The Coming Flash Desktop
I have become a huge fan of Flash. I never liked websites that were built in Flash. They took too long to load. I never understood what was wrong with html. It's still true that a website that is entirely built in Flash is not attractive to me. But delivering certain services in Flash, the way Etsy does with the shop by color or shop by geography, is a smart approach.
But to me what is happening with Flash players and widgets is even more interesting. Flash players/widgets are becoming a new paradigm for content distribution and consumption. I can imagine a time when my desktop is covered with Flash applications that look like Apple's dashboard.
It's already happening. When I go to the Hype Machine, I do a search for something I like, and then click listen. The cool brazilian open source Flash player pops up in a new browser window and plays music for me. I often keep that Flash player open for hours on my desktop.
The other music widget I really like is the Streampad widget that I run on the left sidebar of my blog. I gave that Streampad widget my blog's feed. It picks out all the mp3s I post on the blog and puts them into a single flash player widget.
But the best thing is that you can click on the lower right of the Streampad widget and it will pop off the page and play the music for you for as long as you want. You get to keep surfing and the music stays with you.
That's the magic move I want from all the Flash players/widgets I come across on the web. And it's one of my few beefs with the YouTube flash player.
You can popout the flash player from YouTube by clicking the box at the lower right, but the new browser window takes over the whole screen when you do that. You have to fuss around with the browser to get it to shrink to a more manageable size. But once you do that you can move on and still watch the video.
It would be great if the YouTube flash player that pops out from the web page had a few more controls on it so you could use it to continue to play videos from YouTube from it instead of having to go back to YouTube.
In fact, if you click on any of the two suggested videos that come up at the end of a YouTube video and you have the flash player open in a browser window on your desktop, it will take you back to YouTube. That doesn't work for me. I end up just shutting the widget down.
Google video works the same way as YouTube. You can pop out the flash player into its own browser, but it takes over the whole screen and you have to fuss with it to get it to be a widget on your desktop.
The Google video widget doesn't even give you more videos to look at after the video you watch is over. It runs a post roll thing like Revver does. They gotta turn these widgets into a persistent video app that you can keep on your desktop all day long.
The other flash widget that I love on my blog is the Oddcast avatar. There is no way to make it popout of the page and onto my desktop. But there should be.
Take a look at this screenshot. This is what happens when you are in Sitepal previewing an avatar you created. That exact same popout should be available on the lower right of the avatar on my blog and it should have community functions on it so people can leave me messages and I should even be able to IM through it. I know that Oddcast is working on stuff like that. I hope they plan to let my avatar live on my desktop instead of on a page if I so choose.
I love the idea of using Flash to create a persistent set of apps that I can keep on my desktop all day long. As I've been writing this post, I've been building that desktop. Here's what it looks like. It doesn't work exactly the way I am imaging it should. But we aren't far from the day when it will.