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This document will discuss ways to provide multimedia access over the internet. This document will focus on Flash and Sliverlight as ways to provide this access. A discussion as to why they are unique and their functions as multimedia access providers will be included. A personal opinion as to why or why not they should be utilized will also be included.
The World Wide Web today is full of multimedia experiences for all users. The web has grown into a medium for broadcasting various forms of multimedia such as live TV, radio, pre-recorded video, pictures, photos, and animations. Users of the World Wide Web today expect the multimedia experience everywhere on the web today.
To enable the multimedia experience specialized software programs were created. These programs are called plugins and media players and those terms can sometimes be used interchangeably. The format of files that require these types of software programs are called Multimedia Internet Mail Extensions or MIME types. Originally, MIME types were developed to enable e-mail software to utilize file attachments such as photos but now there use has expanded to all over the web and they are used for multimedia formats such as Jpeg, Mpeg, Quicktime, MP3 and media presentation programs such as Flash and Silverlight (MIME).
Today, personal computers come pre-loaded with plugins and media players by default but if you encounter a file that requires a specific one not installed it can be easily obtained from the creators website.
Media players are software programs developed to play audio and video files both offline and one the web. With streaming technology these files can begin playing as the files are being downloaded. There is an extensive list that these media players can support such as music videos and video clips.
Developed by Macromedia and now part of Adobe, Flash is authoring software that is used to create graphics based animations. Flash can be a portion of an HTML page or the page could be completely made of Flash. Flash files are called Flash movies and are .swf format files that stream to your web browser screen as they are watched. Benefits of Flash are that it is very fast to load because the content can begin to play as the file is being downloaded regardless of overall size. This allows the development of things such as large animations which are a benefit to its publishers. Flash also uses vector graphics, which uses mathematical formulas to create animation shapes instead of using millions of tiny colored dots. This allows the file size to be small and clear when resized (Gil).
Flash is a very powerful development tool and is compatible with all major browsers. With it you can create just about anything from banners, to navigation buttons, to moving text to videos and audio but Adobe has announced that they will no longer support it for mobile platforms (What is Flash). Due to the ever increasing utilization of mobile devices I do not believe its continued use for development should be considered. A nice example of a flash site is www.martiniasti.com. I has excellent graphics which load fast and run smoothly.
A direct competitor of Flash is Microsoftâ€™s Silverlight which is designed to provide rich applications to the browser. It does require a plug in just a Flash. It is another very powerful development tool that can do many things from delivering high definition streaming videos to creating graphics for custom controls such as a scroll bar (About Silverlight).
Utilized in conjunction with other Microsoft services Silverlight will enable the creation of new and interesting online applications while taking advantage of existing Microsoft networks and resources. As an option Microsoft will host medial files and applications that will allow developers to deliver large HD files quickly and reliably. Applications developed with Silverlight will be created in XAML language which will avoid the additional development requirements Flash requires for search engine crawling (Needleman).
Sliverlight does run on the majority of current browsers available today and it does support mobile devices unlike Flash. An example of a website that uses flash is www.etonline.com. It is a very nice site that is quick to load and visually appealing (Needleman).
Between the two examples provided I would use the Silverlight application. It seems to be integrated well with currently offered resources to provide a real interactive expericene while supporting mobile devices which seems to be the way the hardware aspect of the web is moving towards.