Jordan's Epiphany

Clients are also quick to see the possibilities. Rather than discuss it, we are going to let Jordan recount a recent experience.

I recently had a meeting with Talon GTS (the video production guys who are graciously letting us use some of their video work to show off the streaming capabilities of Flash and Flash Communications Server). As they were calling to drop off the video for the Air Show to be prepared for the Internet, they heard a note of excitement in my voice and were quick to ask what was new. I answered them with, "You have to see what Macromedia has come up with. It's called the Flash Communications Server, and it's going to revolutionize both of our businesses. You have to come over so I can show you this."

When the principals of the company arrived at my office, I started by showing them the meeting room application that we are going to be building in this chapter. I showed them that with a simple web browser and the Flash plugin, which, according to Macromedia's stats, almost everyone has, one could build a simple communication device within an hour that could be used to interact face-to-face with people on the other side of the globe.

I connected my video camera to my laptop and had them sit at another computer in the office. I then had them visit the URL for the meeting room application and told them to log in. After they were logged in, I proceeded to engage them in a text chat.

What happened next was absolutely fascinating. They immediately saw the application as an easy way to communicate, live, with a client who wanted to hold a meeting with them. I then clicked on the video component of the application and activated the camera. There were cheers of excitement coming from the other end of the office as they saw me broadcasting my picture, live, to almost every computer in the office.

Again, they started seeing the possibilities of a live and personal meeting application. The capability to talk to a client and relate to them on a personal level without having to be there suddenly turned the Internet into a warm meeting place. With the addition of the streaming capabilities, they also felt that not only could they talk to the client and interact with them, they could also go over their videos with their clients without having to burn copies of DVDs and wait for them to be delivered.

Another possibility that went through their minds was the idea of broadcasting live events. The ability to go to community events and meetings and broadcast them live so that members of the community could view the event without having to be there was also brought up as one of the possibilities.

When they got over the initial excitement, they asked the usual next question: "Okay, now what does this entail? How can we make this easy for people who want to log in? What do they need?"

I responded by telling them all that was needed was the Flash Player on the client's machine. I showed them the source of the web page and explained that the only file on the page was a Flash file.

The next question was, "What program needs to be installed to use the meeting application?" I responded by telling them that the Flash Player was the only thing that was needed. I elaborated further by explaining to them that what they saw in the web browser was all they would need. As users, they don't need to worry about how to launch and configure the meeting application. Any configuration is handled on the server side.

The idea of the application being located on the web server benefits both the user and the web master. Most computer users are Internet savvy. They already know how to call up a web page in a browser. Calling up the meeting application is no different from calling up any other web page. The page can either be typed in or hyperlinked. The HTML on the called page acts as the carrier of the application, which is delivered to the client's computer. All the communication capabilities are transparent to the user because of the web browser. All the user needs is a microphone and a webcam if they want to use the audio and video capabilities of Flash.

The convenience to the web master is the ability to retain control of the application. The Flash movie resides on the server. This means that there is only one instance of the movie called to every browser. The web master or developer can update the web application on the server, and everyone who calls the application will receive an updated application. The web master also controls what is on the Flash Communications Server. Therefore, all the programming for the application is handled on the web master's end, not the user's. The user never needs to know where the server is located and how to access it.

The last question was, "How difficult is this to build?" This is an understandable question, considering the budgetary climate of the web development market. I showed them the source file of the application and told them it took me approximately an hour to develop the meeting room application. I showed them all the components involved to create the meeting room and the scripting page, just to show them how little was needed to put this application together.

Needless to say, they left the meeting sold on the Flash Communications Server and all the possibilities for Flash and web browsers.

This isn't a story to sell you on the advantages of Flash MX 2004 and the Flash Communication Server MX or Flash Remoting. The key to Jordan's story lies in the reaction of his clients to the technology. They saw the transparency of the technology first and then started homing in on the process of creating the application that would have a direct impact on their ability to get even closer to their clients. If the owners of a small video company located in Southwestern Ontario can immediately see the positive financial impact of a technology they have never before experienced, you can now understand why Jeremy Allaire regards the Flash Player as a Trojan Horse.