Flash -vs- Applets

Bryan Sant bryan.sant at gmail.com
Wed Nov 15 14:16:52 MST 2006

On 11/15/06, Paul Seamons <paul at seamons.com> wrote:
> ... until Java is open sourced and different distros release different
> versions.  Oh wait, it is open sourced.  I'm sure most distros will try not
> to fragment the market, but there will be more versions of run times now that
> Sun isn't the only distributor.  Hopefully they will remain compatible - so I
> don't have to install Red Hat's release in order to get the features I need
> in the applet.

I think that Sun will retain rights to the name "Java".  So, if I
release a Java applet, by definition I expect that level of
compatibility.  If Red Hat forked and created there own version, they
would have to call it something different.  The problem you describe
is still valid, but I don't think there will be end user confusion
about what I expect them to have installed on their system for the app
to work.

> Is that good?  I don't recall ever seeing a Java Applet UI that didn't look
> like it was using Windows 3.1 toolkit.  Often Applets make Tk applications
> look modern.  I am not intending for those to be fighting words - but I
> really haven't.  If you have examples of an Applet UI that looks remotely
> integrated with the UI of the host OS or at least has a well designed
> interface (looks - not layout), I'd be interested to take a look.  Maybe this
> has been or will be addressed with recent or future releases - I just haven't
> seen the results yet.

Ok, so now we have to go a little deeper.  There are Applets and then
there are JApplets.  Applets use AWT (the Abstract Windowing Toolkit),
which is how Java pushes native components.  The reason why every
Applet you've seen looks like Motif (or Tk-ish), is because Java was
really using Motif widgets!  This didn't change until Java 5, and now
Applets push GTK+ widgets.  All that aside, AWT is limited and
everyone recommends Swing.  JApplets use Swing not AWT.  There are
many good looking Swing applications and Java 5 or better JRE's
emulate the Windows look perfectly.  GTK+ emulation is darn near
perfect in Java 6.  There are many good looking Swing apps, any one of
which could be converted to be a JApplet.  Maybe I'll make a sample
one and post a link for everyone to inspect and give some feedback on
(if you're willing to install the Java 6 plugin) :

> That will happen as soon as all of the web developers and designers learn
> Java.  Which means that there will continue to be AJAX, Apollo, WebStart,
> Java Applets, Flash, and whatever the next flavor of the month is.

Oh ya.  I don't think that this would displace the technologies you've
listed.  This would be more convenient for those who are more familiar
with Java (or desktop software development in general) than web
development.  I doubt web designers are going to want to stop
producing prototypes in photoshop and start making them in NetBeans
designer (though they might?).

> Universal Java Availability (tm), assuming that it exists, will make
> programming RIA easier for a certain subset of the market that programs and
> depends upon RIA.  Applets have a certain distance to travel still before
> they are a viable replacement for what Flash does.  Open sourcing will allow

Capability wise, I think that Java 2D (the stuff that backs Swing) is
right up there with Flash.  But animation libraries aren't as mature
as Flash.  If you want to do animations, then you should stick with
Flash.  If you want to make a rich application, JApplets are better.

> for the creation of a set of foundation classes that more easily mimic in
> Java what is available in Flash.  Oh - and they'll have to make Java Applet
> builder tools that are as easy to use as the Macromedia Products.  Simple
> enough.  Maybe we'll have all of that by Christmas :)  Of 2010 :(  Or 2011.

Or maybe we have it today:

> I can guarantee that in the next few years there will be emerging technologies
> (plural) that fill the void that is sane RIA.  And some of them will be
> spelled differently than anything available now.  Still I do agree that
> Universal Java Availability will help with one corner of the market.

True.  Good post, good points.


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