks as though NAB this year sheds some light on that one.

Engadget, NYTimes, and the BBC both report that a number of television manufacturers have models coming in late 2009, early 2010 that will feature the Flash player for use in widgets, tickers, search and much more.

This is a big move for Adobe in getting to the set top world before Silverlight and is a big boon for Flash platform developers. Working in the embedded systems market opens a largely untapped market, with many Flash developers (here) expressing interest in getting into that large market. Look at this:

More than 420 million TVs, set-top boxes, and media players are expected to ship globally in the next three years and increasingly they are capable of being connected to the net.

That is a big big market to create content and content delivery systems for. I see casual games, small utilities, custom video channels and a ton of other great applications coming around the bend.

Another thing about this that excites me… Often we create video kiosks for tradeshows, museums, etc. consisting of a low-end PC/Mac Mini and a large screen touchscreen. These configs usually just act as a video jukebox of sorts with a small amount of network connectivity required. If it turns out that the sets with the Flash system can have custom content loaded onto them via network, USB or SD cards, this could dramatically simplify the way we develop these solutions. No PC required!

Do you have Flash content ideas that will benefit from this development? How will this affect your day to day Flash platform projects? How can you take this development to market in your niche?

From Digg via PCPro: Im sorry but Dreamweaver is dying …A Post Worth Reading for a Chuckle

FTA: The real problem for Dreamweaver and for its users is that the nature of the web is changing dramatically. Dynamically-generated web applications, from Amazon right down to the humble blog, all offer much more in-built commenting, voting, RSS feeds, etc – than the best sites built on static HTML can ever hope to provide. Read it here.

My take… while I don’t use Dreamweaver, and I don’t like WYSIWYG editors in general, I feel the author is so misguided here in his criticism of the well known Adobe web design tool. He compares Dreamweaver to Drupal and Joomla (two market leading open source content management systems), pointing out that most sites of any scale these days rely on application functionality, ie. RSS, content rating, comments, etc.

Now, while these “Web 2.0″ features certainly are important for user engagement, the actual tool you use for creating the design template used in a site powered by a CMS DOESN’T MATTER! Dreamweaver’s use doesn’t prohibit you from using a CMS, and vice versa. I’m not sure what Tom Arah, the original author of the article, does for a living when he isn’t writing half baked articles for PCPro, but I would be very surprised if it were web design. I can imagine him in a client meeting telling a customer that the Web Server they have doesn’t work with Firefox or that JPGs are obsolete because of iPhones or JQuery is a new database language… Ooh I love unrelated hyperbolic comparisons. Too fun… Let’s try some more. Submit a completely ridiculous web design comparison to my comments here. I need a laugh.

Now, that aside, I do have trouble believing that Dreamweaver is as relevant now as it was a handful of years of ago. With tools like Coda and Expresso out in full force, Eclipse/Aptana offering powerful debugging features and dozens of other free and easy to use text editors out there, I have to think that a WYSIWYG editors appeal is much more limited that it was then. With Web Developer toolbars, Firebug, Safari’s developer toolbar and tons of other design aids for your browser, a design view is pretty pontless IMHO. Simply write your markup, edit or tweak your CSS and tab to a browser window and refresh. Web design, in the world of media production and interactive development is about the easiest deliverable you can preview. What I mean here is that there is virtuall no penalty for tweaking and previewing. Not so in video or compositing, any substantial change requires a new render or RAM preview. This is also not the case in RIA development. You may need to compile your runtime (SWF, Silverlight, etc), upload it to your server and make a tweak to the middleware code, too… You get what I am saying, i think. A design time WYSIWYG offers no real benefit. When you consider that Dreamweaver’s WYSIWYG rendering engine is not Gecko, Explorer or Webkit, it becomes clear that WYSIWYG is actually something more like “What You See Is Wishful thinking Ya Goober” – WYSIWtYG!

That said, Dreamweaver’s editor tool isn’t that bad, and when used only a text editor, it’s okay. It is expensive for that purpose alone though, so unless you are using the site management tools (which I don’t care for – it’s FTP is atrocious), or it’s server behaviors (which are pretty limiting and notoriously brittle – not allowing much customization), or it’s AJAX editing (I won’t touch Spry, sorry) then you may just want to move on. So it’s not so much dying, at least not from the perspective mentioned by Tom Arah, it’s just fading into irrelevance due to lack of upkeep.

read more | digg story

Selling Webdesign, Development and Consulting in a Downturn

The economic downturn is touching all facets of the working world. Advertising, Branding, Design and Development consulting companies are not immune. It’s observable through the cutbacks in staff amongst major firms like Razorfish, BBDO, Ogilvy and on and on. I have also had a number of colleagues and friends recently downsized at smaller regional companies. Sales are down, not surprisingly, with companies spending less on marketing, advertising and other typical expenditures in this realm… So what’s a small company to do in this sort of climate? How can you grow sales? Gain clients? Expand your offerings or deepen your specializations? The ways are myriad, but here are some things I’m kicking around lately and with it, gaining excitement and momentum in a pretty bleak landscape.

  1. Stop selling “branding experiences”, pointless microsites or juiced up brochureware… While the spigot flows and the economy is good, these sorts of projects might keep on coming in, but, when people are tightening their moneybelts and stuffing their savings under their mattresses, these types of projects are met with dead glances from across the conference room table. For a change, give full and serious consideration to ways your can save your client money by making problems go away. Maybe its deeper integration with their CRM, ERP or other business process management software. Perhaps you can help them transition to webservices, better manage their metrics and conversions via smarter reporting or even hands on training. The point is, pretty and “Wow!” aren’t enough right now.
  2. Use the time to augment your skills. You could then try selling these new skills at a slightly lower rate to get the bites. This allows your designers and developers to stretch, feel good about their professional path and pick up some techniques they might never have thought of before. I recommend getting a company subscription to a training library like Safari or Lynda.com.
  3. Get those clients started on Social Media. You twitter, you blog, you facebook, you linkedin, but, your client doesn’t… why not? Fear? Lack of time? Lack of motivation? Perceived lack of expertise? Well, you have all of them. Help push them into the world of communication with their customers. This is one area set to take off. Many multinationals are are already playing there, but I doubt the local establishment or even the regional clients are playing here with any sort of regularity or defined effort.
  4. Take some work for a nonprofit/501(c) organization. You might get some amount of revenue from this, but you’ll most likely have to seriously discount or even consider doing pro bono work. Use these types of projects to do award wining work, or try out new tools, cross train your staff or even venture into new specializations or vertical markets. In the end, it won’t make you wealthy, but you may find some tax advantages or even *gasp* feel good about the work you do!
  5. Submit, submit, submit! Beyond the typical CommArts, How Magazine, WebbyAwards and Addy Awards, virtually every trade association gives their own awards for marketing and design efforts. Talk to your clients about this! They may be aware of conferences, conventions or publications sponsoring awards that you haven’t heard of. Granted, some are certainly more valuable than others, but as you attempt to grow expertise in your targeted vertical markets, a few niche awards only increases your credibility in that area. in addition to making you look good, your client will get recognition and praise as well… Win win!

So there you have it. No street pounding, cold calling or nepotism involved, though you could go there if you wanted. ;-) I’m attempting to use this time to remain upbeat, increase productivity and enhance internal work processes. These sorts of ideas, coupled with smart cost management and a competitive spirit can allow your small company to flourish, even when things can seem their darkest! What are you doing to expand your offerings, improve your sales or spin a negative into a positive? I’d love to hear it!

2008 In Review – Flash Platform Shortcomings

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m making a list. Or in this case, two. The first list was a celebration of things that happened in 2008 that were perceived by me as being advancements in the Flash world. Well, in the interest of being a true pundit/critic, I have a list of the things that burn me when working in the Flash platform. I’d be interested in hearing what your thoughts are on this list and if you have some things you might want to add.

  1. The Flash IDE wasn’t really improved – Now a thing of comic proportions, Flash CS4 Professional has all been but abandoned as a code editor by most professionals I know, respect and follow in Flash platform blog world. Flex Builder, FDT, Flash Develop and many others out there fill the function better. Adobe missed a huge boat by not enhancing this much begrudged part of the IDE. I mean, the autocomplete is dopey, the need or (un)need of import statements is erratic, and on and on. The language has evolved, with AS3 forcing you to write better structured code, but the editor itself is pretty much still a scripting sketchpad. It’s obvious this is an impediment to users learning AS3, as it seems to pop up as a topic on blogs a lot. Case in point (read the comments on Mike Chamber’s post).
  2. The Flash Mobile Platform is still pretty much a mess – Now, I might take some heat for this view from some evangelists and others in the mobile trenches, but I don’t see a game changing strategy here. With Blackberry, iPhone and Android all out, all popular and not able to play Flash content yet (I hear Android is coming soon, though), it sure seems a bit disjointed to me. Some phones may use openscreen Flash players eventually, some Flash Lite, some Flash. It’s a bit of a mess, IMHO. Furthermore, when I visit Adobe’s Flash Platform page, I see no mention of Flash for Mobile, you have to dig a bit. I just think we need a concerted effort to put Flash mobile devevlopment front and center on Devnet, and make Flash part of mobile vendors lexicon in their sales pitches, i.e. “Did you know you can play Flash games and watch Youtube videos on this Phone because it has Flash?”, etc.
  3. No standard animation syntax across Adobe products – Flash, Flex, After Effects, Spry Framework, Director, heck, even Photoshop are capable of producing animation. All use their own syntax. Some of it is due to mergers and tech acquisitions, some is just due to lack of a “motion czar” at Adobe. Sounds ludicrous, I know, but why should a CS4 user need to know so many syntaxes to make things dance around or produce transitions? Moses supposes propsed this over a year ago, and no movement has taken place on this AFAIK. Dont’ think its a big deal? Look at this diagram. Then look at this one. Which world do you want to work in?
  4. Flash Player 9 never got it’s garbage collection issues patched – It’s a bit disconcerting that such a huge bug never got patched as a revision level thing and they waited to completely update the player to fix it. I’ve written about this in the past, and Grant Skinner has a great series of posts about it on his blog, but really when it comes down to it, the poor audio handling in Flash player 9 (also a well documented bug) and lack of a true unload and cleanup mechanism among other things illustrate to me that maybe a 12-18 month revision cycle is just madness. I’m sure it’s half marketing, “Well, Silverlight just bumped their number, so we have to do it for our player, too”, but that doesn’t make it right. Patch and update the software you have, save the revision number changes for big big revelations and allow your devs to sleep at night in stead of updating their code.
  5. Ever Diverging APIs – I’ve mentioned this issue on this blog before as well… With a “platform”, it’s apparent that some features that Flash IDE can produce aren’t readily apparent in Flex and vice-versa. Add on top of that the AIR APIs and you start to get a LiveDoc soup. What can one do that the other can’t? What are the dependencies? Etc, etc. Flex’s Framework has some hot stuff in it, and, if you chance upon the docs from a Google search trying to do something in Flash, it may not be clear until you’ve read practically the entire class description and gotten your developer hopes dashed on the glacially slow LiveDocs frame based UI website.
  6. Adobe still really doesn’t show the Mac much love at all. – Seriously. Not going to spend much time on this here, but Adobe products just run better on Windows. This pains me. I hate Windows and simply will not switch. Please
  7. Death of Flash Paper with no successor in sight – This is a perplexing move by Adobe in my view. FlashPaper had it’s flaws, but it was a capable tech for replicating Acrobat Reader in a light and compact fashion. No more. End-of-Lifed this year and told not to let the door hit it’s backside bits on the way out, it left my team hanging, pretty much immediately after launch on a project. No IE7 support. Nothing. Not even a proposed replacement or simple way to write PDFs straight from the Flash player. Seems like it was killed on some sort of sacrificial altar of Adobe/Macromedia merger-y black magic. “One shall die to make the other stronger” crud like that. I’m sure I may be exaggerating, but c’mon… Where I am supposed to go after this? Print2Flash, AlivePDF, etc are all promising, but why no Adobe solution in CS4/Flash Player 10? The Flash API’s PrintJob class blows for much more than most simple jobs… Help us!
  8. CS4 Installer not much better than CS3 installerJohn Nack’s blog has been the hotspot of talk from the installer front, with several posts commenters lambasting the team and berating the children of the installer team’s developers. I won’t go that far, but wow. Just please please please make CS5′s better. Shock and awe us with its simplicity. Maybe even *gasp* use the OSes’ native installers (If Final Cut Studio can install simply on OSX and MS Office can do the same on Windows, Adobe can figure it out)! If nothing can be done here though, at least make Adobe Updater go away and stop making us quite all our apps while your yipping dog fails yet again.
  9. SEO enhancements for Flash, but with no real documentation – Oh, how I wanted this to work out. This summer, it was announced that Adobe and Google would be working together to improve the searchability of Flex and Flash content. Ryan Stewart even ran a contest on it. Only real downside… no actual documentation. Or technotes. Or tutorials. Or, you get the idea. Just a simple little FAQ. C’mon! Peter Elst has a little more info on this at his blog.
  10. Global Pricing for Adobe Products unfair as ever – The world definitely doesn’t seem flat when it comes to selling downloadable software packages. Take a look at this comparison of prices for CS4 across the world. Ouch. John Dowdell has a bit on this at his blog entitled CS4 painpoints, so it’s obviously a known issue there, but not sure what’s going on in this realm right now. I do know that it has to hurt to upgrade when the software costs twice as much if you live outside of the US. May as well fly to buy it, or just skip the revision and save the dough in this downtrodden global economy. I have a feeling alot of people may be doing just that.

So, there you go. My list of the ’08 disappointments in the Flash platform. Any things I missed in your opinion… I’m interested in hearing from other designers and devs out there on this one.

My Watchlist for 2009

I’m very nearly entering the third year of running this blog. We’re also entering 2009 very soon. I try to make some projections when I can on what I foresee happening in the coming 12 months. Having recently attended DevLearn08 and seeing Tim O’Reilly speak, I was even more excited than normal to do so. With Adobe MAX behind us and many other big conferences on the way, this seems like a perfect time to do so.

In the face of a global recession, it’s difficult to determine what may actually come this year due to impending cutbacks, but most of these seem to be likely. Some have even been put in motion already, so it truly is a matter of execution for 2009. I would anticipate that with the slowdown, some bigger projects may be getting pushed off (I know some of my clients have a number of efforts ‘on-hold’, so I wouldn’t be surprised if many are doing just this). I have chosen to leave these more amorphous topics off the boards for now.

  1. Marginalization of IE6, possibly 7, too. – I sense a rising tide of hatred amongst my web designer/developer friends. Hatred against a nearly eight year old web browser. I know that I am beginning to approach supporting/focusing on IE6 as an “additional cost” of development, rather than a given. IE7 is the “current” version of Microsoft’s browser, but with the trends growing in the industry, even this fact doesn’t make IE7 the dominant client on the web any longer.
  2. IE8: MS finally gets on board with standards! Currently at “Beta 2″, this browser will make final release sometime in 2009. With the list of features and pre-release buzz surrounding it, I think this will get much quicker acceptance amongst users and a far more rapid deployment by corporate IT departments. Hallelujah! It’s performance on the Acid test at least makes me hopeful!
  3. Rise of Webkit – Perhaps bringing a CSS3 usage increase? Webkit is the rendering engine behind Apple’s Safari browser. It also powers Adobe’s AIR runtime. It also now is the core rendering engine for Google’s Chrome. Each one of these by itself is a small chunk of the market for web visitors, but when combined, it looks to be comprising about 15-18% of the audience share on most of my sites these days. This share is just about equivalent with IE6 or IE7 at this time for me. I would expect that this will grow throughout 2009, with Chrome getting a Mac and Linux release sometime this year.
  4. Continued growth of SaaS (Cloud Services, Data/Apps) – Many many players have thrown their hat in the ring in this area. Even small shops are starting to build in the Amazon and Intuit platforms. I have used a steadily growing number of sites build on the Google app engine as well. With the APIs available and the scalability and great uptime, it is really only going to grow. What does this mean for the end user? Well, beyond the typical privacy concerns, etc, probably not much. However, for the developer, this brings a new set of tools to learn, but hopefully also a significantly increased boost in productivity.
  5. Yahoo’s Near Certain Demise – Is this a true sign of the flip from the original static web to next gen tech? With Yang’s departure and nary a suitor to come it’s rescue, this web stalwart looks to be faltering big time. I can only hope that Delicious and Flickr weather the storm!
  6. Semantic Web tools/progress - Drupal 7! – RDF FTW! The heralded “Semantic Web” has been discussed and pushed for some time. Here is where 2009 is a tad different… there are actually projects and vendors set to release semantic web citizens. CMSs and blog software that produced well formed RDF content. This is a huge first step! Drupal is poised to release a major revision to the venerable open source content management tool that will be a full fledged RDF generating CMS. Nice!
  7. Flash Platform’s Continued Dominance in the RIA space – Flash Catalyst, Flex 4, Mobile Flash,The Open Screen Project and on and on… Adobe is really on a roll right now and everything MS seems to be doing with Silverlight is either playing catch up or just a shot in the dark. With a number of key content providers lining up to use Flash as the delivery platform things really seem to be headed in Adobe’s favor here.
  8. Microblogging goes mainstream – Twitter has certainly hit critical mass amongst the geeks. It’s nearly hit the average web user as well judging from the talk I hear from friends and family. The scalability issues seem to be resolved. I am guessing that the next milestone will be for the average SMS user to get wired up for Tweeting. Facebook’s status message has primed the pump for many of the Social Media/Networking casual users. I venture that 140 characters will be the new IM for a lot of people over the next year. Will the dominant player be Twitter? Maybe, maybe not. With Twitter having no real business model to speak of, it is uncertain how they plan to monetize it and make it a sustainable business. I would recommend Twitter look at charging access for it’s API for commercial Twitter clients/services, rather than put ads in your private timeline, but that topic could fill an entire blog post on it’s own.
  9. USA gets a CTO/CIO – We can only hope he/she is a good one, right? While it may not be “CTO” as the final title, or in post, I think that the revisions planned for the FCC and the web may be what we need to put this net neutrality crap to bed (among a ton of other thorny issues). Forbes recently published an article listing Bill Joy as a front runner. He or a number of the other candidates look great. Though not listed, Lawerence Lessig would be excellent choice, too, IMHO.

So that’s it… not a 10 item list, but I’m running low on time here. What do you think? Emerging trends for the comining year? I’d love to learn what you are keeping your eyes on.

DevLearn ’08 Recap

I just spent 5 days in San Jose. One of the managing partners , John and I went to DevLearn08. Its a conference put on by The eLearning Guild focused on development topics and emerging technology in eLearning.
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