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Dutch Flex User Group

Yesterday, at the J-Spring 2008 event at Bussum in the Netherlands, the Flex User Group was officially launched. This group, called FLUGR, aims to support developers using Adobe Flex and AIR and promote the technology and inspire developers.

Coincidentally, today I had a one-day training in Adobe Flex. This training introduced a group of developers of Finalist to the Flex technology and especially focussed on integrating Flex with a JEE application using LifeCycle ES (or BlazeDS for that matter). The training, given by Mark van Hedel of the company Prisma-IT was pretty intense, but at the same time very educational. I didn’t have any experience with Flex or Flash, but have the feeling that now I know a little about the technology, and will definitely invest some more time to experiment with Flex.
Rich Internet Applications are a rather hot topic in the IT-industry nowadays, and I suspect it will be relevant for a developer to have at least some understanding of the technologies involved. However, I’m not sure what the best technology is for these kind of webapplications. Flex has the benefit of a large number of users that can run applications right away, because the Flash-player is installed on a large number of systems. On the other hand, you are stuck to (at this moment) one supplier (Adobe) and the Flash-player is not open source, which means that support on more exotic platforms, such as Linux and mobile phones is dependent on the mood of Adobe. Alternatives are Silverlight, which has the problems of Flash, but lacks the wide spread availability of the player, JavaFX, which is not really available yet and finally the HTML/JavaScript combinatilon. In my opinion, the battle will go between HTML/JavaScript and Flex, but maybe I’m very wrong at this.

Adobe is trying very hard to convince Java developers to use Flex, by being present at conferences (J-Spring was a good example of this) and by providing the source of the Flex compiler and BlazeDS. A usergroup like Flugr can be good to increase awareness of Flex. But I think the site of Flugr is a really bad example of how Flex should be used. The site is completely made in Flex, but I really don’t understand why they choose for this technology. The site could be exactly identical when developed in plain HTML with a bit of JavaScript. Using Flex for this site doesn’t really add any value to it, but does restrict a large number of users to view this site (because a Flash-player is required) and the usual drawbacks of Flash apply to this site. I thought Flash-only sites was a thing of the past, because they are not indexed by Google, lack the usual accessibility features provided by modern browsers, and the mouse wheel doesn’t work (at least on a Mac using Firefox 3 beta). The decision to create this site this way does more harm than good to the image of Flex.

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2 Responses to “Dutch Flex User Group”

  1. April 18th, 2008 at 8:52

    Gerdt Brouwer says:

    Hi Martin,

    thanks for blog about FLUGR, glad to read you started with Flex as well.

    As for the website of FLUGR,
    since it is a flex user group it is quite normal to make a site with Flex and not with GWT, PHP, HTML and javascript (wow, you just blow away the cross browser strength of Flex), Silverlight etc.
    Therefor, is it a must? No.
    Is it a shame? No.
    It’s Flex.

    Even Google is able to add the content to it’s engine.
    Finally, with flashplayer 9 there is no more “skip intro” as in 1999. 93% of all internet users has the right player already installed.
    Is Flex 3 the end? No, it’s the beginning of the new kind of RIA’s like Sliverlight and JavaFX. As it will evolve even the mouse wheel will be enabled :)

    Hope to see you at FLUGR, june 13th

  2. April 18th, 2008 at 10:00

    Martin Sturm says:

    Hi,
    I understand that you want to demonstrate the capabilities of Flex, but this site doesn’t. It is just a regular site, but instead of using the normal HTML/JavaScript/PHP/Python/Perl/Java/whatever stack, it is implemented in Flex. I don’t get the benefits of implementing such a site using Flex. I could understand it when the site contained features which were impossible (or hard) to implement using HTML and/or Javascript, but that isn’t also the case.
    Using Flex, in this case, reduces the accessibility and adds another requirement to the browser of the visitor without adding any value whatsoever. Using Flex adds nothing, but decreases the user experience. Therefore, this is a bad example of using Flex and does more harm than good to the image of Flex (which is, I think, maybe the biggest problem of Flex at the moment… because Flash has a bad reputation caused by the sites that were completely implemented in Flash in the past).

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