Distantly Yours: Web Design and Photos in Bloomington, IN, by Dan Hiester


Where's the open-source Flash killer?

Flash 10 has some pretty big new features going into it. Things like hardware-accelerated 3D graphics (fast-forward to about 3:50 into the video). Things like a tool that converts C code to Actionscript. Pretty impressive stuff!

So, how much more expensive is Flash CS4 going to be, then? Clearly, the cost of Flash is going to become a big barrier to entry. What made Flash so popular in the first place was that it was cheaper than Director, and its movies loaded faster than Director. Where’s the low-budget alternative now?

We have the technology

In the beginning, Flash was a simple vector graphics animation program that also allowed you to create clickable buttons. SVG and Javascript can totally do that. In fact, there are a handful of demonstrations at David Dailey’s SVG page.

They have animation, masking, warping, bitmap transforming, just to name a few of Flash’s features. The thing is, these were all hand-coded. They weren’t created in a drawing / IDE program like Flash. And as far as I can tell, that’s what we’re missing. Sure, there’s Pencil, but it aims to be strictly animation software, not a Flash replacement.

Plugin, or not?

Obviously, the problem with SVG is that it isn’t consistently implemented right now. But if we’re talking about replacing Flash with another piece of software, why shouldn’t that software be paired with a browser plugin?

It could use Cairo for a rendering backend, and “compile” its files into a 7-zip compressed file. It could use Ogg Vorbis for cd-quality audio that still sounds fantastic as low as 80kbps.

And the best part: it could be available for free on Windows, Mac and Linux.

Yeah, it’s probably a pipe-dream, for now. But seriously. If Flash ends up costing a few hundred bucks more with each new release, I think someone’s going to realize how much demand there is for an open-source alternative.

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