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RIA & Ajax: Article

What's Yahoo! Up To With RIA Widgets?

Why is Yahoo, of all companies, doing this type of Flash/Flex stuff?

Jeff Haynie's "Introspection" Blog

I read on Ryan Stewart’s blog: “Yahoo! Releases ASTRA: Set of Flash and Flex Components”. Huh?

According to Yahoo!’s developer site, ASTRA stands for “ActionScript Toolkit for Rich Applications”. OK, I think I get it - or maybe not?

So, I took a look at the components and examples on their website. What’s up with these widgets?

Tree, Menu, TabBar, Autocomplete, Charts, AlertManager, AudioPlayback, Menubar

OK, for example - take a look at the AlertManager.


Drag around the alert box inside the flash “window”. Yeah, it clips. OK, that’s probably just because the frame size is too small. But, c’mon. I admit, I don’t get it.

Why is Yahoo!, of all companies, doing this type of stuff? I get YUI. I also really dig their OpenID initiatives, very good stuff and about time.

But, I don’t get their Flash/Flex widgets. I suppose these are good if you’re building applications in Flex. But Flex is based on the proprietary web. It’s based on an application-in-a-player approach to building applications. I thought Yahoo really supported standards. Flex is not really about the open web. Sorry, Ryan, you’re an awesome dude - but that’s the way I see it.

OK, I’m biased true up. We’ve developed Appcelerator because we think that Adobe has one thing dead on point: RIAs are going to change the world and a Service Oriented UI (a UI which cleanly separates the front-end from the services on the back-end) is the next generation application architecture.

Appcelerator is based on HTML, CSS, JS. Flash is not a bad thing, absolutely not. I’m not even trying to go there. There are capabilities like streaming sound and high-end animation that weren’t part of the early web standards and browser’s don’t support them - outside of Flash. Flash has a great footprint - 98% of installed browsers - if not greater. But it’s usage should be limited to capabilities outside of what you can’t do in a standards based web. Use it where it makes sense. Don’t where it doesn’t.

You can build rich internet applications in HTML, CSS and JS. You can even do tweens, animations and lots of interesting rich applications which some people think you can only do in Flash. Sure, it’s not that easy - and that’s what we’re focusing on at Appcelerator. We want to see RIAs be developed - as much as possible based on requirements - using a standards based approach and leveraging existing capabilities, tooling and skillsets.

If you’re hand writing AJAX and Javascript code - or worse, using Flex - you really should check out our product. It’s open source, it’s standards based and cross-browser - and it’s going to be a key part of the RIA adoption. And, we welcome your feedback, your contributions and your help. We are building Appcelerator for you - the developer. We want to help you be more productive, more efficient and have less headaches.

Why not join us?

P.S. I’m still trying to find ways where Flex and Appcelerator could work together - to benefit developers who need to (or are forced to) use it. Any ideas?

More Stories By Jeff Haynie

Jeff Haynie is co-founder and CEO of Appcelerator. He started Appcelerator to provide a true open-source solution to enterprise RIA and SOA-based services development, after growing frustrated by the limited options and complexity in other solutions through his own development work. Prior to starting Appcelerator, Haynie served as co-founder and CTO of Vocalocity and CTO of eHatchery, an extension of Bill Gross? ideaLab. Haynie is an expert software developer and entrepreneur. Haynie has been active in standards development, as well as a contributor to open-source projects, including early work on JBoss. For more on Jeff Haynie, visit his blog at

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