Birth of Flexzilla

I have been watching browser statistics on our company sites lately – they were quite accurate of being able to predict the browser usage for 1.5 years ahead of time for general population – and Mozilla accounts for about of 55% of the hits.

That is the time the FLexzilla suppose to be released in the wild. Also, within 9 month, Apollo have to be released with similar functionality – joining Web and Flash functionality in a single, small network application platform. Compatibility will be crucial , with an ability to run the same code base, with or without Apollo extension (disconnected mode, pocket server, etc.).  If done right, performance would further drive adoption rate for Mozilla. And Flash as XUL platform will give Mozilla necessary advatage in terms of richness and performance. That is all for greater good of humans.

What does it mean for developers like you and me?

First things that really scares me: JavaScript and ActionScript are not that compatible. The main difference – interpreted vs compiled really affects the way you code.

It took me 6 month to get used to missing eval() – and in the end in our Flex apps we have an ability to send arbitrary ActionScript to server, compile it and execute it on the client – within subsecond.

It takes a lot of discipline to use strongly typed variables. Put JavaScript, Flash and Flex developer together  and ask them what is typeof x where var x = new Date();  You are going to hear Object, Number and Date – and all of them are right. You keep asking ” is x + 1 a valid expression” and will hear Yes from JavaScript person and No from ActionScript3 one.

In terms of programming style – you can not live without dynamic closures in JavaScript, I am still to see compatible implementation in the ActionScript.   In the end of the day some changes and sacrifices will be made and we will get truly rich dynamic language out of ActionScript. I believe there are some lessons in obscure PowerScript syntax that can be applied here – but I am sure Adobe is looking into it already.

On the bright side, with release of AS parser, bytecode and minimal code generator it is probably a matter of little time till we would have evals compiler written completely in ActionScript. We would probably revisit the project I mentioned above and see the cost of full client-side implementation along with bytecode generation (interestingly enough, we started  our pre-compiler JavaScript grammar and worked it up to ActionScript one – so we pretty much saw most of the underwater issues there). Anyone interested in participating in opensource implementation of that please contact me offline.

It’s going to be another fun year and a half, with a lot of opportunities and new ideas.

Sincerely,

Anatole Tartakovsky

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One thought on “Birth of Flexzilla

  1. Anatole,

    hotelos’ by pogovorit’ nemnogo – menia interesuet chto proishodit s flex.

    can you send me your number or call me

    vadim

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