I mentioned Buzzword in my last Web 2.0 post: a new Flash-based word processing website that was recently purchased by Adobe. I had to sign on to a waiting list to get a user account. That user account arrived a few days later, and I can now give my first impressions of Buzzword.
The first thing I have to say – I hate the hype they are using with Buzzword: “The first real web-based word processor.” But then they don’t say (as far as I can tell) what they mean by “real” – and I can’t think of a good guess either. Google Docs and Zoho seem pretty real to me. Just like Microsoft Word, they use a mark-up language and text combined with some graphics to give the appearance of words typed on a piece of paper. None of it is technically real until you print it.
Also, at the exact point I was reading “don’t have to worry about crashes, viruses, versioning, losing connectivity or navigating away from the page” in the sample document they give you to play with… it all stopped working. No buttons worked, the scroll bar stopped moving – everything. Funny.
That highlights one of the weaknesses of Buzzword – it uses Flash. Flash doesn’t work evenly across all computers. For animations – it works great. But making applications with Flash is tricky – it sometimes gets bogged down and freezes up for no apparent reason. Not to mention you have to download and install a plug-in for Flash – something not all educators have access to.
The lack of font choice is also annoying – I don’t even recognize the names of 4 of the 6 that you get. Of course, font use is really a weakness of any online word processor. The killer app to me, for online word processing, is figuring out how to get websites to recognize what fonts you have installed locally, and then offer those to you.
Of course, Buzzword is Flash-based, and everything moves more like an animation than a choppy AJAX program. The look and feel is really nice and professional. Buzzword can also do some nice things that other websites can’t for now – like add comments, or spell check on any browser. Of courses, there are also the requisite sharing options.
I just still can’t help but worry about the fact that it is all in Flash. Not the best option for education. AJAX can be designed to degrade well. Flash just doesn’t degrade. Don’t get me wrong – I love Flash. I’ve done my fair share of Flash design. Because of that, I know that it’s usefulness in this type of situation is questionable. But there is promise here.