Thoughts On Flash, AJAX and ColdFusion

2006-06-12 21:52:00.0

Thoughts On Flash, AJAX and ColdFusion

Peter and myself meet up regularly outside of work for a coffee and wild ramblings on the direction our development should be taking. We discuss upcoming technologies, applications that interest us aswell as arguing the finer points of whether Flash or AJAX should be used when creating online applications. What will happen to ColdFusion, etc etc

We had such a discussion today and debated the pros and cons of each. It went along these lines:

Flash

Flash is great but it is not wonderful in all ocassions. It has the potential to beat AJAX to a pulp but the sluggy controls make it painful to use. The sluggy controls I am talking about are things like Scrollbars, Buttons, Grids etc

Flash has also got a big enough learning curve if you come from a pure programming background and seems to be designed more for graphic designers than normal programmers. I know this is a brave statement but look at the Flash Development environment. You cant really start with a blank code page and work away. It is getting there though. BTW, the programming gone into the Flash IDE alone is superb!

Flash is perfect for things like Image manipulation and small widgets used in conjunction with HTML and Javascript. Its cross-platform and has a huge user base. Write once, deploy on different platforms with one code base.  Relatively secure code wise although unfortunately there are SWF decompilers available :-( The only true RIA Flash app I was impressed with was Yahoo Maps Beta

AJAX

Easy to learn and easy to use. The problem is all the different browsers and platforms need specific implementations. It cant access the local file system and cant do image manipulation particularly well. It is a good light weight tool for quick widgets where Flash would be overkill. I think Googles implementation of AJAX is the best out there. Gmail and Google Groups truely impress me. I often wondered about the pain involved in managing these apps with all the different browsers and platforms and code forks until I read about Google Widgets and realised they wrote everything in Java and their platform converted everything into AJAX enabled HTML code.

I suppose in a way ColdFusion is like that. Write in CFML and its interpretted/compiled into Java servlets. A good way to abstract things.

ColdFusion

We love it. But where is it going? Are Adobe going to ruin it? Was Macromedias decision to integrate it more with Flash the right direction to take it?

Will it eventually be stopped and integrated completely into Flex? I hope not.

ColdFusion is a great Application Server and has continued to stay ahead of BlueDragon. CFML is a great language and in my opinion the best choice for web applications. For pure and utter RAD development, ColdFusion is the way to go. If you need something extra you can call in Java using CFOBJECT or write a CFX tag in C++ or Java. I wouldnt pick any other language over it! We have used it for 6 years and recommend it everytime a new project comes in the door! The time saved building a project more than makes up for the license cost!

Forget Ruby On Rails and PHP etc but ASP.net is looking interesting. I kinda like the whole .net idea. Maybe CFML should be developed more as a language rather than trying to trying to put the kitchen sink into the Application Server. One thing that could be improved is its handling of data types... 

I noticed over the last 2 years Ben Forta has started to push Flex more in his blogs (as well as mobile technologies) more so than pure ColdFusion. I feel sad about that. Ben was the main evangalist of ColdFusion and it was nice to have someone like that presiding over the technology. I always found Ben very approachable via email and the few times I met him and liked to think of him as pure  ColdFusion but I realise what areas Adobe is pushing and hence Ben pushing them. I also found this sense of loss when Charlie Arehart left New Atlanta. Charlie was a great guy for helping the community and everytime we had an issue with BlueDragon he literaly got back to us straight-away and followed up until the issue was resolved. I think ColdFusion needs someone like that back in the community.

Which brings me to summing up what I have begun to notice in the last few years. The ColdFusion community is lacking support and resources.The community seems to be revolved around a small few people. EasyCFM used to be full of steam but has almost fallen off the radar. I wish I could help in some way. Maybe in the future I can.

The ColdFusion Exchange used to be HUGE back in the Allaire days but since being turned into a Rich Internet Application (pah..) its a joke. BTW, this is exactly the WRONG way to design an internet application. Sloooowwwww widgets and no right-click-open-in-new-window that piss people off!

Tags: AJAX | ColdFusion | Flash
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Comments

Ben Forta said:
Dan, "was the main evangelist"? WAS!?!

Dude, don't panic, I am still the ColdFusion guy here. I still spend MOST of my time on ColdFusion. I'm still mega-involved in next version planning. I am still on the road with customers and partners as much as ever. And I am still doing user group tours every year or so. But CFMX7 was released over a year ago, back then that was about all I posted on and spoke about. I still do post on CFMX7, but the frequency of posts is definitley tied to product release cycles.

Yes, I have been posting about Flex recently, but that is because we are about to release a really important Flex update. And FWIW, this update is going to be really important to us CFers.

So expect a little more Flex than usual right now. And then after Flex 2 ships, and as we ramp up towards Scorpio you can be sure that I'll be talking about little else.

I agree with you about needing to know where we are going with CF. We've been far too quiet, and we're going to change that. I can't say much about Scorpio yet, but ... no, it will not be integrated into Flex (nor should it be), and no, it is not going away any time soon, and yes, we are working on a major upgrade for 2007.

Stay tuned!

--- Ben
Dan said:
Now I am impressed. Posted 3 hours ago and a reply from the man himself! Thanks Ben! Its nice hear your thoughts and I look forward to what sounds like a promising time for CFers! I'm glad CF is going to be kept seperate and look forward to hearing more on Scorpio when the time is right!

BTW, I think I'll add Technorati to my list of top Web 2.0 apps :-)
Forget Ruby on Rails?? Better watch out dude, it's getting a lot more new programmers interested in it than CF is. Ruby on Rails is the RAD platform of the future.

That being said, don't forget to check out ColdFusion on Wheels! :)