There’s changes in the wind in the world of visual web technologies, and they show a beautiful future for what might soon (and to some degree now) be possible with the use of web standards.
Specifically, I’m talking about web alternatives to that ever popular Adobe Flash plug-in. Note that I won’t be talking about Microsoft’s Silverlight here, since it has many of the same shortcomings as Flash does.
There seem to be three major ways Flash is being used today: For online videos, as a web page interface, and for web-based games. Upcoming standards being developed and implemented for each of these uses.
Primarily Canvas/SVG should eventually be able to handle anything Flash games already do, and possibly more with the recent introduction of 3D Canvas. This could possibly appear in Firefox 3, and is also available (apparently in a different form) in the previously mentioned experimental build by Opera. An example game is this amazing 3D version of Snake.
Some might ask “but…why? Flash already does so much of this! Why reinvent the wheel?”.
Well, there’s several reasons. Flash is a proprietary and not part of any W3 standard, which prevents a lot of things like easy and free ways for developers to create SWF files. It also causes many accessibility problems, because Flash files are just single binary files, unreadable (mostly) to anything but Adobe’s Flash player. Several other problems exist too.
All these issues are addressed in the various methods mentioned above. And that’s great news for the future of the web. The fact that we’re seeing all these cross-browser implementations already bodes very well for the future. Of course, it’s yet to be seen how much and how fast Microsoft will incorporate these features in Internet Explorer. I’m pretty optimistic, however, that they will find it in their best interest to keep up with these technologies eventually.
Web standards have done a lot for the web so far, and it’s great to get a glimpse of how far they can take us into the future.