Got Flash? Got Silverlight? Make a FlashLight!July 28th, 2008 by Ryan
With Photosleeve, one of our core ideas is to reduce the work and time required to share photos. One way we do this is by creating smaller sized photos and uploading them first, which makes the initial sharing process and email generation pretty quick.
Doing this is straightforward with our Windows desktop application. But we have always been interested in finding a cross-platform browser-based way of doing the same thing. Our hope was to increase user adoption two ways: by supporting the increasingly-popular Mac platform, and by eliminating the requirement that first time uploaders download and install software.
Some of the things we considered: ActiveX, Firefox Plugin, Java applet, Flash, Adobe AIR, and Silverlight. We wanted a solution that was cross-browser and cross-platform, worked in the browser rather than a separate install, had a reasonable first-time user experience, and didn’t require the user to click through any scary security warnings.
After eliminating those that didn’t meet our criteria, we were down to Flash and Silverlight. To do what we wanted, we needed to be able to have the user select multiple files, read the bytes locally, compute a SHA1 hash, load the bytes into an image and perform manipulations like rotation and scaling, re-encode the resulting images to JPEG, and upload them to our server. Unfortunately, Flash can’t read the bytes locally, and Silverlight can’t do image manipulations or re-encode to JPEG.
At this point we thought we were out of luck. For a while we chatted about this problem with others to see if they had insights, and we’d always jokingly conclude that you’d really need to build a hybrid Flash/Silverlight application to do what we wanted. There would always be jolly consensus that such an idea was too silly to pursue. We even came up with a silly name for the “new” RIA platform: FlashLight.
Have other exciting apps been built using this technique? Are there others waiting to be built?