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Adobe Continues to “Prune” its Flash Runtimes

by Orion on June 29th, 2012

As you may have heard, Adobe has posted an update regarding the Flash pugin being discontinued on Android: An Update on Flash Player and Android.  Not sure why I haven’t posted on this issue publicly until now… I guess it was because I was too caught up in the almost daily shit storm that has ensued from Adobe’s big announcement last November. But maybe it’s just because I’m on summer holidays and I’m bored.  At any rate, here is my response…

Let’s just get this out of the way first…

The Flash vs. HTML debate is somewhat artificial and can often be misleading. When choosing your technology for a project, you have to first consider your goals and your target audience, then look at the tools/solutions available to best get the job done. Technology geeks like myself can easily get drawn into debates about which technology is the greatest, but it often misses the point…

And this too…

While it is true that running plugins in browsers is not the most ideal use of computational power, plugins — Flash Player in particular — have played a critical role in enhancing end user experience on the web, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.  I would argue that without Flash, most of the more exciting parts of HTML5 wouldn’t exist. Though I am a strong advocate of web standards, they move painfully slow at times, while proprietary web solutions can innovate very quickly. A web infrastructure that allows plugins gives us the best of both worlds.

What Really Matters: End Users

True: HTML5 and the rise of mobile change the web landscape considerably and we should be FULLY aware of current trends when making our decisions for the future.  Many people have had a hate on for Flash though since end users started downloading and installing it, and tech blog posts on Flash are often biassed and misleading.  Flash has been killed about a hundred times since the late 90’s and yet for some reason, people have continued to download and install it at increasing rates (http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplatformruntimes/statistics.html).

The average end user doesn’t care about which technology is the best; they just want the best experience. This is why Microsoft has finally decided that they would work with Adobe on a deep integration of Flash with Windows 8…  ”Microsoft received strong customer feedback that Flash is an important part of the Metro style browsing experience” http://venturebeat.com/2012/05/31/adobe-microsoft-flash-windows-8/.

The Bottom Line

Adobe has had to admit now that making their plugin work in mobile browsers is too expensive for them, especially when big fish like Apple won’t cooperate. This latest announcement is actually old news.  Last fall they announced that they would focus their Flash technologies on desktop web and mobile AIR apps, “creating and deploying rich, expressive games with console-quality graphics and deploying premium video” (http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flashplatform/whitepapers/roadmap.html).  If you are interested in the future of Flash, I suggest you give Adobe’s roadmap a read.

Going Forward…

Adobe is doing some amazing things for Flash game developers.  If you haven’t been following Flash gaming, I suggest you check it out: http://gaming.adobe.com/. Their efforts are now bearing great fruit.  Flash gaming I would argue is bigger and better than it has ever been.  Adobe has made a strong commitment to the future of Flash and despite their business issues with Apple, they are still a dominant player in the multimedia industry.

Rather than a doomed technology, I would compare Flash to a tree that has had a branch cut off before it could fully grow.  Rather than die, however, it has put renewed growth effort into it’s other branches.

For my own work with Flash for Online Learning solutions, the gaming and rich media/audio/video capabilities of Flash runtimes, and it’s continued market strength for desktop web and mobile applications makes it ideal. And I love the Flash toolset/workflow.  Of course we are working on a nice HTML fall-back for accessibility and iOS browsers.

In general the e-Learning industry is still largely rooted in Flash solutions. The big issue is tablets in my opinion, and most organizations are working on solutions for this now that may or may not include Flash longterm, depending on their needs, or how deeply the “Reality Distortion Field” of Steve Jobs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_distortion_field) has affected them.  As for the organization I work for, we have done a lot of thinking and research on our goals and our target audience to come to our set of solutions.

Flash may not be the best solution anymore for some of the niches it has traditionally dominated, and that’s a good thing.  For instance, the recent “rebirth” of HTML/CSS/JavaScript makes expressive websites easier to create without Flash, and tools like Adobe Edge COULD help the marketing industry transition to more iPad friendly banners (Edge is still roughly 10 years behind Flash in terms of functionality).  But let’s not say that any use of Flash should be banned or somehow looked down upon until we have have looked at the situation carefully and considered it from ALL angles.

From → ideas, media

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