Adobe has taken the wraps off its answer to the growing dissatisfaction with Flash for website animation: a tool for HTML5 animation design it's calling Edge.
"It's a project that has been driven out of our HTML5 engineering team," Adobe's John Cole explained to thinq_ during a media briefing. "The HTML5 engineering team has done an incredible job, and has been incredibly aggressive with how we add HTML5 features.
"We began doing sneak previews of the product last year at the MAX conference - and the GoogleIO conference," he said. "The purpose of these sneak peeks was to gain the community feel and the customer interest for these products, and there's been a massive response to what we're doing here.
"Edge is multi-platform, it's supported on both Mac and PC platforms," Cole enthused. "It'll allow you to add motion to existing HTML5 content as well as create new content from scratch. You'll also be able to take the output from Edge and edit it using industry-based tooling."
"It's as good as Flash," Cole claimed. "You're getting this Flash-like animation, which is really sweet."
Cole denied that Edge is part of an Adobe plan to phase out Flash - which, famously, is unsupported on Apple's popular iOS mobile operating system - in favour of a more open approach. "We see Flash and HTML5 co-existing in the long term," he explained.
"Specifically, we see Flash being used in three key areas: Flash is the best way to build games, it's all around enabling media apps such as content protected video, and finally data-driven apps for the enterprise. Flash is a primary platform."
Edge doesn't just represent a move away from Flash for rich web content, however, but an entirely new method of developing a product for Adobe. "Traditionally, we develop products confidentially within the company," Cole explained, "and then wow the customers with the final feature-rich product at the time of release. With Edge, we've tried to modify our approach to this totally and take the wraps off to the community at this very early stage."
As a result of this new approach, Edge is free. At least, it is for now. "Edge is going to be available on the Adobe Labs site, and it'll be free to download for the entire public preview period," Cole claimed, after which a commercial product will be launched.
That product will be shaped by the community, said Cole. "We're loooking to work very tightly with our creative and development community to ensure that when we bring this to the market place it's exactly what our customers want. This open development approach from Adobe is something which is relatively new for us, and we're really excited about the community involvement that we're going to get in creating this product."
Currently, it must be said, Edge is somewhat limited. Unlike Flash, there's no support for interactivity: it's a simple animation tool, albeit one that makes it surprisingly easy to create relatively complicated effects thanks to its object-oriented timeline view. The lack of interactivity - which will see those looking to create more complex sites still pushed to Flash - could change, Cole admits. "We may build some lightweight application development capabilities in there as well. The features are not set in stone," he claimed. "They may change over the test period based on feedback from the community."
Edge also makes heavy use of open source projects, as befits Adobe's more open product development approach for the product. "The underlying technology base is the open-source jquery framework," Cole explained. "JSON is used heavily, and also our old friend Webkit, which is used in the Edge composition stage."
The Edge Preview 1 release is available as a free download from Adobe Labs now, on Windows and Mac.