Will ActionScript 4 Be Completely Different… Again?

That’s basically my concern after reading this article by Hank Williams that The EcmaScript language standards body has killed the draft 4.0 version two days back.

What will Adobe do now with its (suddenly proprietary) ActionScript? If AS3 is now no longer base on an open standard, and if Adobe wants to adopt another standard, will it mean that AS4 will be completely different?

If indeed it’s going to be different, how many developers is Adobe going to risk alienating, or worse, losing? The number of products that Adobe owns revolving around the language is also massive, and that only means a total rewrite for them. But that’s just the centre of the ripple.

There are countless web and desktop applications that are using the Flash Platform out there, namely Flash, Flex and AIR. While I’m pretty assured that if Adobe moves on to another standard, that a new AVM3 will take care of the next generation AS4, businesses with these applications as their core is going to suffer.

The reason? Well we’ve seen how AS2 wasn’t able to leverage some of the latest advantages of the additions to AS3. If businesses with big enterprise applications don’t move on to AS4, they are in the risk of losing those advantages, whatever they might be. However, if they do, it only means a total rewrite of their applications, spending additional resources because of this.

I should really stop being a paranoid. I really want to trust Adobe to make a wise decision. Read the article and contemplate what’s going and what’s not going to be.

About Flashmech

I have too many things in plans for my own good. But well, that's me. :) I love God, praise Him, and trust that He has the best plans in life for me.
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22 Responses to Will ActionScript 4 Be Completely Different… Again?

  1. John Dowdell says:

    Have you caught Dave MacAllister, Dan Smith yet?


  2. Ryan Stewart says:

    Hey Lionel, thanks for posting. No, ActionScript 4 won’t be drastically changing. We want a programming language that is well suited to complex web and client-side/desktop applications. We’re going to continue to work with ECMA and try to push the language as well.

    I wouldn’t say ActionScript is any more proprietary than it was last week. It’s an extension of ECMAScript and still holds a lot of the core values.


  3. flashmech says:

    Thanks for the heads-up guys. Cheers. :)

  4. That is a relief. I have done a lot of research on AS3 and would be flabbergasted if the change was as drastic from 2.0 to 3.0.

  5. Maertsch says:

    i think AS3 is diffrent to AS2 because Adobe has overtaken Flash from Macromedia. And a insider said me that it was a rubbishmountain. And instable as hell.

    So we see, they did some changes. Usefull changes like the Eventhandler which increase the performance. Whitout this increase of performance it would be impossible to run Flash on mobile devices or thin clients.

    I like AS3 and i hope they do some changes in AS4 like changing the registration point whis AS or accelerate with MultiCore-CPU.

    So i hope AS4 gives a few changes, but not toooooo much.


    • flashmech says:

      Yea I do think the addition of private constructors would really help too. But well, reading the articles of John, I would say there’s nothing to worry too much about. :)

  6. mike says:

    The problem with AS 3 is that adobe killed flash for the visual developers tool it was. AS 3 was a product of all the programmers being piss they couldn’t use it well.

    Flash should have stayed a visual developers tool, like it was in Flash 8. There is Flex for the programmers. Now you have Flash/Flex. I refuse to use AS 3, the developing times do not even compare to AS 2.

    Industry wanted to use flash for just programming, forgetting about the timeline. Well that isnt what flash was meant for. And people who just used it like that missed out on most of the power of flash.

    Even the menus and such in CS3 are slow and awkward. AS4 will be different, no matter what they say, it will not be as bad as 2 to 3, but it will morph into something else.

    All the little gizmos they add, don’t make it any better, just makes it more gimmick.

  7. Piano Chords says:

    I prefer as3 to as2. It was really tough switching. I was completely lost for a month. But now, as3 has opened the world of object oriented programming to me. You can do any animation programmatically that you could do on the timeline. I personally use GTween for this. My development time is much faster, and I’m able to prototype much faster. With timeline animation, when the client wanted something changed, it would take hours to go back and tweek the behavior of an object, because I would end up having to change everything around it too. With the abstraction that object oriented programming provides, it’s much easier to change one thing without having to change many other things as a result.

  8. Alan says:

    For those stuck on AS2 or going on about how it was “better” are smoking crack. Also MM started AS3 long before Adobe took over so that is a false statement that Adobe came in and found Flash was a mess.

    AS2 is buggy, unreliable, weird and hard to work with. AS2 was actually AS1 under-the-hood since it was written in AS1 and actually compiled to that, compounding problems. The only reason anyone would think AS2 is easier to use than AS3 is because they don’t know AS3 and are either too lazy or too dull to learn it.

    There are at least a hundred ways that AS3 makes development easier and faster but I will list just two that are important enough to end any argument on the subject:

    1. AS3 has events that bubble. This means you can read that a button was clicked from anywhere in scope without having to do anything but listen for the event. …and you don’t have to use that stupid Delegate.create crap.

    2. AS3 has E4X. You can bring in XML as a native object and access any node by name using dot-notation as well as a host of other functionality it brings. Can we say “No more need for XML2Object?”

    It is 2009. AS3 has been out for a long time now so if you are still stuck on AS2 you are a dumba$$. Quit whining, weeping and suck it up and take a weekend to learn AS3 or become obsolete… oh sorry, you already are.

  9. AllGetAlong? says:

    Alan,that was a bit unfair of an estimation, and the misunderstanding that so many have in the AS2 vs. AS3 wars. It is not “laziness” or “dullness” that makes so many people have an issue with AS3, it’s intuitive usage for those comfortable in AS2.

    The main problem seems to be the clientele, of which Flash has 2 (well 3), the designer, the programmer and the very lucky designer/programmer. The first requires more visual interaction when developing functionality within Flash, and the multiple modes of doing things in AS2 facilitated that need where as AS3 is complex, code-only style of working things. What once took 2 lines now takes at least 6 lines to develop and a basic understanding of programming. The second, the programmer, is mathematically and computer science minded. For the programmer AS2 is very frustrating as it is very non-standardized and unpredictable, code-sharing is nearly impossible and who the heck puts code ON a button? Not only that they must interact with the graphics to code… has the world gone mad? AS3 is a god-sent for programmers as it allows them all the structure and functionality they were missing before. The 3rd person, the designer/programmer, is in luck, they can comfortably learn and enjoy both scripting types and intuitively immerse themselves in reaping the benefits of both to it’s most happy extreme (to the designer/programmer, I am so jealous -.^).

    But for those of us in section A, the designer, AS3 is a very difficult and unwieldy mistress. It takes learning basic object-oriented programming and a disassociation from the graphic objects beyond giving them names. It is not a simple weekend that allows us to get up to speed on AS3 (that’s the designer/programmer), it is a good solid month. This has basically alienated a chunk of Flash’s clientele, even those who have taken the time of learning it there is limitations in that loss of visualization. I’m a designer man, not a programmer! -.^

    What would be wonderful is if, when they make AS4, they could find that delicate balance between designer-only and programmer-only actionscripting… perhaps they could talk up those lucky designer/programmers.

  10. Very intersting article and once again that lovely comment war when it comes to AS2 and AS3.

    I am a programmer and found the migration hard purely because I am always working on tight deadlines where I am unable to spend any time ‘figuring out’ the new stuff.

    What I eventually had to do was to just throw myself in the deep end of one of the deadline projects and kind of force myself to swim,…… or die…..
    Luckily for me I got the hang of it and now quite enjoy it and can definitely see the benefits of using it in my new projects.

    I hope AS4 will show some really nice new features and enhancements without redoing the whole damn thing again!

    ….we can only hope 😛

  11. Josh Strike says:

    I think AS1 & 2 allowed designers and coders both to be overly lazy about all kinds of things and to get away with it. Learning AS3 was a challenge, but a fun one, and in the end it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever learned. It forced me to drop a lot of bad habits I had picked up in AS2, like keeping variables in the _root and coding on timelines. Looking back at mountains of AS2 code I wrote before the switch, it looks so primitive and messy and I’m always irritated now when I have to go back in and code updates for AS2 apps, because it truly is stilted and unwieldy.
    It’s a decision everyone has to make for themselves, but remember, the technology waits for no man; you want to stay in business, you learn the latest thing, be the best at it, grow with it or die. If you can’t keep up, it’s time to retire.

  12. dudooo says:

    i think only few people got the point here … Adobe done a GREAT yob in fact with AS3 because they clearly splitted the design from the code. AS3 look now like an real powerful oop language rather than an simple scripting language that its name can suggest. I would compare it even with c , still not so “strict” with lack of some most important features like multiple inheritance, “real” pointers etc … but powerful enough to control almost anything happening on the stage … the prove for that you can find while looking for example at all those splendid 3D engines writen in pure AS3 …
    While from “ex AS2″ flasher’s perspective it looks -> what the hell they done with it, now i must learn another language … Any pure AS3 hardcoder will tell you a different storry … this is pure oop, with classes, objects, inheritance and instances … if you don’t know what they mean, well … is time to start learning about because is the only way when you start messing with something serious …
    Adobe in fact helped you to choose what you want to be ? Flash designer/animator or an AS3 coder ? You can do both in the same time offcourse, but, beleve me, when it come to any serious business (with big Serious), you will never see one person to do all Flash-related tasks … and AS4 ? Well … it will be improved offcourse … you can’t reinvent the wheel !! do ya ?! :)

  13. max says:

    A month?

    Huh, try off and on for a year as I have to keep rent paid.

    Going from AS2 to AS3 is like going from French to Japanese.

    Speaking of characters, I’ve got one word for you…


    a dozen lines of code later I finally have the word text on the screen in the right place with the right font, size….God, what havoc.

    Thank God for Colin Moock’s video series by O’Reilly. I think just about every intro book to AS3 sucks unless you were born programming. They do so much line by line forgetting about library importing etc. that is required ASSUMING you know what to do. Bull, there’s just too many asterisks in learning AS3. I coded my new site in AS3 and hardly new what the hell I was doing. Now I get it…kinda. I’m still working through instanciation issues involving dynamically loaded rollover yadda.

    The great thing with the new AS3 structure I’m learning is that you can build a class for virtually anything and never have to code it again. It’s plug and play. Like that text thing. I can build a text formatting class that will handle all that redundant crap so I don’t have to. Heck, it’s probably already out on the web somewhere.

    I’m a film major so to me that’s key as I don’t care to spend all day typiig to build a stupid hangman game. I want “Flashy” results now. That’s why I’m learning After Effects. Even if I can save my career as a Flash guy, I’m not sure I really care anymore.

    While AS3 might be cool to programmers is still sucks as a graphics tool. Hopefully AS4’s compiler can remedy that a bit.

  14. joe says:

    this is another reason why capitalism sucks.. i mean things should not be this complicated.. you spend two years learning action script 2.0 and then all of a sudden, bam !! its oboslete.. what the hell? doesnt make anysense cant we have a a frekin standard ????

  15. Vince says:

    AS3 destroys AS2, and as dudoo said, it is entirely different.. that is because AS3 is a real coding language. You can basically do anything in AS3, that you could do with any other major language like C. Not only that, but if you were to leave AS3 to take on another language, it would be just the issue of learning the libraries of the other language, rather than learning how to code all over. AS2 was never meant to be able to contend with any real language, whereas AS3 is. AS4 will probably have a few changes and some extra syntax, but in the end it will probably just be more powerful.

  16. Jan says:

    Today I finally unistalled FLASH completely as YouTube switched to HTML5. Guess what? no more skippy loading, freezing browser, crashing explorer, hickups, lockups, stutter, whatever on a 3ghz dualcore(!) BUT quick loading, scrubbing and lightning fast browser rendering. I make three XXX that the days of Flash crap everywhere are pretty much over. I’m pretty confident Vimeo and YT players will soon catch up missing features like fullscreen override and stuff.
    Actionscript 3 never was a serious programming language at all, the debugger is pretty much a joke. And the whole Flash VM a resource hog with bugs bad enough to completely lock up a fast machine, even with the 64-bit binaries. In it’s current state FLASH is slow, unstable or to sum as unusable as obsolete.

  17. Madhu says:

    I think adobe should keep in mind that flash should be very simple to use by the designer and developer and while releasing new version of ActionScript they should consider both designer and programmer. I found vast difference between AS2 and AS3 and i hope on the new release it won’t be too vast difference in structure so that it can be adopted easily.

  18. pursueg says:

    I would just like to know for how long the adobe will keep on supporting ActionScript 2.0 (AVM 1) in their flash player? I mean in the newer version of flash player 11 or so will they completely omit AVM 1?

  19. colaz says:

    Will as4 support a dynamically way of saving files locally without the system dialog pop up FileReference() serves?

  20. NeoLink says:

    I think that if the goal of changing AS is for the sake of make it more stronger, I would take the risk, I’m a VB programmer and when I jump to web I had to come across Flash, and of course AS, but it still lacks of many things, data access, and I mean real data access, SQL for example. That’s why I thing that if Adobe wants to be a real choice to developers, specially web developers, then needs to make those changes and rather to loose popularity it will catch more people.

  21. rblinzler says:

    I realize this posting is old, but I ran across it while researching AS3 and just wanted to add a comment.

    I was lucky to have my first web project end up being a major project that went from a single static web page to a production control system accessible by mobile devices as well as the internet.

    I was a temp employee working in a factory, between business development jobs, and I used a static html site I made overnight to demonstrate to my employer what I thought would be a good way to dissemimate standard operating procedures to employees. I was eventually hired full time and was allowed to work from home under my own management, despite not having any prior programming or web development experience on what would become much more than employee intranet resource. I worked on the project for over a year. This allowed me to really explore and learn web technologies on my own terms. (this was five years ago)

    I used flash as my primary medium for a user interface on the project and learned it and AS2 as I went along. Near the end of the project, I started to dable in AS3 and used it exculisvely in my first freelance project afterwards. The transition was challenging but well worth the effort. AS3 introduced me to OOP and I have gone on to be a Web, RIA and Windows developer working in .Net as well as all the web scripting languages.

    If it wasn’t for AS3 and the lattitude I had on that original project I know I would’ve never have made the leap from a single project to a career in development.