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On The Future of Flash

by Moxie Zhang on Feb 10, 2010 |

The recent release of the Apple iPad, which  does not support Flash, and Steve Jobs’s comments on Adobe Flash have triggered a new round of discussion on the future of Flash. A few well-known leaders in the field of rich interactive experience have joined the discussion.  Grant Skinner is one of them. Skinner’s post, “My Thoughts on the Future of Flash” ignited an active conversation among his readers.

Skinner opened the discussion by telling readers he was not worried about Flash’s future:

“I love working with Flash, and I think it has a long life ahead of it. But, even if it went the way of VRML tomorrow, working with Flash has given me an understanding of rich interactive content development that's difficult or impossible to gain with any other technology.”

Skinner believes the skill set derived from working with Adobe Flash can be applied easily to WPF on Windows, Cocoa development on Mac/iPhone, Silverlight, mobile development, and the emerging HTML 5 standard. Skinner went on to analyze how HTML5 and Flash can coexist to provide rich interactive experience in the future:

“In the more likely scenario, HTML5 will slowly overcome the obstacles facing its adoption (ex. Codecs, IE), and begin providing an alternative to Flash for many scenarios. Flash will continue to evolve, optimize, and add new capabilities. It will continue to provide a more consistent environment for deploying rich experiences to multiple platforms.”

Skinner also stood up for the Flash engineers:

“Finally, I want to address all of the hate and insults that have been directed at the Adobe engineers. Yes, Flash player crashes. Yes, its performance could be better. But, the Flash player engineers are some of the smartest, most passionate and dedicated professionals I've had the pleasure of working with.”

More than 100 readers shared and participated in the discussion, displaying overwhelming support for Skinner’s stand.

One reader, Jase, offered a slightly different perspective:

“The problem is that we are so reliant on these technologies that life without them seems largely unbearable. … the resentment and frustration you hear among the flames has little to do with whether or not Flash will survive (in its bloated, buggy form or a streamlined, working version). The anger and passion that you hear comes from being treated poorly by both Adobe and Apple and from being played like pawns in the giant battle of egos.”

Todd Pasternack’s comment summarizes the discussion very well: “Let's bring the battle to a close. Use what's right for you and your client's needs - and keep the end-user in mind at all times.”

It seems that such discussion will continue, especially while more alternative technologies are developed and emerging for rich user experience.  As one of the Flash’s creators, Jeremy Allaire, stated in his recent post on Flash, HTML and Mobile Apps, it’s all about reach:

Whether on the supply side of content and applications or on the distribution and run-time side of the equation, what is abundantly clear is that reach is still king. For platform makers, these battles will continue, as they all seek to drive sufficient reach for their open and proprietary standards such that they can exploit this distribution for their core commercial goals. Likewise, and more important, whatever standards and models deliver the broadest reach will ultimately drive what is adopted by publishers, developers and ISVs.

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Making it accessible to Developers by Kris K

It would be in Adobe's advantage to ship out an Express Edition of Flex Builder (or whatever it is called now) to allow developers to get familiar with Flash platform and embrace it. A lot of developers I have spoken to assume Flash is only meant for ads/games on the web. It can be used to build compelling business applications with server side capabilities built on Java. Not many Java developers know this. By keeping the product completely inaccessible for developers, they are only hastening their chances to lose out to Silverlight, HTML 5 and rich Java Script libraries that are coming out.

Re: Making it accessible to Developers by Miha Blazin

If you wanna try Flex Builder beyond the free 30-day trial, you can go to freeriatools.adobe.com/ and get a valid license there if you're a student, faculty teacher or an unemployed developer. Not exactly an Express Edition, but a nice way to get Flex Builder to developers who wanna learn it or cant afford it right now.

Flash ads vs Flex Rich Internet Applications by Roger Voss

Most people only know the Flash Player through youtube videos and web page animated ads.

They never see the amazing enterprise applications that are being built in Flex. Ours are web server deployed, but we can also install an AIR front-end that run them in an even more desktop like experience (layered multi-windowed - behaving like Mac OS X apps). And without much additional dev/QA pain, we get the benefit of these apps running on Mac, Windows, Linux, and support all the most widely used browsers. Portable graphing and charting to boot.

There really is nothing else that compares. JavaFX and Silverlight are still in catch-up mode and don't have the level of adoption. HTML/HTML5/JavaScript/DOM, even with all the JavaScript libraries and frameworks, is still is much more expensive development and QA with significantly inferior results when it comes to RIA apps.

Re: Flash ads vs Flex Rich Internet Applications by Tran Minh

so true, flash/flex is very productive platform. i don 't think html5/js based frameworks can catch up. new released cappucino js framework also brings some relief but it still requires more work.

Re: Making it accessible to Developers by José Abrantes

Is there a road map to Flex Builder or Eclipse plugin for GNU/Linux?

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