On 1st August, Adobe unveiled Edge, a preview of a product that does non-Flash animation. The magazine .net asked for my reaction, and I gave them an edited version of these notes below. You shouldn’t take this as any official Opera position, by the way.
I think it’s a good move from Adobe, and one that’s been widely expected for a couple of years now. I’ve been predicating it since the HTML5 hype really went into over-drive.
I describe Edge’s output as “non-Flash motion graphics”, for two reasons.
Firstly, Edge doesn’t seem to compete with Flash; its visual metaphors aren’t those of the Flash authoring tool, and it makes simple animated thingies (banner ads, amusing pictures) rather than game-like experiences that you can interact with, or movies with sounds (the things I I associate with Flash.)
Secondly, there isn’t any “HTML5″ about Edge at all. Many companies’ marketing people have realised that if I call my dog ‘HTML5’, it’s more likely to win Crufts than if I call it ‘CSS3’ or ‘Open Web Standards’. So everything is ‘HTML5’. It’s a shame, but there we are. Adobe are certanly no more guilty of this than Apple, Google or any number of journalists and analysts.
If you look under the hood of Edge, there isn’t even any use of NEWT – CSS transitions or SVG. In short, what Edge produces is simply old-fashioned DHTML – moving meaningless
This isn’t necessarily catastrophic. A banner ad made in DHTML will render on iOS, whereas a banner ad made with Flash won’t, so there is a win there for site owners – and, let’s face it, some people (the group I call the The iPony Club) see the terms “HTML5″ and “iOS” as interchangeable.
More worryingly, Edge produces non-semantic
But the Adobe guys are listening:
We started with DIVs because we wanted to get something out there quickly that folks could play with. I say we “started” there because Edge will be evolving rapidly – the product is by no means feature complete.
Hopefully we’ll see regular previews with an increase in semantics and optimisating logic whereby those animations that are best done in cross-browser CSS are done there, whereas those best achieved in SVG or canvas are done there. It’s not impossible, and tools like Dreamweaver show that WYSIWYG tools are not incompatible with semantics and good-quality robust code.
It’s early days yet, and it remains to be seen how cross-browser and lightweight the resulting code will be in the final release, but I tentatively declare it a win for the open web stack and a win for designers (and developers like me) who find scripting animations in a text editor keeps them awake at night in a cold sweat.