Intuitive search and the demise of Flash

A new search engine which claims to be ‘more natural and intuitive’, may pose a challenge to Google. Quoting Techcrunch,

I haven’t seen a demo of upcoming search engine Powerset yet, but reportedly many people who have are impressed, saying they’d never use Google again.

Sounds mighty powerful to me. I’ll wait for the public launch. If it’s any good, expect venture capital funding to come in.
Read/WriteWeb reports that AJAX will surpass Flash in 2007.
I remember in the late 90’s and early 00’s when Flash took centrestage. We all wanted to learn Flash. Yugo Nakamura, Joshua Davis and Gmunk were my heroes. Then Actionscript developed a powerful, object-oriented aura, and Director lingo became a forgotten language.
At the time, JavaScript, to me, was used minimally and for functional purposes. It was often associated with tickers, cheesy scrollers and annoying popup windows.
In time, people started writing about accessibility in Flash. Jakob Nielsen said Flash was 99% bad. Macromedia heard their views and hired Nielsen to improve things. After that was done, Nielsen said Flash was less bad but still not that great. Maybe he’ll say something about AJAX soon. [Update: AJAX is discussed very briefly in a Q&A session. No strong objections so far.]
Around that time, a baby was conceived from the ashes of JavaScript. Jesse James-Garett gave it a name. AJAX is now a toddler and, being cute, everybody wants to play with it now.
My own comments:

  • I was comfortable with ActionScript up to an intermediate level, until it got more complicated. Being a law grad who taught herself HTML and CSS, moving into the realms of Java was tricky. Then I changed career path, and now no longer design in Flash.
  • I never quite understood what Flashpaper was all about. I don’t like reading text-heavy documents in Flash. I’d rather use the software to convert my documents into PDF format.
  • For what little I now know of the creative web community, Flash and AJAX are used by slightly different groups of people. Designers use Flash for visual effects. Programmers probably prefer AJAX for functionality. Some people can handle both.
  • While AJAX allows the same drag-and-drop functions as Flash in many instances now, Flash is still the preferred medium for smooth multimedia animations, cartoons and audio playback.  However, there is a tendency for Flash movies to take a while to load, whereas AJAX-enabled websites I’ve seen so far, minimise the load time.
  • Whichever you choose, I’d appreciate it if important information isn’t hidden away in some JavaScript code or a Flash movie with tiny font sizes with the right-click zoom function disabled. In short, use common sense and think of the user’s needs first.
  • OK/Cancel has a parody – AJAX – 99% bad. Noooo… 

Look at who was surveyed, though. “Web developers” and organisations. Developers would obviously use a technology they’re more comfortable with. Conduct the same survey with creative agencies whose focus is on more making visual impact and winning creative awards, and I’m sure Flash’s popularity will be much greater than AJAX. Ask the Creative Director if his agency can do a website for you in Flash. “Sure,” he’ll probably say. Ask them if the website can sacrifice flair for functionality, and whether they can use AJAX instead.
There’ll probably be more analysis coming in from other sites. I’ll open this post up for trackback, if anyone wants to continue the discussion.
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