Flash Platform, Maelstrom and Zorn: The Revolution Begins

We are living in exciting times. Macromedia just released four very important pieces of news. What are these announcements, what do they mean to you, the Flash/Flex/RIA developer and what indicators do they give regarding the future of the Flash and RIA worlds? Let's explore each question in turn.

What was announced?

The first announcement is that Macromedia has joined the Eclipse Foundation. Eclipse, as you may already know, is an open source extensible rich client platform for creating development tools.

The second announcement concerns the first fruit of this membership, which will be the new Flex IDE to replace Flex Builder, code named Zorn.

Thirdly, Macromedia has unveiled the Flash Platform. What is the Flash Platform? According to Macromedia:

"The Flash Platform is a complete system. It includes a universal client runtime, an openly published file format (SWF) specification, a robust programming model, time-tested development tools, dedicated server technology, integrated solutions, and the support of major systems integration partners, ISVs, and OEMs."

So, finally, the Flash ecosystem has an official name: The Flash Platform. This is important because we are finally calling an apple an apple. Flash is a platform and has been for a while now. The universal client runtime that the release refers to is non other than the Flash Player -- which we should start calling the Flash Virtual Machine. Also, although not stated in the brief excerpt above, it can't go without mention that a vital part of the Flash Platform is the existence of a vibrant open source community.

Finally, Macromedia has officially previewed the next Flash Player, codenamed Maelstrom.

What do these announcements mean for you?

Macromedia joining the Eclipse Foundation is great news for developers. The existence of a Flex IDE in Eclipse is the next logical step in the evolution of the Flash Platform. Many Flash developers have already started evaluating and using Eclipse for Flash development using FAME/FAMES/etc. and this latest announcement means that they can continue to do so knowing that they will be able to reuse their Eclipse knowledge in Zorn.

The move also signals a greater embrace of open source tools and technologies by Macromedia. A move that is mirrored in their current support for and stance towards open source Flash projects such as OSFlash, MTASC, ARP, etc. I have no doubt that we will see interesting developments in this area in the coming days!

Finally, the new Flash Virtual Machine, with features such as expressiveness features, File Upload, enhanced Video and improved performance is great news and will make it easier for Flash developers to create richer RIAs.

I will cover the indicators that these announcements give regarding the future of Flash in a separate blog post soon.