Forget about Popfly!

Microsoft promised Silverlight would be a cross-platform RIA framework. They said it would by a “Flash-Killer.” Some people believed them. We’d like to, but it seems we’re not being given the chance here.

Microsoft just launched Popfly. It’s the new Web 2.0 kid on the block, and it’s supposed to be really cool. Except unlike sites that are built off of Flash, AJAX, plain HTML, or even yucky old Java, it doesn’t run everywhere.

On Windows, our browser of choice is Opera. Microsoft doesn’t support Opera – only Internet Explorer and Firefox. But even worse, Popfly doesn’t support Linux. So here’s the deal: Unless Popfly gets Linux support, it won’t make the cut.

Why? That’s easy: while Web 2.0 is aimed at the masses, it’s the geeks that decide whether it works or doesn’t. What this means is, if the geeks aren’t happy, it won’t work, because it’s the geeks that spread the word, do the free campaigning, and get “the masses” familiar with <insert your favorite Web 2.0 system/service/platform here>. Popfly is alienating a good portion of the geek community, and therefore, Popfly won’t win.

If Microsoft was truly serious about making Silverlight (and therefore Popfly) a real platform and an honest success, they’d have refrained from going public with “Project Popfly” until Silverlight actually became a cross-platform RIA framework. But we’re not surprised, because unless Microsoft is threatening litigation, they’ve long pretended Linux doesn’t exist, and the whole world is just Mac and Windows. Mostly Windows.

Let’s see how long it takes someone to make a “Popfly-Killer” that “just works” (TM) – because it uses Flex instead. So much for Microsoft’s “cross-platform Flash-killing uber platform” because they just don’t get it.

14 thoughts on “Forget about Popfly!

  1. You seem to have an overblown sense of importance of Linux users on Opera. Silverlight already supports 98% of all Web browsers in use. Eventually it’ll probably support more but if you somehow think that lack of support for Opera is going to kill it then you’re deluded.

  2. Mark, if I understand the article correctly, it’s Linux users or Opera users – so that’s a portion of the Windows/OS X market and the whole of the Linux market.

    While I agree with the premise of this article, I have a bone to pick. I read The NeoSmart Files because I like the fair and objective POV you guys have had for the past year or so (that I’ve been reading). I haven’t seen you hating on any one system or company (Symantec excluded) or showing any form of bias….

    Until now that is. The past month or so, your articles have been increasingly anti-Microsoft and it doesn’t make sense. I know that you guys have a good reason for this attitude shift, but I’m really not seeing it. Would you mind clearing it up for us, because this just doesn’t make sense.

    Now back to the article: I agree 100%. If Microsoft wants to sell SilverLight as a cross-platform RIA framework, they should have waited until a Linux implementation existed before launching their Digg/Facebook/Flickr/Whatever killer. But they haven’t, yet I’d still like to see a review of Popfly nevertheless.

    OT: What’s up with a purple duck with a green beak! Talk about murdering color theory in cold blood!

  3. What about Myspace ….. All geeks hate but the ordinary noobs love it. all jokes aside Silverlight is a killer not because of the cross compatibly but because its 100 times easier to develop RIA apps in .net since Microsoft has some really excellent development tools. 

  4. Emmie, that’s a good question. We’ll probably right a post about it or something, because it’s a very long story.

    Arpit: You got me stumped. MySpace really is the bane of all geeks – but when it first started, I have no idea if geeks hated it then too. I assume they didn’t, since it’s only after it got popular that it got annoying too (with n00bs posting mp3 backgrounds, silly movies, and content straight out of Fark & eBaum’s World).

    With regards to Silverlight from a dev’s point of view, I have to agree. I develop for .NET and Mono, and they’re both just great. I personally find them to be a lot more powerful-yet-simple than Java/Apollo/Flex/Whatever, if only .NET was more compatible.

  5. I don’t think the point is that Microsoft is missing out on 10% of the online user-base (if you assume that people on Windows using Opera won’t switch to IE/FF to access Popfly) is the point here, “O’rly.”

    If I understand the article correctly, NeoSmart’s POV is that this isn’t the way to go about creating a new standard before supporting it fully. More about the future of the Silverlight RIA than the Popfly itself, or at least that’s the impression I got from this article…

    BTW, I like Emmie, noticed the shift in NST’s emotions with regards to Microsoft, though I find it fully exculpable given the current situation with the crap that is Vista, the Linux/MS patent BS, and Microsoft’s general reluctance to provide good code. :(

  6. Per your statements above, the issue is that Popfly applications use Silverlight and that Silverlight does not support Linux/Opera, therefore Popfly won’t work.

    I think you’ll be happy to hear that Popfly can, in fact, run non-Silverlight applications, HTML, JavaScript, or popular AJAX frameworks. Pages built with the Popfly Page Designer are also cross-platform.


    The important consideration is what the Popfly user decides to use for a platform.  Alpha geeks, as you mentioned, do like full cross-platform support and the absolute best cross-platform Web tool, in terms of platform support is AJAX. Those alpha geeks can create AJAX-enabled applications using Popfly and the application creator is the person who decides the system requirements.

     Some examples:

    The Virtual Earth + Flickr example does not require Silverlight and works with any browser or operating system that Virtual Earth supports.

    You can also use open source AJAX Frameworks, like the popular Scriptaculous library ( used on sites like Digg,, and Apple?s Aperture site, and  an application built with the Scriptaculous library will run on Windows/Linux/Macs etc. If it doesn’t run on a specific browser/OS combination, it’s because of, not because of Popfly.

    You can see the Scriptaculous puzzle that ships with the SDK here.


    Someone can take my app, rip it, then remix it, say their photos or with data dynamically retrieved from one of the Popfly blocks.  


  7. I think that microsoft is probably a lot smarter than you and know what there doing. Whats this thing about “how geeks know everything” If your so smart why don’t you make your own “popfly-killer”

  8. it?s the geeks that decide whether it works or doesn?t.”  

     I think differently actually. Sure the geeks will be the ones coding it up, but if ANY mass of people big enough make it popular enough, then the rest will follow. For example… why people still use IE instead of firefox, or back in the day VHS or Beta… it’s all about popularity, not how much we like whatever it is.

  9. Hi guys,

    I am a foss and flash/flex lover. I tried in my day to day work/life not to be tied down by Microsoft.

    HOWEVER, I have to tell you I am very impressed with Popfly. I have reviewed Yahoo Pipes and read some articles about Google Mashups. Yes, Yahoo Pipes is great and Google Mashups let you write scripts,

    BUT where is the presentation layer? You may be able to pull in all the web services, xml/json feeds, but you have to present it. Yahoo Pipes presentation layer is practically non-existance if compared to Popfly.

    Now common, impressive plug-play presentation can be created easily using ajax and flash. Where are they? May I say google and adobe[with apollo] is getting slower and slower by the day.


  10. Oh yes,

    One more thing, the importance of a mashup service like Popfly, Pipes, etc. With a cool presentation widget/gadgets, people are going to put their popfly/pipes in the blogs, social network. And this is where a presentatable widget/gadgets help to spread the use of Silverlight. This is quite smart for Microsoft. Well, they can easily turn on the Windows Automatic Updates to let Silverlight stream down the server and increase the penetration rate. However, no content is there on the web to spir the Silverlight ecosystem. Before Popfly, I was mocking at Silverlight, after that, it is my turn to mock at Adobe, and Sun, common JavaFx, what a joke, fix the java runtime first !!!

    So Microsoft, although you don’t have my fancy, hats off for you, you win in this round.


  11. The Popfly included four tools based on Silverlight technology, which are described as follows.

    The Game Creator was a tool that allowed you to create your own game or extend a game already built. It could be exported to Facebook, or be used as a Windows Live Gadget.

    I thought it was a great idea to be honest

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