Ask Zoho: Why AJAX? Why not Flash?

General | November 21, 2007 | 2 min read

Before I begin, let me state upfront that we do have a good background in Flash; ToonDoo, a great place to create & share comics – think of it as our humble contribution to global unproductivity – uses Flash heavily. In fact, it is hard to think of doing the comic design tools in ToonDoo without Flash. So, yes, we love Flash – our fanatics are better than your fanatics!

Yet, for much of the Zoho suite, whenever we think “That feature would be hard to do in Javascript, we may need Flash”, our developers find a way to do it in Javascript. A forthcoming major release in Zoho would serve to illustrate it. We have had a team working away furiously for the past several months on this release. Let me just say that this team has made Javascript sing … and I am sure you are going to love the result!

As good as Flash is, Javascript keeps getting better. Let me outline some of the reasons we haven’t had the urgency to move.

1. Native to the Web

A real web application should natively support web standards – HTML & CSS are pretty much synonymous with “web standards”. The biggest reason we started out with Javascript is that it is native to the web – in the sense its core object model for Javascript is the HTML/CSS Document Object Model. The DOM is a gift to web applications. Even with the annoying browser differences in DOM (which sophisticated libraries increasingly hide), it is still far better to have the DOM than not have it. Flash, for all its advantages, sits in a separate space from the browser. In that sense, Flash is not that different from Java-on-the-client. In fact, Flash is Java-on-the-client-done-right.

I am sure Flash will eventually find a way to natively integrate with the browser but it is not there yet.

2. Open Source Library Support

This is a big one. The depth and variety of libraries available in Javascript just keep getting better. It is mind boggling just how much open source development is going on in Javascript. Developers keep pushing the envelope. For one example, look at the jQuery solar system demo. It shocked me the first time I saw it. Pretty impressive that Javascript could do that, right? The capabilities of Javascript exceed the client requirements of office productivity applications today, and there are tons more innovations coming.

3. Vector Graphics in Browsers

This is another big one. Vector graphics formats like SVG (Firefox, Opera), VML (IE), and HTML Canvas (Firefox, Safari, Opera), are becoming ubiquitous in browsers. Yeah, it sucks that IE doesn’t support SVG, but that can be worked around. Even cooler is the fact that SVG & VML are XML and very Javascript friendly. You can do real magic.

4. Mobile Support

Web browsers are ubiquitous in mobiles. Even when their Javascript engines are poor, it is easy to lighten up on the Javascript to offer a serviceable HTML client; the client can degrade gracefully. Flash is a zero or one proposition. One word: iPhone.

5. Size

Try any of the Zoho services. Try equivalent Flash applications. Compare the initial loading time. As broadband adoption spreads, this would matter less and less. But it still matters a lot today. In a country like India, where “broadband” has been redefined to mean as little as 128kbps (no kidding!) it really matters. Yes, it is only one time loading. Java Web Start said the same thing too.

Bottom line: we will use Flash when appropriate, but at this point, Javascript is getting better faster!

  1. wow accounts for sale

    There are so many interesting things we can do with Ajax and Flash together such as: graphics, file upload, sound, push (sockets), offline web apps (local data objects) and video to name a few. We have much more to gain by mixing these technologies rather than debating which one is better.

  2. wow accounts for sale

    There are so many interesting things we can do with Ajax and Flash together such as: graphics, file upload, sound, push (sockets), offline web apps (local data objects) and video to name a few. We have much more to gain by mixing these technologies rather than debating which one is better.

  3. Michael S.

    What about HTML5? That looks to be the next big thing.

  4. Michael S.

    What about HTML5? That looks to be the next big thing.

  5. gazduire web

    I think flash it’s beter than ajax…

  6. gazduire web

    I think flash it’s beter than ajax…

  7. Boris

    why ? here is a reason.
    Best VML / ajax performance .Here is the first browser game, that use VML and Ajax to achive real time interactivity
    of multiple players and astonishing special effects with large number of true transparency layers.game play movie on the main page.
    http://www.glory-online.com
    try it.game run on 3 servers.

  8. Boris

    why ? here is a reason.
    Best VML / ajax performance .Here is the first browser game, that use VML and Ajax to achive real time interactivity
    of multiple players and astonishing special effects with large number of true transparency layers.game play movie on the main page.
    http://www.glory-online.com
    try it.game run on 3 servers.