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On The Future of Flash

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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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