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FluidHTML seeks to bridge Web programming divide

A start-up called FHTML hopes its software will let traditional Web programmers tap into the power of Flash more easily. It's not a free lunch, though.

Today's Web programmers face a big choice when it comes to fancier aspects of their sites: HTML or Flash? One start-up hopes it can bridge the gap with a technology called FluidHTML.

FluidHTML shows its technology to build Flash applications with HTML-style programming with this Pong demo.
FluidHTML shows its technology to build Flash applications with HTML-style programming with this Pong demo. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

The start-up, FHTML, announced software Monday at the TechCrunch50 conference that's intended to give HTML-style programmers the ability to use Flash features.

FluidHTML's language is an extension of HTML, the company said. "We borrow a lot of the really good ideas from HTML, because why wouldn't we?" said Chief Executive Michael Collette at the conference.

The approach holds some promise--but it also poses some risks. It may be complicated trying to get HTML and Flash programmers to work together, but at least those are established disciplines. FluidHTML requires a language known by neither set of coders right now, and the technology is supported just by a start-up still seeking its own programming staff and $1 million to $2 million in venture funding.

HTML, the traditional language of the Web, got its start showing just text and images with basic layouts. The second, begun by Macromedia and now led by Adobe Systems, is better suited for animations and flashy graphics, video, and increasingly, applications as well.

But a different set of programming skills are required to build Flash-powered sites or applications, so it doesn't always coexist easily on the same Web site. Programming is getting even more complicated as Flash converges with HTML and its companion, JavaScript.

FluidHTML relies on a Flash software module that programmers can embed in their Web pages. It interprets the HTML-esque code to supply Flash features such as vector graphics, sound, and video.

"The markup language supports very powerful commands (tags) and can do remarkable things that take enormous development effort in Flash," the company said. "FluidHTML RIAs (rich Internet applications) can be developed by less expensive programmers and require fewer man-hours to build than Flash."