As software and Internet companies think about how to make their Web applications more interactive and able to work across various environments (including the desktop), Adobe, with its Flash and AIR technologies, has emerged as an interesting player to watch at this year's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco.
Adobe had its hand in a couple announcements concerning big consumer Internet brands at the conference this week. The first concerned Facebook and its ecosystem of developers who utilize Adobe Flash. Flash is a technology that enables applications and websites to become more animated, helping add features like online video. People who develop third-party applications for Facebook that users install on their Facebook pages make use of Flash (around 12 of the top 20 Facebook applications have Flash).
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This week, Facebook and Adobe created a library that will help developers grab common pieces of Flash code for their Facebook app (it will basically save them a lot of time in the development process of an app).
Yahoo announced the launch of Sideline, an app that helps people manage Twitter searches on their desktop. Sideline was built on Adobe AIR, a technology that companies use to build rich Internet applications for the desktop. Essentially, apps that run on AIR will do similar features to their browser-based counterpart, but by utilizing the local desktop, they can run them a lot faster and in real-time. On the browser, users often need to keep clicking "refresh" to get new information. With an app built on AIR, information can just flow to you (a concept known as streaming technology).
"The browser is very good for the reach of applications, but it does have some limitations," Adrian Ludwig, a group manager of marketing for the Adobe Flash Platform. "For things like Twitter, which happen in real-time, they're finding that the desktop can be very compelling."
While the Facebook and Yahoo announcements will garner most press attention, Enterprise 2.0 vendors — companies that have focused on building Web 2.0 apps for the enterprise — have also begun utilizing Flash.
Ross Mayfield, president and cofounder of Socialtext, has been utilizing AIR technology for his company's Socialtext desktop application. Socialtext provides companies with wikis, social networking profiles, customized home pages and now "signals" — a Twitter-like app used for internal collaboration within the enterprise.
Particularly for Signals, the desktop app has been beneficial for users who follow the short messages their colleagues publish in real-time, opposed to the Web-browser, where they'd have to constantly update the page, Mayfield says.
"It makes it easy for users to just keep Signals on, minimized on the desktop, and just jump in and update their colleagues whenever they're ready," he says.