Why the Adobe AIR platform has strayed

Posted in Technicalon Apr 22, 2011

Adobe AIR is a platform in which developers can create desktop applications which work on Linux, Windows, Mac, and other platforms. Developers can create an app using the same technologies that they might use to create a web site, but have it installed and deployed as a desktop application. From the Adobe AIR website:

The new Adobe® AIR® runtime enables Ajax developers to build rich Internet applications (RIAs) that deploy on the desktop. AIR applications run across operating systems on the WebKit HTML engine and are easily delivered using a single installer file. With Adobe AIR, Ajax developers can use their existing skills and code to build responsive, highly engaging applications that combine the power of local resources and data with the reach of the web.
(source; emphasis added)

So it seems that a big selling feature behind Adobe AIR is that developers can re-use web development code in building Adobe AIR applications, because Adobe AIR uses the Webkit engine.

But the problem is that Adobe AIR continues to deviate from web standards in favor of their own proprietary APIs.  A post on the Adobe Developer Connection website lists the various Webkit features turned off.  These features include: HTML5 audio and video, SVG, Web sockets, Web workers, Client database, Offline caching, and Window messaging.  With many of these features, Adobe states that they didn’t add the functionality because it was instead provided by an existing AIR API.  Their typical response reads:

Currently this is not enabled in AIR, but AIR does provide mechanisms…

So while Adobe states that developers can use “existing skills and code,” they are, at the same time, limiting which skills and code developers can use.  Adobe is betraying one of AIR’s greatest selling points by turning off some of Webkit’s hottest features in favor of their own APIs.

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