ActionScript 3 vs. ActionScript 2 – the discussion still rages

ActionScript has been around for a full decade by now, the first version of it, ActionScript 1.0 being released back in September of 2000 when it was bundled with Flash 5. This first edition was a mix of enhanced Flash 4 “actions” and influences from JavaScript and the ECMA-262 standard.

A couple of the features that would distinguish this version from its later successors would be its loose type system and the fact that it relied on prototype-based inheritance.

Three years later, in September of 2003, ActionScript 2.0 was introduced in concordance with the new Flash Player 7. This release represented a serious revision of the language that came about thanks to the massive user feedback that wanted the language to be able to deal with larger and more complex applications.

In June of 2006 this time, ActionScript 3.0 was released and it represented a fundamentally restructured language to the extent that it used a completely different virtual machine.

Right now we’re in 2010 and it would appear that Adobe are not sticking to the precedents of releasing a new version every three years, and maybe that is due to the fact that even four years after its release, there are is still a considerable number of programmers out there who are still working with ActionScript 2.0.

Granted they are not a majority by any stretch of the imaginary but it is important and interesting to understand why many have been a bit reluctant of adopting AS3.

When it was first introduced the first impression most people had was that AS3 was too complicated and this made it harder to learn than its predecessor and most probably this feeling stemmed from the fact that AS3 offers a very large number of new features which definitely makes it a bigger language than AS2. However this would only be a cause for concern if one would actually need to learn every aspect of every feature of AS3 but this is not required for the wide majority of Flash developers out there. One only has to learn what one needs to know in order to do a specific task and that is that.

Another general misconception about the differences between AS3 and its predecessors is that for instance AS1 meant that you could do the programming on the timeline while AS2 and AS3 were focused on object-oriented programming in externalized class files, and this sort of distinction is not true because all versions of AS have supported both those ways of programming.

One last misconception that has kept some developers away from AS3 for a while is that it somehow requires much more coding in order to obtain results that in the previous versions could be done with fewer keystrokes. However this is only a misconception because for the majority of it the amount of code is similar if indeed different, and in those cases where there is more code to deal with it is also usually arranged in a completely different framework that offers other advantages.

There are some developers who choose to use both languages, using AS3 when they have a project that requires some of the various features that it has and using AS2 for all the other projects just because they have gotten very used to it and they have all the workarounds and little tricks that have appeared ever since its release.

As for what the future holds, there is definitely an ActionScript 4 in the works as you read this, and while it was initially rumored that it would be released at the beginning of 2010, now that we’re here it appears to be a bit late, because we know it’s not going to ship with CS5, however CS5 is expected to come with a bunch of updates and patches to AS3.

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5 Responses to “ActionScript 3 vs. ActionScript 2 – the discussion still rages”

  1. I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

  2. How you find ideas for articles, I am always lack of new ideas for articles. Some tips would be great

  3. Don’t know what to say, I think this is what I want to read on flash blogs, fresh articles.

  4. Madhu Rakhal Magar 07. Jul, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Great Article , Currently i join one of the web designing company and learning AS2 due to client requirement although i am much more comfortable with AS3.