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ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Jeremy Geelan, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson

Related Topics: ColdFusion, Adobe Flex

ColdFusion: Article

It's Time To Standardize CFML

"ColdFusion, BlueDragon, Coral Web Builder, IgniteFusion, Railo..."

ColdFusion, BlueDragon, Coral Web Builder, IgniteFusion, and Railo. All are CFML engines, but none of them support the same implementation of CFML as each other. This, in the long run, is not a good thing.

Up front, I am not opposed to other CFML engines. Yes, I use only ColdFusion in production environments, but I have played around a with BlueDragon and other CFML engines. That being said, I feel that we need a common CFML base from which to base all CFML engines; a CFML core, if you will.

One thing I have noticed is that you have tags that do not behave the same across platforms. A prime example of this is CFDOCUMENT on ColdFusion vs. BlueDragon. Blue Dragon will create raster documents, but not FlashPaper, and ColdFusion will perform inversely. This is not a good thing. I understand the marketing pitch of "Our tag does something theirs doesn't.", but this is nuts. As developers, we want a tag to perform the same no matter which platform is the deployment target.

We are at a point in the life of CFML, as a language, where there needs to be some sort of standardization to the CFML language. How will a CFDOCUMENT tag act? How will a CFCOMPONENT tag act? We should be at a point where CFCOMPONENT will work the same no matter what platform you are on. Most developers don't want to have to consider: "Will this run on ColdFusion AND BlueDragon?". We want it to just work.

A harmonious approach would be to say "Let's have a conference and sort through it." Fact of the matter is, that's just not going to happen.

Adobe is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room on this issue. As much as we would like to laud New Atlanta for what they've done with their CFML engine, Adobe is still, and will continue to be, the market leader. When people think CFML, they think ColdFusion; and when they think ColdFusion, they think Adobe (or Macromedia, or Allaire, but that's another topic).

What does this mean for standardization? From a business standpoint, it means that all other CFML engines need to, at least, fully support the market leader's implementation. Beyond that, the "unofficial" CFML engines can add new functionality (i.e. CFTHREAD). If it's deemed viable, then they can see it assimilated into ColdFusion (as has happened with CFTHREAD).

Sure, other CFML engines say that they support 90% + of the ColdFusion implementation of CFML tags and functions. What about that other percentage that isn't supported? It's true with any CFML engine that isn't "the official product": If you don't support all of Adobe's functionality, you are not compatible with ColdFusion. Plain and simple. Partial support is not an option here. In standards, it's an all or nothing game.

Is Adobe going to open up CFML as language? Why should they give away the market? It's bad business to do so. All they can do is innovate, and hope that other CFML engine vendors can keep up.

Under Allaire, Macromedia, and now Adobe, ColdFusion and CFML have flourished. They have been good stewards of the CFML language. I see no reason to let them not lead the way on CFML standards going forward.

Until the other CFML engines come in line, there is still going to be a choice: "What CFML engine am I developing for?" Most likely, the answer is going to be ColdFusion. However, if any of the other CFML engines can fully support Adobe's CFML implementation, that question becomes much more complicated. We are not to that point yet. One day, however, we may be at that point where the decision as to which platform to develop on becomes a bit more difficult to answer.

More Stories By Andrew Powell

Andrew Powell has been architecting and developing Web applications for over 10 years using ColdFusion, Java, ASP.NET and ASP. His background includes experience running IT Departments for firms in the executive search and aviation consulting fields. You can read his blog on everything ColdFusion, Java, Flex & AJAX at www.infoaccelerator.net.

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