Flash Archive

Flex 3 vs Silverlight 3: Enterprise Development

With the recent release of Silverlight 3 and Flash 10 / Flex 4, the Flash vs Silverlight debate has been stoked yet again.  The debate has been raging on twitter using the tags #flex #silverlight.  Links to articles are posted almost every day and retweeted endlessly.

The latest two most talked about articles fall squarely on each side.   On the Silverlight front, a blog post from a coder with a lot of experience in .NET and some Flex experience shares his insights on enterprise development.  His experience with C# colors his opinion of Flex development however, and his inexperience with Flex is evident through his omission of development tools such as FDT and Flex frameworks such as Mate.  His biggest arguments revolve around language features (C# is a more robust, full featured language), AS3’s lack of a native decimal type, and the Flex IDE.  In regards to Silverlight’s penetration, the author claims that since Enterprise apps work within a company, it’s easier to get Silverlight installed.   He finishes the blog post with a nod towards Flex: “this particular Flex application is the best looking application I’ve ever seen!”

On the Flex side, Tim Anderson writes about the release of Morgan Stanley’s Matrix application in his blog.  In it he highlights a few points made during the presentation on why Flash / Flex was chosen over Silverlight.  The main points of the article highlight Flash Player 9’s penetration and Silverlight’s lack-there-of, the application’s speed, and allowing the designers on the project to use products they wanted during development.   The most insightful quote of the presentation was regarding the design tools:

“You have to look at the people that use that technology. The design community. That’s the biggest problem that Microsoft has. The designers all carry around Apple laptops, they all use the Photosuite [sic] set of software tools. It’s like asking structural engineers to stop using CAD applications. That’s the tool that they use, and if you can’t convince them to switch away from your software suite you are going to get a limited number of designers that will use Microsoft’s toolset … if you can’t get the designers to switch, to learn a new language, then how can you possibly ever get some traction?”

So there you have it, one article by a seasoned .NET developer decrying Flex’s lack of language features and another decrying Silverlight’s inability to win over designers.

I have also straddled the fence between .NET and Flex developer for a number of years and have worked a little bit with Silverlight, so I tend to agree with both articles.  They are both right.  AS3 is an inferior language and it’s default IDE is definitely no match for VS.NET, however Flex/AS3’s speed isn’t as bad as is made out and it’s a platform that is ubiquitous and has a VERY low barrier of entry for designers and other non-developers.

So this debate boils down to form vs function.  It’s harder to write a large application with a lot of business logic in Flex, however it’s easier to make it look good.  The opposite is true for Silverlight.  So just like a with any other technology, you have to make a choice based on your audience, the design, and the lifetime of the application.

So I’d recommend Silverlight if:

  • your audience is a small and you have control over the environment they are going to use the app in

  • the design isn’t complex (like heavy use of blend modes, interactive 3d elements)

  • you need tight integration with a .NET backend

  • there is a lack of Presentation Layer Developers

I’d recommend Flash if:

  • you are serving a large, diverse audience

  • you have a complex design with animation (3D, webcam integration, etc)

  • your application uses mainly webservices to communicate to a backend

  • sufficient presentation layer development resources

You can duplicate most sites built in Flex in Silverlight and vice-versa (with a few exceptions).  It’s just a matter for the right tool or the right job.  I lean towards Flex because I feel it has the most flexibility (no pun intended), but I do like XAML / WPF / Silverlight and am excited to see it evolve and be a competitor to Adobe.

Everyone wins when there is competition.

New social media offering

Digitage Web 2.0Image by ocean.flynn via Flickr

We just announced a new offering with our social-media partner Pluck and their product code-named AdLife. AdLife will inject social media features like customer comments and user-generated content into digital advertisements such as banner ads or micro sites - in effect, turning mainstream ads into social media opportunities distributed across the digital world.

From a technology community perspective we have worked with Pluck on several clients to bring social media features to client’s websites. Plucks services are available through software as a service which enables us to drive faster solutions for our clients. The are some key elements such as dealing with a AJAX/Flash/Silverlight integration and still enabling SEO. Unfortunately, search engines are not able to deal well with rich internet applications yet, but we have some ideas on how to deal with this.

That being said, I think there’s a couple of critical element to why we have to make our sites social.

  1. We are social beings, our sites should follow. Communities will help us make our sites better, by adding the right metadata through comments or confirming where we get it right or telling us where we get it wrong - wikipedia anyone:).

  2. Without bringing social technologies to our client’s sites, the sites we build won’t be found. Organic search engines depend on social to surface pages. Remember google bombing? That was enabled through blogging and trackbackids, a key aspect of social. If your site/page isn’t enabled socially, it won’t rank in google, live, and yahoo.

  3. Outside of organic search people read things on the web, so they can send them to their social graph. Again, we mush make it easy for people to connect with their social graph, so people can passively or actively tell their community about the content.

At Avenue A | Razorfish, we’re one of the largest buyers of online media in the world and we’re partnering with Pluck, a social media technology vendor serving 2.5 billion impressions a month to bring this to life. For more information read the press release or read David Deal’s blog.

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