The fate of Adobe Flash is in a stir lately. Who wouldn’t talk about it when two Steve’s are out there to get it by the neck? Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer have decided that Flash’s reign is over. At least in the sense that Microsoft and Apple and other major technology companies have started shifting from Flash to different platforms.
What’s in store for developers and users? Users would wonder if they’re affected by this change. Depending on what they use their devices for, it might make or break a lot of things. Take for example gamers. There are major gaming websites that focus on Flash like Kongregate and Newgrounds, I guess Apple users won’t be able to play games anymore. For developers, this might be a problem (or a business) as they will have to rewrite their products.
Apple is a behemoth that does not support Flash. Two Steve’s are actually moving away from Flash, the other Steve is Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO. Imagine that? Two huge industry giants versus Adobe Flash!
Is the future of Adobe Flash grim? Before addressing the real issue here, let’s first look at why Flash is a target and not others.
Why is Flash Widely Used?
Another reason for its success is that Flash is mostly used for gaming and entertainment. The majority of internet users use the internet for entertainment.
Is it the End of Flash?
No. To say that it will die off because a new challenger appears is too sensationalist. Since the majority of PCs use it, websites with animations including those pesky advertisements, and thousands of Flash games, it won’t go away easily. It has served thousands of devices and websites; taught in multimedia classes and has produced a lot of creative content without even knowing scripting. Adobe Flash is still evolving, trying to keep up with the fast paced technology.
During college I took a multimedia class. There we used Adobe Flash and created several 2D animations and Flash games. I can say that even if I’m not that good with graphics and design, I can sure as hell create a Flash game and animate your stick man. Is it a useful skill? Maybe it can get you a few ladies to drink with, still it is a very useful skill especially for designers.
The problem with these technologies is that the standards aren’t really that standard for everyone. You think you know everything about CSS and HTML and now you can create a super website? Think again. In a few months or years you’ll have to read another manual telling you that there’s another standard. Even if they’re called standards, developers from all over the planet are having difficulties with cross browser and cross platform compatibility.
Websites including YouTube have began using HTML5. There has been a spur of HTML5 games and they are really lightweight.
The question now is, is HTML5 (and others) easy to learn? I can teach a 13-year-old to animate using Flash, but not HTML5 just yet. It still has a long way to go but I’m pretty sure that someday people will come up with drag and drop applications to create rich and dynamic content.
As said, Flash is well-established and can be used by almost anyone.
What about the people saying that Flash is already dead? Are they too optimistic about HTML5? Maybe, since HTML5 still has a long way to go and still has to establish credibility. Something which Flash has. But HTML5 has the ace up its sleeve, and that is the potential to grow further.
What Apple says vs. What Adobe says
When it comes to Touch
Apple claims that Adobe Flash wasn’t made to support touch screen devices. Any other Flash applications and websites will then be rewritten.
Adobe says that the Adobe Flash Player is actually made for the purpose of supporting tablets with multi-touch. And that Flash developers need not worry because mouse events are automatically converted to touch events for touch devices.
When it comes to Battery Life
Apple says that Flash uses too much battery life to be used on mobile devices when playing high-definition videos or games.
Adobe says it will not be an issue since Flash Player 10.1 supports hardware acceleration across mobile and desktop devices.
When it comes to Security
Apple takes a hold of Symantec’s word about Flash being one of worst in security.
Adobe says it is also important to note that Flash is one of the most widely used systems. Comparing it to a discussion I had during college, Microsoft OS is mostly targeted by computer viruses and crackers because the market is in there, many people use it as compared to Linux and Mac OS X.
(see links at article’s end for an in-depth explanation from Adobe and Apple)
Should You Learn Flash?
HTML5 is the next big thing after Flash but do not expect a wide support group for it just yet. If you want to do complex animations, Flash is your way for now. By all means learn how to use Flash, it is widely supported and has lots of features that anyone can use.
But if you are thinking of creating a website with animations and things, you might want to wait just yet. Flash websites were superstars of the past, now they’re just divas that want attention and many people loathe them.
Flash is compatible with almost any browser. You don’t have to worry about cross browser and cross platforms. Of course, we’re not talking about iPhone and iPads. Kidding, Adobe Flash Player 10.1 supports them now.
Now, if you are thinking of creating an HTML5 game, you might not find a very good marketplace for it. Flash still has the biggest audience and established marketplaces for games like Y8, Newgrounds, and Kongregate.
Should you learn HTML5? Well, you can start now. It has a bright future, but don’t expect it to come in a sweep anytime soon. People, like an immune system, are resistive to change. HTML5 is still far from achieving what Flash can do: games, videos, applications, flexibility, and audience.
Weighing Things Up
Adobe Flash wins at:
- Used by almost every PC user.
- Creation of simple to complex animation.
- Several thousand Flash games that can’t be played on Apple products.
- Devices that allows Flash usage, in my experience, are more fun to deal with. My team and I once created a “hack and slash” game using Flash and we were stunned to learn that our professor saved it on his Nokia and played it there. Fully running. My point is, Flash is great with cross-platform compatibility.
- Cross-browser compatibility too.
- All of these are open standards, no more relying on third-party products like Flash does.
- Can be used by most browsers without updating anything.
- When YouTube was still a baby, I usually would see a page asking me to upgrade my Flash player. I haven’t seen it in a year now.
- Adobe Flash wasn’t really built to support touch screen devices. With today’s technology, almost every surface is a touch screen. It doesn’t stop there; the juice of this all is on the web. Little by little desktop applications are leaving the mainstream and are replaced by web-based applications. Lightweight and accessible almost anywhere. This includes games, videos, and other applications.
It is not certain if Flash will be replaced, but it is certain that in the years to come there will be other technologies that will be on par with it. Flash was, and is still, hot because of PCs. In an era where PCs are common household items, Flash sure has found its place. But with today’s rise in mobile devices, lightweight devices, the hassles of using Flash applications will be its own funeral. Even though its future is gravely marked, it doesn’t mean it will fall overnight. There’s still hope for Flash developers out there.
Sources and for Further Reading:
Adobe - The truth about Flash
Apple - Thoughts on Flash
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Rean is the editor of 1stwebdesigner. He regularly writes about freelancing, technology, web design, and web development. Rean also writes at Moneyarty.com, a blog dedicated to teaching people how to make money online.