21 Nov 2011

Development: Web Mapping Enabling Technology - Are Flash and Silverlight dead?

This is the 4th post in the Web Mapping series examining the technology that will change the boundaries of what is possible for geospatial applications. In this post we will take a look at Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight as technology enablers for Web Mapping. The post will illustrate concerns over the future of these technologies, examine their adoption for GIS and Web Mapping and review the direction of the key technology vendors.

When selecting a technology to develop an application its important to not only consider the functional and architectural match of the technology but also how future proof it is. Future proofing is a tricky thing to assess however, standardized, widely adopted and well supported technology tends to have a long life span. In addition a clearly defined road map helps prove a vendor has a clearly defined strategy and direction for the technology.

Its fairly well established that HTML5, Silverlight and Flash are all functionally capable of delivering Web Mapping solutions but they have very different future proofing... 

Silverlight and Flex are not standards. They are proprietary technology from Microsoft and Adobe that provide extensions to the browser to deliver additional functionality in a non standards compliant way. Both technologies were created prior to the recent significant evolution in web standards through HTML5 hence, filled gaps that are starting to be closed with standards.

Flash is currently still the most dominant RIA technology with >97% adoption followed by HTML5 (Canvas and Video) at 81% of all browsers. Silverlight only measures 76% penetration. Its interesting to note that HTML5 adoption has grown rapidly in the short time it has been available. This may be the result of browser automatic updates. Its surprising how low support for Silverlight is. This information is based on RIAStats.com statistics.

Road Maps and Direction
The future of both Flash and Silverlight has come under the spotlight in recent months as support for HTML5 has swelled.

Flash's dominance and future appears to be undergoing evolution at present. Adobe recently announced it will no longer offer Flash on mobile browsers instead focusing on HTML5. The rationale provided was that HTML5 is so well adopted its no longer needed as a browser plugin alongside Adobe Air. However, at the same time Flash player 11 for desktop browsers will be continued and Adobe recently added GPU level support for 2D and 3D vector graphics. Adobe also added support for HTML5 video streaming to its media servers - probably to provide access to iOS devices. This shows a slightly split personality. "HTML5 is great for mobile but desktop still needs Flash". Considering the on going convergence of mobile and desktop paradigms, rapid evolution of desktops to support tablet style capability, massive jumps in mobile computing power (dual core etc) and wide adoption of HTML5 in the desktop this does not entirely add up. In addition Microsoft has also stated Windows 8 Metro will not offer support for Flash instead offering stronger support for HTML5 (wired.com) and pushing Flash users to old interfaces.

Is this the first signs of Flash being marginalized in desktop browsers?
Are Adobe preparing the ground to move to Air only on the desktop through HTML5?

Microsoft Silverlight:
There have been rumours of the demise of Silverlight for a while. Microsoft has been pushing HTML 5 for over a year as a major part of the answer for dynamic desktop applications but insisting at the same time the two technologies can coexist happily. However, in a diametrically opposed direction to Adobe Microsoft has stated Silverlight is the platform for Windows mobile development despite major improvements in HTML5 support in Windows Mobile 7.5 and IE 9 for desktop. Microsoft also stated that Silverlight is their cross platform development environment for mobile, desktop and web. Strange as HTML5 seems to solve the same issues....

GIS Vendors and RIA Technology
What do Autodesk, MapInfo, ESRI and the OSGeo Foundation offer as enabling technology for web mapping and what are their future technology directions for Web Mapping?

ESRI - ESRI provides support for Silverlight, Flash, Javascript, .Net Web Parts and mobile SDKs for Android, Windows Phone and iPhone. Everything to meet every developers preferences and ensure there are no bases left uncovered. ESRI has restated its on going support for all platforms on 17 Nov 2011. Supporting every major platform will answer their customers needs but creates a huge product development overhead and with it the obvious pressure on rapid progress across all these platforms. It will be interesting how long ESRI continues this approach as mobile and web technology evolves and standardised solutions become viable.

Autodesk - Infrastructure Map Server offers support for Javascript and thick client mobile viewer for 3D models. Autodesk recently released technology to their labs program using WebGL and SVG to deliver a 3D viewer for large scale 3D design models in the Autodesk Cloud. It looks like Autodesk are exploring the maturity of WebGL before diving in.

Pitney Bowes Business Insight - MapInfo - PBBI recently released MapInfo Spatial Server with support for Javascript HTML5 and a road map showing these same controls being extended to support mobile browsers and form factors. PBBI has recently defined their strategy as providing standards compliant open solutions using HTML5 for both desktop and mobile browsers enabling their componentary to be used on "any platform, any where and on any device". Its interesting to note they have included Open Layers as their solution for mapping preferring to support well used open source solutions over creation of another proprietary api.

OSGeo Open Source - There are many member projects in the OSGeo foundation. Its difficult to classify all these products as similar to a single vendors solution as they do not really form a suite. However, key support for web mapping user applications is provided through map servers (GeoServer, Map Server, Open Source Map Guide) and Open Layers map control. Open Layers based on Javascript and is adapting quickly to HTML5 for desktop and mobile. Similar to PBBI the same components are being offered for mobile and desktop browsers.

Microsoft Bing Maps provides the widely used Bing Maps Javascript and Silverlight map controls. As you would expect there is no news on the future of the silverlight implementation and it remains fully supported. We watch with interest for a formal direction to be announced.

Google Maps provides the ever popular Google Maps Javascript API and map control. Google has started to really take advantage of the power of HTML5 with the use of vector graphics in modern browsers to provide route lines and interactive route dragging and the recent release of 3D maps using WebGL.

There is sufficient evidence that both Flash and Silverlights positions have been changed by the rapid adoption of HTML5. The future direction for Flash and Silverlight appears to be evolving quickly. Its clear alot will hinge on the pace of evolution and adoption of HTML5 to meet the gaps that still exist today. Most of the geospatial vendors are well positioned to accommodate change with very few having invested heavily in Silverlight or Flash. ESRI of course is the significant exception to this.

Additional Useful Resources


  1. Web mapping technology play a big role in human life. Now people are more aware of geographical areas. Web application developers services

    1. Hi, Great.. Tutorial is just awesome..It is really helpful for a newbie like me.. I am a regular follower of your blog. Really very informative post you shared here. Kindly keep blogging. If anyone wants to become a Front end developer learn from Javascript Training in Chennai . or learn thru JavaScript Online Training from India. Nowadays JavaScript has tons of job opportunities on various vertical industry. JavaScript Training in Chennai

  2. شفط الصرف الصحي بالدمام
    اقبل الشتاء وسيواجه اهالى مدينة الدمام مشكلة من اصعب واخطر المشكلات المتعبة
    أولها انسداد بيارات المجارى وانسداد شبكات الصرف الصحى وهى المواسير
    و يعانى من هذة المشكلة الجميع ويظلون فى البحث عن شركة رائدة متخصصة فى اصلاح كافة المشاكل الخاصة باعطال انسداد المجارى
    ونحن شركة تسليك مجارى بالخبر لدينا من الخبرات الكبيرة التى نكتسبها من اعمالنا السابقة نؤكدلك عملينا العزيز أننا وبكل جدارة وخبرة
    افضل شركة تسليك مجارى بالدمام رخيصة التكلفة وفى نفس الوقت ماهرين فى العمل
    تعمل الشركة بافضل الطرق الحديثة والاساليب المتطورة علي ايدي افضل العاملين والمتخصصين في هذا المجال
    حيث ان الشركة تمتلك طاقم عمل مدرب علي اعلي مستوي علي ايدي خبراء ماهرين وفنيين محترفين
    حيث لاتتواجد هذه المواد الخاصة بالعمل الا داخل شركتنا فقط وهذه واحده من اهم ما يميز
    افضل شركة تسليك مجارى بالدمام عن غيرها من باقي الشركات الاخرى المنافسة فى المجال
    كما يوجد لدينا العديد من الخصومات الهائلة فنقدم خدماتنا باقل الاسعار التى تتناسب مع جميع عملائنا الكرام
    يوجد لدينا فنيون ومهندسون وخبراء مدربون على اعلى مستوى
    وذلك حيث يمكنهم معرفة تحديد الاسباب التى تتسبب فى انسداد المجارى ولان من اصعب الاشياء هو انسداد المجارى الخاصة بالمنزل فهو يوقف الحياه بالمنزل
    و يتسبب فى مشاكل فى غاية الخطورة لاننا دائما نستعمل الحمامات والمطابخ
    وعند انسداد المجاى تتوقف الحياه كما ينتج عنها الروائح الكريهه التى تضر بالمنزل
    وايضا انسداد المجارى وذلك ينتج عنها اضرار خطيرة بالمنزل نفسه من تسربات بالمياه وتحت البلاط وتسربات بالجدران
    فلا تقلق عملينا العزيز من كل ذلك فلدينا المهارة والخبرة العالية فى اعمالنا لحل كل ذلك .

  3. Most online purchasers have an inclination to take a gander at item pamphlets which are sorted by classes. This can be gainful to both clients and site proprietor the clients will encounter a more helpful and simple shopping while the site proprietor can deal with their stock and items less demanding than at any other time. starting a blog

  4. Map helps prove a vendor has a clearly defined strategy and direction for the technology.web design tips

  5. A mix mind and pivotal words. Precisely what I was searching for.
    responsive wordpress website

  6. Flame broil the portfolio When you visit a web developer's website, check their portfolio altogether and don't stop there - search for their customers' website on the web. hybrid app development

  7. Thanks a lot very much for the high quality and results-oriented help. I won’t think twice to endorse your blog post to anybody who wants and needs support about this area.

    java training in bangalore
    java training in bangalore

  8. My heartiest congratulations to the writer on writing this.
    link building services company


  9. This is genuinely an awesome read for me. I have bookmarked it and I am anticipating perusing new articles. Keep doing awesome!
    Web Development

  10. I also advice check out this research - Vue.js Vs React.js

  11. For instance, the site of an organization making and offering extravagance products needs to appear to be rich too.

  12. I faced a lot of issues regarding the building of my new webpage. Hope, your web development company will take me out of this mess. web development company

  13. It will throw light on MongoDB concepts and after completing this tutorial you will be at an intermediate level of expertise mongodb tutorial for beginners.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this worth able content with us. The concept taken here will be useful for my future programs and i will surely implement them in my study. Keep blogging article like this.
    Digital marketing course in chennai

  15. Only a few blogger would discuss this topic the way you do.,,’., WordPress SEO

  16. Such an activity would integrate the subjects of technology, social studies, math, science, and language arts with the opportunity to create student-centered activity. lie detetors

  17. The development of search engines includes a very demanding role in planning to build any creature material. All to do solely on web development experience.https://www.capitalnumbers.com/backend-development.php

  18. Hi webmaster, commenters and everybody else !!! Thanks for any future updates. it consulting denver

  19. It constantly is amazing to me how blog writers for example your self can find some time along with the commitment to carry on composing outstanding blogposts. Your blog isterrific and one of my must read blogs. I just had to thank you. Windshield Replacement

  20. In the past few decades there has been a revolution in computing and communications, and all indications are that technological progress and use of information technology will continue at a rapid pace. Alex Mirza

  21. Great blog.you put Good stuff.All the topics were explained briefly.so quickly understand for me.I am waiting for your next fantastic blog.Thanks for sharing.Any coures related details learn...

    web designing course in chennai

  22. I have seen dash cams advertised for $16! and that is just impossible. Buy one of these and your money will probably just disappear Bilawal Bashir

  23. The effectiveness of technology use in the classroom has become a controversial issue. LookGadgets

  24. You will surely agree that the very best thing about the totally free site design is it does not come at any price tag. An inexpensive site design doesn't signify cheap. 3d architectural rendering services

  25. Pretty blog, so many ideas in a single site, thanks for the informative article, keep updating more article.
    Webdesining course in chennai

  26. a product review is typically a much stronger, and more encompassing description of your technology compared to an advertisement website

  27. One present why galore businesses opt for postcards is because they are overmuch cheaper to be prefab and this can forbear a lot of expenses on the lengthened run.  Hire front end developers

  28. I just couldn't leave your website before telling you that I truly enjoyed the top quality info you present to your visitors? Will be back again frequently to check up on new posts.

  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

  30. I am happy to this post..Interesting post! Thanks for writing it.What's wrong with this kind of post exactly? It follows your previous guideline for post length as well as clarity.salesforce training

  31. When your youngster is in grade school, they will presumably knowledgeable in technology.
    AD List 24 Classifieds

  32. Staying in touch with all the latest technology news is crucial in the modern society we live in so knowing how you can get the latest stories could prove to be an excellent advantage for anybody.