Adobe Builds Bridge to Ajax

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2006-03-13 Print this article Print

Adobe systems release two new open-source libraries to help developers bridge Adobe Flash and Flex technology with the hot Asynchronous JavaScript and XML style of development

Adobe Systems released two new open-source libraries March 8 to help developers bridge Adobe Flash and Flex technology with the hot Asynchronous JavaScript and XML style of development.

Jeff Whatcott, senior director of Adobes Enterprise and Developer Business Unit, said the San Jose, Calif., company is making it easier for developers to use Adobe Flex, Flash Player and AJAX to create RIAs (rich Internet applications).

The two new open-source libraries—the Flex-AJAX Bridge and the AJAX Client for Flex Data Services—will enable developers to easily add the capabilities of the Flash Player and the Flex framework to AJAX applications. And developers also can add AJAX functionality into RIAs built with Flex, company officials said.

"You can start with Flex and add a little AJAX, or start with AJAX and add a little Flex," Whatcott said.

With more and more developers building AJAX applications for the rich client features without the page refresh issues associated with Web applications, the need for tools has grown, Whatcott said. However, whats more is that as developers push the limits of AJAX, they tend to run into limits the browser places on AJAX applications.

"People find AJAX dependent on the browser," Whatcott said, adding that the Adobe Flex platform offers a lot more flexibility and functionality.

Whatcott said the Adobe platform supports things that AJAX does not support, such as programmable audio, video, vector graphics, synchronous publish/subscribe data connectivity, offline data storage and cross-domain data access.

The Flex-AJAX Bridge enables developers to call Flash Player Graphics APIs and to create Flex objects and other activities. In essence, the bridge enables things such as passing data from an AJAX data grid to a Flex bar chart or passing data to an AJAX widget from a Flex application, Whatcott said. The AJAX Client for Flex Data Services, which is expected to be available later this year, lets AJAX applications connect to Flex Data Services 2.0 and support publish/subscribe messaging and other data services.

"Adobe is doing something that is the right thing to do for any vendor that has technology that has to do with the user experience," said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner, also in San Jose. "They are coexisting with AJAX. To some extent, you could say that AJAX competes with Flex and Flash. It is widespread enough that vendors ignore it at their peril."

Said Whatcott: "We looked at this trend and said weve got to get behind this. Some people have the perception that its Flash or AJAX. We say its Flash and AJAX."

Paul Colton, founder of Xamlon and also of a startup called Aptana and creator of AFLAX (Asynchronous Flash and XML), a development methodology that combines AJAX and Flash to create more dynamic Web-based applications, said the open-source aspect of the new Adobe libraries is significant.

"JavaScript—and other AJAX technology—is extremely important right now, as we all know," Colton said in La Jolla, Calif. "Flash is a very compelling technology, but requiring ActionScript and specialized tooling for building applications is a huge factor against Flash/Flex in the new world of AJAX. AFLAX enables developers to use only JavaScript on the client and fully utilize the Flash platform right alongside their other JavaScript code. I think whats more important than Adobes announcement is their contribution of that code into AFLAX. This will enable all AJAX developers to utilize Flash like never before."

"AJAX and Flash are like peanut butter and jelly; each is good in its own right, but they are best when put together," said Richard Monson-Haefel, an analyst with the Burton Group, in Midvale, Utah.

"As AJAX grows in popularity, the advantages and limits of the technology become more obvious," Monson-Haefel said. "What AJAX developers are discovering is that there are a lot of advantages to using Flash in combination with AJAX. Flex takes this a step further by providing a framework for application development, something that is far more useful to people developing business systems for the Web. The fact is that AJAX and Flash are extremely compatible technologies. AJAX is used for fairly lightweight and incremental enhancements to existing Web assets, while Flash and Flex can be used to handle more sophisticated contentlike streaming video and desktoplike GUI presentations."

Added Adobes Whatcott: "We think these libraries are a big step forward for AJAX application development."

Indeed, part of Adobes goal with these libraries is "to make sure people dont have to make these big, high-risk bets over which technology to use," Whatcott said. "Were helping developers make the right choices and pick the right tools for the jobs."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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