Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Flash Isn't Going Away, Except from Your Mobile

You may have heard some rumors that Flash is going away. You may read it as vindication for Steve Jobs. You may have decided web development will now change. You may be under the impression that HTML5 can do all the things Flash can. You can be excused when you read much of they hype, including such link-baiting headlines as Jobs Was Right: Adobe Abandons Mobile Flash Development, Report Says, clearly intended to draw Apple fanboys. Some of the news today:

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, this cessation of development is for mobile devices only (read Adobe's release). I also want everyone to take a deep breath and stop crediting Apple with this. Adobe has long been unable to make a Flash player for mobile devices with a small enough footprint to not feel like you are wading through pudding to see some pointless animation (or worse, a navigation bar). The iOS market share in the mobile space is still below Android's (suggesting to me that Apple cannot kill it on its own), but Flash's ability to play well on anything in the mobile space is still below all of that.

We can expect this to affect how Flash will be implemented on other sites, but not immediately. Web developers worth their pay are moving toward adaptive layouts that scale and reformat themselves for mobile devices. These developers have mostly excised Flash from their toolkit because it doesn't play well with these new approaches. Younger, less experienced developers, along with developers trapped in 2001, will still use the only tool they have (insert hammer/nail metaphor) until they have exhausted it.

As someone who has been resistant to Flash on client projects for years, partly because of accessibility concerns and partly due to its resource demands, there is no love lost here for the platform. I am happy to see it wander off into a corner and yield right-of-way to CSS3, HTML5 and its related specifications. Over 10 years ago, when Flash was already causing stress to web developers and user interface designers, Jakob Nielsen finally got on board with his article Flash: 99% Bad. Today is just another step in a much larger process of web standards development, even if Flash wasn't an official one (de facto has carried it this far).

In the meantime, expect to see Flash persist on the web of desktop browsers and expect to see it persist in old, forgotten sites for years (perhaps most of the restaurant web sites I see). Until HTML5 can figure out what it wants to be when it grows up (End of time Is Not Helping the Case for HTML5) and the debate over video codecs truly ends (Are Patents Killing HTML5 Video?), things aren't going to change for most of us very soon.

Millions of #Flash Designers/Developers can target HTML5 too. Next version of Flash Pro: Build in #Flash and convert to #HTML5 and #CSS

I am intentionally skipping the discussion around Adobe's statement to more broadly support HTML5, since it's not really news given its latest products. I'm also skipping the statements from Adobe about using Flash to feed to app development platforms like AIR since I think we all have seen that move for a while now.

Related (on this blog)

Update November 10, 2011

As I suspected, the hype is starting to settle down after a day has passed. Some more news bits with more of an overall perspective:

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