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What is the Future of Flash and Flex?

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Adobe wants to strengthen Flash and Flex’s position in the enterprise and especially in the mobile space. But a recent study shows that jQuery has overtaken Flash as a deployed web solution on the top 17,000 websites.

Andrew Shorten, Group Product Manager of Developer Tools at Adobe Systems, published a post on Adobe’s official blog, talking about Flash and Flex’s current status and providing some hints on what is to be expected next for Adobe’s flagship platform. Shorten acknowledges that while once Flash was the only solution for cross-platform web development, now HTML5 is becoming an attractive choice for some:

There are countless examples where, in the past, Flex was (rightly) selected as the only way to deliver a great user experience. Today, many of those could be built using HTML5-related technologies and delivered via the browser, and at Adobe, we will provide tooling to help designers and developers create those experiences – Edge and Muse are two such examples.

Having HTML5 in view and working on related tools (Edge and Muse), Shorten considers that HTML5 is not the “right choice for all use cases” and that enterprises still choose Flex due to its “performance, framework maturity and robust tooling.” Shorten continued by outlining the main directions for Flex and Flash, namely enterprise and mobile, with an emphasize on mobile. He promises Flash&Flex will be a runtime and development environment for enterprise business applications:

We will continue to heavily invest in strengthening Flex for enterprise use, ensuring that you can deliver expressive, robust applications. As we share more details about our upcoming releases, you’ll see our commitment to tackle areas such as Spark component completion, accessibility, build system integration, performance analysis tooling and integration of a next-generation compiler, making Flex the #1 choice for building enterprise-grade RIAs.

Regarding the future in mobile development, Shorten mentioned:

We’re continuing to focus on runtime performance, native extensions, new components, declarative skinning, adding more platforms and improving tooling workflows, such that in our next major release timeframe we expect that the need to build a fully-native application will be reserved for a small number of use cases.

Shorten did not specify more, adding that more details will be provided at Adobe MAX, October 1-4, held in Los Angeles, USA.

It’s not sure why Shorten posted these bits about Flash & Flex’s roadmap, but it could be related to a report analyzing the top 17,000 websites and published by appendTo, LLC a day earlier, the result being succinctly expressed as: “jQuery Overtakes Flash on World’s Top Websites.” appendTo is a company providing consulting, training and development for applications based on HTML5 and jQuery. According to the report, 48% of the world’s top websites have jQuery deployed on their site, while 47% have deployed Flash. The analysis is based on data provided by HTTP Archive, an organization collecting Internet-wide data. Mike Hostetler, co-founder and CEO of appendTo concluded:

This data confirms a trend that’s been a couple years in the making. More and more website developers are choosing jQuery and JavaScript over Flash and the rate at which this transformation is occurring is only accelerating.

Once found on most websites, Flash has started to lose ground in favor of web technologies such as HTML5 and JavaScript. Will the trend continue? Will companies choose Flex for its maturity and wait until HTML5 tools become more mature? Will HTML5 take over web development? Only time will tell for sure how it is going to be, but we can speculate.

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