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Adobe's Emerging Rich Media Ecosystem, Part 1: Developing Social Media Applications

  • April 1, 2008
  • By Marcia Gulesian
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Real-Time Collaboration Application Server

Flash Media Interactive Server and Flash Media Development Server include the same streaming services as Flash Media Streaming Server. In addition, they provide an SDK that lets developers write both the client-side and the server-side components of media applications to create interactive, two-way applications. These two servers also offer an SDK that lets developers write plug-ins in C++ to extend the core functionality of the server.

Hosting Multiple Applications and Application Instances

Flash Media Interactive Server and Flash Media Development Server can host an unlimited number of applications and an unlimited number of instances of each application.

Note: Flash Media Streaming Server can host an unlimited number of instances of the live video and video-on-demand services but is restricted to running applications provided by Adobe.

For example, Flash Media Interactive Server could host a web conferencing application, a video blogging application, a video chat application, and a multiplayer game, as well as the live video and video on demand services. You can create multiple instances of each of those applications. For example, use instances to give groups of people access to the same application without having the groups interact with each other, such as a video chat application with rooms for different topics.

Shared Objects

You use shared objects to synchronize users and store data. Shared objects can do anything from holding the position of pieces on a game board to broadcasting chat text messages. Shared objects let you keep track of what users are doing in real time. With Flash Media Interactive Server or Flash Media Development Server, you can create and use remote shared objects, which share data between multiple client applications. When one user makes a change that updates the shared object on the server, the shared object sends the change to all other users. The remote shared object acts as a hub to synchronize many users. To illustrate this concept, these two servers ship with a Shared Ball example—when any user moves the ball in his or her browser, all users see it move (see Figure 2).

Thus, users worldwide can participate in an online game, with all moves synchronized for all users. As stated above, online games are not the only kind of application that can exploit shared objects.

Note: Flash Media Streaming Server does not support remote shared objects.



Click here for a larger image.

Figure 2: The Shared Ball sample application

All editions of the server support local shared objects, which are similar to browser cookies. Local shared objects are stored on the client computer and don't require a server. Shared objects, whether local or remote, can also be temporary or persistent:

  • A temporary shared object is created by a server-side script or by a client connecting to the shared object. When the last client disconnects and the server-side script is no longer using the shared object, it is deleted.
  • Persistent shared objects retain data after all clients disconnect and even after the application instance stops running. Persistent shared objects are available on the server for the next time the application instance starts. They maintain state between application sessions. Persistent objects are stored in files on the server or client.

Broadcast Messages to Many Users

And finally, a remote shared object allows either a client or server to send a message using SharedObject.send() to all clients connected to the shared object.

Conclusion

Video capture, storage, and transmission is gradually becoming more accessible, enabled by low-cost devices such as camcorders, mobile phones, webcams, free software, and falling broadband/storage costs. And, the creation and distribution of social media has become widespread due to the abundance of Internet technologies and new online media services (as explained in my recent article "From Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 to Management 2.0," these services are called "Enterprise 2.0" within the enterprise and "Web 2.0" elsewhere).

Social networking communities also can be an ongoing conversation with your consumers. By allowing them to upload their videos and share their thoughts and opinions about your brand, you are truly embracing Web 2.0. Your consumers often will share your brand message out into the world, bringing more people back to your community.

The looming economic downturn will inevitably lead to a decrease in ad spending, but marketers are likely to continue shifting money into social media, according to a new study by Forrester Research.

According to this report, marketer moves into areas like word of mouth, blogging, and social networking will withstand tightened budgets. In contrast, marketers are likely to decrease spending in traditional media and even traditional online vehicles geared to building brand awareness.

Today, companies are rapidly trying to keep pace with the social evolution and are finding out that social media applications are useful marketing tools. The financial incentive is there for a company to invest in an interactive server of the kind described above or to pay a third party to host one for them.





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