July 31, 2003
Flash Player 7 Public Beta Released
There are the official new features; namely an auto-update mechanism (initially for ActiveX clients-only), enhanced video quality/performance, and finally boosts to Actionscript execution in some areas. Then there are the possible new features being discussed by developers who have already begun taking apart the player to look for as-yet unannounced functionality.
Before we go further, let me put on my John Dowdell hat and implore everyone to download and test the new beta on your existing Flash or Flash projects in development, especially those projects that employ back-end/database communication. Remember, once Flash Player 7 is officially released, there's no taking it back, and if your project now breaks with the beta, this is your opportunity to avoid having to explain to your client why your work fails with the latest and greatest. Report your bugs!
First-up: Video quality
Ming Chan posted screengrab comparisons of Flash video in both the 7 beta and the Flash 6 ActiveX players to the FlashCoders list. It's not clear whether Ming's video was also compressed with a beta version of the Flash 7 authoring tool (note the logo bug on the F7 beta examples is missing in the F6 version), but there's a clear improvement in the images with reduced compression artifacting in the background.
File under Fun to think about, but hold on to your money for now:
HTML textfields now support stylesheets?
HTML textfields now support embedded images?
July 15, 2003
The End of History, Pt II
I first wrote about expected changes in The End of History when AOL announced its intention to continue using Microsoft IE technology in its Windows client over its own Netscape Gecko product, spelling the end to the strongest remaining challenge to browser monopoly.
Though I hate to admit it, this was probably a smart move for today's AOL/TW, who reportedly wants to concentrate on its core content business and has enough troubles without charging windmills. AOL locks in the decent enough IE component for seven years (which may be how long it takes for the next version of IE to reach majority use), access to Microsoft DRM tech and distribution with every copy of Windows.
Ultimately, though, Microsoft's MSN is a direct competitor to AOL, and Microsoft's reach begins to extend to the content market as well. Someday (2010?), AOL may find they need to shop elsewhere for a browser engine, and so it is in their best interest to keep an alternative alive: I give you the Mozilla Foundation.
This has perhaps become a common refrain around here, but if you are a developer, you really owe it to yourself to check out Mozilla, now at version 1.4. If you are an end-user, you really owe it to yourself to check out Mozilla, or one of it's variants. If you hate pop-ups, work with lots of windows, want searchable bookmarks...well, you get the idea.
Oh, and if you are wondering what's become of those people who made history, you can find them here.