What it is: A graphics animation program written and marketed by Macromedia.
What it’s good for: You can use Flash to create dynamic, interactive applications that operate smoothly and quickly because they reside on the user’s computer and don’t require a constant connection with a Web server to update themselves.
What to watch out for: Just because most users have Flash doesn’t mean they all do. Furthermore, some users perceive Flash applications as being “heavy”—meaning they think they would take too long to download, even over broadband.
What it is: Software that converts analog video signals into a digital format for transmission.
What it’s good for: It’s an effective, low-cost way to create the illusion of streaming video. It’s also more stable than a video stream—it doesn’t get hung up when too many people try to access it at the same time.What to watch out for: It only works well for videos that don’t have a lot of activity in them, such as a meeting or a simple product demonstration. It won’t work well if, for example, the product you’re demonstrating is animated.
What they are: Intelligent software agents programmed to understand written (and sometimes spoken) language.
What they’re good for: Bots can supplement your company’s customer-service initiatives as an alternative to your call center. Bots can even cut down on the number of e-mail inquiries customers submit, according to Melissa Robinson, Ikea Direct’s central services manager.
What to watch out for: Unless they’re done well, they may not be helpful at all and could frustrate and alienate more customers than they impress.
What it’s good for: It’s great for making websites more interactive and easier to use without developers having to write huge amounts of code or forcing users to download and install browser plug-ins.