Thursday, August 27, 2009

Flash is Dead! Long Live Flash!

I am on vacation.

I did not intend to do a blog post while on vacation, but I feel like I need more than 140 characters to explain my recent twitter rants. We're having a quiet night after several days in the Disney parks, so it's a good opportunity to expand on these recent tweets, since the twitter versions, limited to 140 characters, are evoking a lot of anger.

The Spark


While at Disney World's Magic Kingdom, I wanted to look something up on Disney's website. Navigating to one of the Disney.com web pages using my iPhone resulted in an error page. That's right, I thought to myself, Disney uses Flash for almost everything, don't they.

I'm not thrilled about a company doing that, but that's absolutely not the thing that set me off. It was the fact that Disney's explanation for why I couldn't view their page was that I wasn't using a "Standards compliant browser".

photo.jpg


Now, say what you will about Mobile Safari, but one accusation you can't reasonably level at it is that it isn't Standards-compliant. It's based on WebKit, and WebKit fully passes the Acid3 test. It's as standards-compliant as any browser, certainly any mobile browser. It's a hell of a lot more "standards compliant" than IE5 (look at the screenshot).

Disney is, basically, putting the blame on the user for their decision to require Flash on their website, and using made-up statistics to make the user sound like an anomaly. A weirdo. C'mon, be cool like 99.9% of our viewers! Yet, they couch it in language that SOUNDS like good customer service (we want to help). Crikey!

Out of Place


Now, I find this odd. For all of their faults, Disney tends to be incredibly good at not insulting their customers. Some of the best customer service I've ever seen has been within the 47 square miles owned by the Disney corporation in Central Florida. Seriously. I'm not exaggerating here at all. Disney castmembers bend over backwards to accommodate their customers and the company has been incredibly progressive over the last thirty years or so in their treatment of customers. When they do screw up, they're usually quick to apologize and do everything possible to rectify the situation.

I had a situation with park security several years back. The details aren't important, but I was accused of doing something illegal (in front of my children and many, many strangers) in a situation where it would have been physically impossible for me (or anyone) to have done the thing I was accused of. The situation was rectified quickly once I asked for management involvement, and I was sent on my way with a sincere-sounding apology. When I got home from vacation, I received a box of gifts for my children with a hand-written apology from a VP. A few days later, I received another apology by phone and was given specific information about changes that would be made to their training to make sure that same situation didn't happen again.

That relatively minor situation, if handled wrong, could easily have ended with me never wanting to do business with Disney again. But, it didn't, because they handled it right. Whether any of the apologies were sincere or not makes absolutely no difference. They acknowledged that they had made a mistake, apologized to me for making it, and then followed up afterwards to see if I needed anything. It wouldn't be reasonable to ask for or expect more than that. And to their benefit, Disney Management did not blame or scapegoat the castmember, either. They recognized it was their responsibility to train their castmembers for foreseeable encounters, and that they had failed.

As a result, I have been back to Disney World several times since then. I've never had another serious situation myself, but I've become acutely aware of how this company handles customer service, and often notice little details about the way the Disney castmembers treat people that probably go unnoticed by most people visiting the parks and hotels. With only rare exceptions, Disney does a phenomenal job interacting with their customers.

Except online.

When it comes to the online world, they seem to act with a much more typical corporate attitude, one that, if they were a person, would probably be labeled "arrogance".

So, anyway, my inability to look up something on Disney's website from my iPhone while standing in a Disney park led to my recent twitter-rant about Flash. It was a somewhat adolescent but very cathartic outburst that can basically be summed up as
  • Flash sucks
  • Flash is not a standard, and
  • Flash sucks
Oddly enough, these comments seemed to hit a nerve with a lot of people. I probably should have expected that - one of the more prevalent backgrounds in the iPhone developer community is that of Flash/Flex developer, but I really didn't expect people to take it quite as personally as they did. The only other place I've seen people take criticism of a language or development environment so personally is when I've dared to criticize .Net or, before .Net existed, Visual Basic.

The next twenty-four hours or so after my twitter-rant saw a fair number of replies, including several ad hominem attacks and many factually incorrect assertions about Flash being a standard, along with a lot of "the iPhone is FAIL cuz it don't support Flash" kinds of statements.

Let me just clarify my comments a bit and explain them in more rational terms here.

Flash is Dead


I hate to break it to you, but Flash, as it currently exists, is dead. Oh, it's not going to die quickly, it's going to die a slow painful death precisely because there has been such a large investment of time and money into using it by so many large corporations like Disney. Flash's roots run way too deep for it to disappear quickly.

Here's the thing, though: Flash is a product of a different generation of computing. It's a product of a world where 90% of the people used one platform, and the bulk of the remaining used another. There was Windows, and there was the Mac. And then Linux gained some popularity and became a viable platform, yet for a long time, Linux users couldn't access Flash web sites. Eventually, Linux got Flash too.

But Adobe never lavished the kind of love on the Linux or Mac versions of the Flash plug-in that they did on the Windows version, and less-popular options were SOL because Flash is a proprietary platform.

And now, the world is changing. People are increasingly browsing the web from mobile devices, and unlike the computer world of a decade ago, the mobile computing landscape is not anything like a monoculture or monopoly. There are several viable mobile platforms all competing in that space. We have the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre, Windows Mobile, Android, Symbian and probably others that have slipped my mind. All of these are operating systems currently shipping on phones and all come with browsers. None of them, except a solitary model of Android phone, has Flash.

Do you think Adobe is hard at work writing Flash virtual machines for every possible configuration of hardware and software that exists in the mobile space. Hell, no! They're not even willing to fix the massive memory leaks in the OS X Flash plugin. No, they're going to wait for one or two clear leaders to emerge and then, if they can, and if their MBAs decide there's a sufficient ROI in doing so, then they'll develop Flash for those platforms.

If no clear victors emerge, who knows what we'll see. It's unlikely we'll ever see Flash on the iPhone1. Flash on the Hero is painfully slow and clunky. And, Adobe is also unlikely to ever devote the resources necessary to fully develop and maintain versions for even the platforms they do decide to support. They're going to do the least they can do to say that Flash is part of the mobile web, and that's it.

What I mean by Sucks


When I say that Flash sucks, I'm not talking about ActionScript or the developer tools or anything of that nature. I'm not a Flash developer and never have been. Developing for Flash might be better than receiving oral sex for all I know. When I say that Flash sucks, I'm specifically referring to the leaky, crash-prone implementation of Flash available for Mac OS X. I'm selfish; I rant about things that affect me. And Flash definitely affects me. I'm talking about something that is the polar opposite of a "thin-client" - Flash is a client that can suck up 60% of processor cycles on a high-end machines to run a recreation a a 40-year old arcade game. I'm talking about a technology that is more likely to bring up the SBBD than any other piece of Mac software. Flash on Windows is tolerable (barely), but even on a fast Mac, it can be a horrible, horrible experience to have even a single Flash item on a web page. Every Safari crash I've had in recent memory was directly caused by the Flash plug-in.

I'm absolutely not saying that Flash developers are bad people. I'm absolutely not saying they're dumb. I had no intention of saying a single thing about Flash developers at all. My intentions was just to point out one of the problems of treating Flash as if it were a "de facto Standard" and using it as a general-purpose web-development tool. Flash is controlled by a single-company. It's got the same Achille's Heel as every other proprietary solution (including several Apple technologies like Quicktime, iTunes, and the iPhone SDK). For web development, that was sort of okay when there were only three operating systems to write for and one of them had most of the market share.

I'm not even saying proprietary is always bad. I love my proprietary iPhone and Mac, and you can pry them from my cold dead fingers. But, I wouldn't ever advocate only supporting the iPhone or the Mac on your web site simply because I love them. The whole point of the web is that it's platform agnostic (or, if you buy into Google's point of view, it IS the platform). When you put something on the web, it should be readable by any device that can get on the internet. Your site should use open standards so that the developers for platforms that can't already view your content have the ability to implement that functionality for their users simply by referring to the standard. You should only use a proprietary option like Flash when you have a compelling reason to do so. Implementing a drop-down menu in your navigation bar is NEVER a compelling reason. If something can be done with Javacript and HTML, you'd better have a damn good solid reason for doing it in Flash (or any other proprietary solution, for that matter) rather than using standards-compliant tools, and that reason had better not be "it's what our developer knows/likes" or "it was convenient".

Degrade Gracefully


Someone responded to my Twitter rant by pointing out the crux of the original problem: when you put something on the web, it should at very least degrade gracefully. This is just common sense. If you detect that a browser can't support some feature you use, don't assume it's because your user is running old software. It's just as likely that they're running newer software that wasn't around when you wrote your detection algorithm. Don't make any assumptions or implications in your error page. Just describe, in as much detail as possible, what the problem is and apologize for the inconvenience. That's all. You don't need to explain or defend your choice. Treat your virtual customers the same way you would treat real ones in person. If you've made a decision that will inconvenience some of your customers, man up and live with it, don't try to place the blame back on your user for your fracking decision.

The Future of Flash


I understand what causes some of these attacks I've received. I really do: panic. When people point out to a Flash developer the fact that Flash is not well-positioned for the future, increasingly mobile Web, Flash developers feel a rush of panic. They go into defensive mode. They want those statements to be wrong. They don't like the fact that something they like and have invested a lot of time and energy into might be obsolete in a few short years. This isn't anything unique to Flash. I've seen it before many times. Some people manage to hang on by finding niche work (hell, I know full-time Cobol developers), others (sometimes grudgingly) move to other technologies, while others, like the many NextSTEP developers out there who got a second chance with Mac OS X, and a third chance with the iPhone, get a reprieve.

Hell, I never thought I'd find a way to code in Objective-C for a living. It was a dying language when I started learning it. I didn't learn it because it would make me money2, I learned it because I saw something in it that I thought was right. I learned it because I wanted to be able to write code that was as good as the code that I saw from the NeXT developers.

What will happen with Flash? Hell if I know. My current level of confidence in Adobe is not very high. The management team there has somehow managed to take a customer base who were rabidly loyal and turn them into customers who feel trapped and desperately want an alternative. This has happened in less than a decade. Talk about spending political capital! Somewhere along the line, Adobe stopped being a company that did, first and foremost, what their customers needed, and instead became a company that looked to make the most money they could with the least expenditure. It's a short-term strategy taught in many business schools (including Harvard) using impressive-sounding phrases like "maximizing shareholder value". Yet, it's a strategy that anyone with any common sense (aka not an MBA) knows is completely and utterly moronic. In the long-term, rabidly loyal fans are far better than great salespeople. They're better than good advertising campaigns, slogans, or even Superbowl ads. They're better than product placement in a summer blockbuster.

And you can't buy them for any price.

Any management team that can do what Adobe's has done in the past ten years truly deserves to die. Frankly, I wouldn't bet on them doing the right thing in any particular situation, including this one.

But, that doesn't mean there's no hope. There are many ways that Adobe could save Flash/Flex for the mobile world. One way would be to create something like Google's GWT - an environment where some or all of the code gets translated into HTML and Javascript to be run on the client, leaving to a VM only those tasks that can't reasonably be handled that way.

With the determination to do it, and the willingness to recognize that the world has, indeed, changed, Adobe could future-proof Flash/Flex code. It would be a hell of a first step back to having rabidly loyal fans. As an aside, a Carbon-free, 64-bit clean, GCD-enabled Photoshop would be another big step in that direction.

Learning is Cool


But, even if Adobe continues to be Adobe, all is not lost. You may like a lot of things about Flash/Flex and ActionScript, but learning a new language and new frameworks is very possible. In fact, it's a lot of fun. It's an adventure. The really hard, brain-bending stuff is the conceptual stuff, much of which you've already got worked out from learning to develop in ActionScript. Heck, don't even wait for Flash to die! Cross-training is good for developers, and you should look forward to an opportunity to see how different languages and frameworks have solved the same problems. You'd be surprised at how much you can use from other languages when writing code.

And if you face the prospect of learning a new language with more than a little trepidation, maybe software development is not the right line of work for you. And I mean that very seriously.



1 - If Adobe manages to come up with a 64-bit clean, GCD-enabled Photoshop, then all bets are off.
2 - A joke from a few years back that I heard from Mike Lee jumps to mind here. What's the difference between a Cocoa developer and a large pizza? A large pizza can still feed a family of four.



61 comments:

danimal said...

Imagine what it's like using the Disney internal enterprise portal that is flash heavy and requires IE. It sucks when you only have a Linux or OS X box on your desk. There are solutions, but they are slower and not ideal and don't involve me being able to use a simple web site that shouldn't be locked to IE in Firefox on my Linux workstation.

TC said...

For another ridiculous, though not as insulting, web site, browse over to InfoWorld on your iPhone. It's truly a shining example for a tech rag... they must be very proud!

I know that Disney is the land of make believe, but IE 5 and standards compliant in the same sentence... without the word "not". They got some good mojo going on there.

kelvinkao said...

"Flash sucks" is more of a subjective view, and while you do have good reasons to back it up, it's harder to get that across in 140 character. However, one can't really argue with "Flash is not a standard". It either is, or it isn't. (Well, unless they want to argue about what "standard" means.)

I was actually a BREW developer before switching to the iPhone. If anyone tells me "BREW is dead!", I am not going to be offended. Okay, maybe not totally dead, but I wouldn't say that it's not dying.

I think, nobody needs to get mad about any of these comments. We just all need to pick a side in our mind, and in a few years, we will know who is laughing.

Mostly Torn said...

"Developing for Flash might be better than receiving oral sex for all I know."

Funniest thing I've read in a tech blog in a long time! Thanks for the hearty laugh!

Jeff LaMarche said...

Kelvin:

Saying "flash sucks" is absolutely subjective. It was Twitter, fer crying out loud. I wasn't writing a doctoral dissertation. But, if you ask a lot of Mac users their opinion of Flash, you're going to get that same opinion far more often than Adobe would like.

And, yes, I did get people trying to argue that Flash was a standard, that it was "practically" a standard, a "de facto" standard, and even "better than a standard".

I'm not familiar with BREW, but I absolutely LOVED WebObjects back in the day (the Objective-C version, not the Java monstrosity that followed). Tell me that WebObjects sucked, and I'll have some choice words for you. For its time, WebObjects was light-years ahead of its competition.

Web Dev Software is a rough world, very Darwinian. WebObjects, though it appeared to have many strong survival traits, didn't survive (outside of an isolated tropical island in Cupertino). I can scream and yell all day long about how good WebObjects is, how much fun it was to develop for it, but it doesn't change the fact that it lost. When something good dies, we mourn it and move on.

The verdict is still out on Flash, but I'm not betting on its long term survivability. It was an anomaly to begin with. It was, after all, software designed for animators to create digital frame-by-frame animations. Then they just kept tacking random functionality onto it and people began using it for more and more things because it was easier to use than the web development tools of the day. That's not exactly the right kernel on which to build a great client-side software development environment.

Hell, Mac OS 7 was great, but sometimes it's time to move on to something better. I think it's time to move onto something better than flash.

Scott said...

Actually, Flash, in addition to desktops, runs on many, many devices, both mobile and non-mobile. Millions in fact.

Adobe likes to tout 1 billion devices (believe it or not) and that may even be true if you count in all the non-portables, and overseas markets (e.g. APAC, etc).

Sony Ericsson, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, Palm, Google, even Microsoft, etc ... all these OEMs and many more, worldwide, are supporting Flash and Flash Lite across mobile and devices ... both standalone, browser, and even screensaver/wallpaper and other contexts ... for example if you pick up a latest LG device here in the states, chances are some of the UI is Flash.

I work in this space, so I should know. :)

More info:

http://www.openscreenproject.org/partners/
http://www.adobe.com/mobile
http://flashmobile.scottjanousek.com/

To your point about no Flash on iPhone ... that's really up to Apple. Adobe has had a R&D player for iPhone for about a year, and even approached Apple several times about it, but they keep "snubbing" Adobe. lol.

Apple says it's "technical" reasons to avoiding supporting it ... may be true to a certain extent (Apple has very high standards for performance, etc) ... you'll find it on other devices, though, and it runs as you would expect, not native, but decent enough to do some cool stuff.

Real Reason = If you look closely enough, Apple is smart enough to know that Flash would take a big chunk out of the App Store if people went off deck to get games and other content via Flash ... probably reason #1 on their list for not allowing it.

The only way I can see Apple allowing Flash on the iPhone in the future is if market competition forces them to do so ... we already know Android has Flash, and Palm will have it soon ... Flash 10 will be on top tier smartphones by as early as 2010 ... so whether Apple adopts FP10 is probably going to depend if there market share starts slipping ... which right now, seems like fantasy land, lol ... but there's a lot of competition heating up in smartphone wars into 2010 and beyond ... so who knows, anything is possible. ;) Mobile is just *one* part of their business, not *their* business. :)

Anyways, I'm too tired to point out some of your inaccuracies here on Flash, but I enjoyed reading your commentary from a non-Flash Developer point of view.

I'll be sure to post a link to your blog so you can get further feedback from trusted, and experienced Flash Designers and Developers in the community ... and so you're not dealing directly with Adobe employees (I saw that on twitter, lol). ;)

Also, if you're interested in learning more about Flash on mobile & devices, you can check out my books:

www.flashmobilebook.com
and advanced.flashmobilebook.com

We even cover a product that allows Flash content to be converted into native iPhone apps. There are 2-3 of these just about to come to market (fingers crossed).

Take care!

-sj

Sean said...

So long as petty disputes about rich media content continue to crop up (see 'video tag' and 'HTML 5') Flash will continue to be the lynchpin that settles the issue. We need standards that can replace the functionality of it using Javascript, HTML and CSS before we can get rid of it.

Keith Peters said...

Jeff, love your book, love your blog, much respect overall, but the Flash is dead meme has been going on since about Flash 3. :) Sure, no technology is going to last forever, but at the rate Flash is dying, I hope to retire before it's completely in the dust.

The only point I'll argue is:

"I understand what causes some of these attacks I've received. I really do: panic."

I disagree with that. I've gotten up in arms myself over Flash haters, but not because I was worried that Flash was dead. It's more that the Flash community is like one big dysfunctional family. We're pretty tight. Saying "Flash sucks" is like saying "Your mom sucks". It's OK for us to say it, but if someone outside the family says it, we will kill. The fact is I've seen harsher criticism about from within the Flash community in the last few weeks than what you have said here. And noone bats an eye. But one of them iPhone developers say something, it's WAR! :)

Jeff LaMarche said...

Scott:

I tried going to those pages you sent me to, but they required Flash.

:P

Seriously, thank you for your information and non-confrontational tone. It's refreshing to be refuted intelligently.

But, I can't agree with all of your assertions. Some of it comes down to semantics, but I don't play semantics. When I talk about a device supporting Flash, I mean you can navigate to a Flash site and it works. I mean you see basically the same thing you'd see on your desktop, just resized or reorganized for the small screen or, at very least, a reasonable facsimile.

Regardless of what Adobe wants to think (curious if they're trying to fool us or themselves, though), there are not billions of devices that do that. There isn't a phone in the world that does that. The HTC Hero can only reasonably handle Flash content that was state-of-the-art several years ago.

Of course Adobe is working toward making Flash a viable platform. It's an important strategic space for them, and they're not going to go down without a fight. I expect them to prolong Flash's death as long as humanly possible, and they are big enough and influential enough that it may be a fairly long time.

But, I disagree with your assertions about Flash on the iPhone not being technical. Apple has never said it's not possible. They've been very clear that the experience is not up to their expectations. Yes, they have high expectations, but that's why people love the iPhone. I think they're telling the absolute truth when they say the reasons are technical.

Flash apps that require a VM are not going to be strong competition for a native app that can take advantage of hardware acceleration for quite some time - enough time that it will give native apps an almost insurmountable lead. I don't think Apple feels threatened in the slightest by Flash, and if they were, I'm sure Adobe would be open to a partnership that allowed developers to create Flash apps for the App Store, which would benefit Apple.

Yes, one Android vendor has Flash on one phone. The Palm may get Flash at some poitn, but until they actually write drivers for the graphics chip, it'll be laughably slow. Hell, Palm's got more of a self-interest in HTML5 than Apple does given that they've based their entire development toolset on HTML and Javascript. I'm sure they don't want the overhead of a VM anywhere that's not necessary.

Others may follow, but unless there's a huge leap forward in processor power per watt, the overhead of the VM is just going to be a huge handicap. I honestly think that Adobe has to switch at least part of the Flash/Flex created code out of the VM for them to have a chance.

Even if I'm wrong about the other platforms and performance, the iPhone still rules the roost in terms of mobile web browsing right now. It's the number one smart phone in terms of packets sent and units, so unless there's a serious change in the makeup of the smartphone market, not having Flash on the iPhone will probably be insurmountable.

Of course, I could be wrong - wouldn't be the first time - but I feel fairly confident at this point that Flash is dead unless Adobe really makes some brilliant moves, and I'm not talking about partnerships and consortiums or marketing, I'm talking about amazing technical changes to the Flash/Flex executables that you can create without requiring huge changes to the way you develop them.

Again, though, if Adobe delivers a GCD-enabled 64-bit Photoshop, I bet Apple will become a lot more receptive to Flash, especially once the older phones start rolling out of use.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Danimal:

I used to implement an ERP package that only supported IE6. I felt horribly dirty, but it paid well, so I think I can relate. :)

Jeff

John said...

The "Flash Platform" (you'll hear Adobe guys preach that term over and over) keeps maturing. So we can all speculate on the future of Flash, but until we see what kind of gaps Flash Player 11, 12, etc fill it's all just guessing.

Right now Flash fills the video gap, getting better at the "RIA" gap (including amazing online tools like Aviary), and the game gap. From my point of view, those are pretty strong arguments to keep Flash Player installed. We'll just have to wait and see what 11, 12, and on deliver.

Jeff LaMarche said...

Keith:

If you think I'm a Flash-hater, you didn't read very carefully.

Well, okay, I definitely do hate the buggy OS X Flash plug-in, I'll readily admit that. But I can think of several Flash sites I don't hate other than the fact that I can't access them from my phone. I don't hate Flash when it's used appropriately and degrades gracefully. I really don't.

But the Flash-is-dead meme you're referring to was more a product of people who hate using Flash websites, rather than an honest analysis of the technology environment and how Flash fits into that environment.

I'm just giving my honest (but possibly flawed) assessment of the situation right now, and I don't think it looks good for Flash unless Adobe's management makes some much better decisions then they have been making the last few years. That's a big if, and it'd be really cool if Adobe would focus their energies on making Flash better rather than trying to convince people that Flash is just awesome for mobile development as-is.

I'd be thrilled if Adobe and/or others figured a way for Flash to work great on mobile devices, but the processing power per watt situation on a mobile device makes a heavy VM like Flash's very costly and difficult to support. Politically, I think it's unlikely that the #1 mobile platform will support Flash no matter what Adobe does, which is quite a cross to bear, even if all the other platforms line up and jump on the Flash bandwagon.

My "hate" for Flash as a development tool or language is really only for its overuse or inappropriate use (like doing your website navigation drop-downs in Flash). I don't hate appropriate use of Flash. In the long run, I do think the web development space will be healthier if it does die, however. Thick-client and proprietary just isn't the right fit for most modern web development.

Jeff

Jeff LaMarche said...

John:

Flash video isn't filling a gap, it's preventing that gap from being filled by an actual good solution. It's a stop-gap that's removed some of the urgency to finding a truly platform-agnostic, standards-based video standard for the web.

And, forgive me for making a point that is likely to rile feathers, but the Flash Platform isn't maturing, it's calcifying. People talk about the evolution of software, but Flash isn't evolving, it's been put into a force-breeding program because it makes Adobe money.

Unless there are fundamental changes to the underlying architecture (which would be awesome, but is unlikely), Flash 11, 12, 13, and 20 will just bring more bloat and slowness. Expanding the size of a client VM rarely brings improvements. In the desktop world, increases in processing power have come fast enough to keep it from being too much of an issue, but we're not likely to see those same increases in the mobile world.

As for game-playing, that's not a point I'll argue. I have no problem with Flash games. I have a problem with things like website navigation being done in Flash for no other reason that it was convenient.

~~~~~~ said...

Java WebObjects is not THAT bad!

Manny said...

The latest version of flash has changed to the point where it has no identity. It’s an amalgam of features with no clear goal. It’s bloated and getting more frustrating to use yet it still is better than any other option I can think of for creating rich media. I like a challenge just as much as the next guy but to do anything ‘rich media-ish’ with any other medium takes a considerable amount of effort.

The issue about degrading gracefully is subjective when it comes to flash. If say a ball is bouncing in a flash simulation should it degrade gracefully by bouncing slower or by not moving at all? Should it render smaller to save GPU or should there be a pop up that explains the situation? No one knows because there’s no real standard.

The funny thing is that it’s being actually addressed by adobe through versioning. Theoretically Flash 10 degrades to flash 9 which degrades to flash 8 and so on. Only real problem is that flash never existed for the safari mobile platform so we’re all SOL.

Martijn said...

I'm a Flash/Flex developer and am working on the platform from 1999! And I must say that I often think to leave the train because clients want things done with Flash that I detest (Intro's etc). I implement these wishes so that users without Flash are not bothered with it (a html navigation inside the div where Flash is displayed for example).

Flash on OS 10 is not as good as the Windows ActiveX version, it's more like the Windows Netscape plugin version. I work daily with Safari debugging Flash and Safari only crashes when I have done something really stupid :p. Likely the same thing will happen on Windows ActiveX.

I want Adobe to open up the Flash player but my voice is not loud enough, I see a lot of potential for Flash when it gets a GPL sort of license.

bobby1234 said...

I just finished up on a failed startup that used flex to do real time remote controlled tanks over the internet. We used rtmp to send video and control commands over the internet in real time. Man I was suprised how well and how easy it was. There is a lot of power in flash player (via flex and lcds). (we had a bad business model).

But now I am doing iphone development. And am enjoying it so far (I had always wanted to learn Objective-C and now I have my excuse.

I don't think flash will die. It will evolve.

Chris Etches said...

Couldn't it be that Flash will instead hopefully return to being a tool to create content for websites as opposed to creating websites?

I personally think Flash still has a good innings left as a video player and def. as a games platform (but then I am a Flash games developer) and for other similar rich interactive pieces, but I hate Flash Sites as much as the next man (even if the next man is Jacob Nielson.)

chris
www.kill5.com

Miles said...

Quite simply, I couldn't agree more.

Wise words...

John said...

"finding a truly platform-agnostic, standards-based video standard for the web."

Call me when that happens.

"Flash Platform isn't maturing, it's calcifying"

If you don't think it's maturing, then you can't remember a couple years ago when the whole platform was timeline flash intros and banners.

"Unless there are fundamental changes to the underlying architecture (which would be awesome, but is unlikely)"

Unlikely? Which Flash Player engineer have you talked to about the future of the Flash Player? Care to share that information?

"website navigation being done in Flash for no other reason that it was convenient."

Agreed.

I agree the world would be better off if we had browser standards for everything Flash represents, but no one thinks that's going to happen any time soon.

rritchey said...

Wow, quite the rant about Flash all because a company decided to improperly use a detection algorithm, and neglected to offer an alternative to their flash experience.

As for standards. I'm going to reference an argument I had with a fairly popular online author about a year and a half ago about standards.

I am a developer, and assert that IE is a non-standards-compliant browser, as they are when you are referring to the W3.

She is a user, and an author and asserts that IE is THE standard browser if only for the fact that (at the time) more than 90% of internet connected users use it to browse the internet. That has since fallen to closer to 80-85%, but the point still lingers.

Just because a group of people write a standard doesn't make it so. Only when the majority of users are on a browser that follows that standard, will it truly be a standard. Until then, whatever Microsoft does in IE is the de-facto standard, because, if you want the majority of people in the world to see it, you have to develop for IE.

Now, I don't believe that Flash is a web-standard, but those that do have a point. The vast majority of internet-connected devices have some flavor of Flash on them. This includes cell-phones. Windows mobile devices, android, etc - all have a version of Flash that can run on them. There are issues with service providers locking down installation of things, and not pre-installing Flash at times, but Flash has been on mobile devices for a long time. Understandably, when the majority of potential users can use Flash, it becomes sort of a de-facto standard.

As for the "memory leaks" - these are almost all developer-initiated leaks, NOT problems with the runtime itself. (with the exception of a documented bug in player 10 on the Mac) The Flash developer community has never really focused on teaching the benefits of memory management. Indeed, the iPhone would fail similarly if the development community didn't put such an emphasis on memory management.

And, finally, as for Adobe. Many of your points are mis-spoken. If you look at the many initiatives Adobe has going currently, you will see that the Mobile world, including the iPhone, is a major point of development for them.

Take a look at the Open Screen Project (http://www.openscreenproject.org/) This project was started by Adobe, and has many very big names partnering. The main goal of the project is to make all platforms work equally together, regardless of operating system. So, mobile, mac, pc, linux, sun, etc. Everything that they are doing is working towards this goal. Take AIR for an example. A runtime that works the same across all of the major desktop platforms, and is currently being developed to move to the mobile realm as well.

Peter Lorent said...

I fully agree with you on the essence of your post: the fact that a company should carefully consider who is visiting their website and provide a good experience for everyone, not just the ones with in this particular case, Flash. And from a technical point of view, this is easy to do. But in practice, clients overlook the need for a fallback when a visitor doesn't have Flash. It's the same as having two doors to enter the building but keeping one closed permanantly. In all Flash work I've done, it's a matter of available budget and the kind of website you are building. Most of the time, I'm involved in marketing action websites which will last for only a few weeks. Assuming most visitors will have Flash (based on penetration statistics by Adobe), companies take for granted that some won't be able to see the content. And to be fair, that is good company policy. It simply would take too much money to provide alternate content for a relative small group of visitors. However, it's very simple to provide the visitor with good information if Flash is not detected on the client. And if I look at HTML-wrappers of full Flash websites, here things go wrong. Rarely you see a good implementation of a HTML page that apologizes for the inconvenience. Instead there is a simple error message stating you should install Flash to see the content. Often this is part of a template we use in the build. And we (and the client) should be paying more attention! God is in the details.

If the project at hand is a corporate website, things are different. The company needs to provide content for all visitors because a bad experience when visiting the website can and most likely will affect the brand in a negative way. Again, available budget is the main factor in deciding if alternate content is provided. Not good, but a simple fact of live.

Now about the Flash is dead thingie. Not by a long shot Jeff. Although things are moving very fast in this world and it seems that anything is possible these days, at this time I refuse to believe that Adobe would buy a company (Macromedia) for an insane amount of money if they even remotely believed that they were buying something without a future. Furthermore, clients want to stand out from the crowd, simply because they have a lot of competition and want to provide an experience that adds value to their brand. Well, as long as the big guys don't provide us with the tools to quickly and efficiently build these types of websites, the client will ask for Flash and we will recommend and use Flash. HTML, Javascript, even with Ajax added to the mix... Well, it's just not feasible to use these tools when considering the requirements of our clients.

But I do see a trend where full Flash websites are rebuild to HTML websites providing Flash content. I did both the Leffe and Becks beer websites and both were originally full Flash websites. Both are now HTML based and provide Flash content. And I believe that we will see more of that happen as standard tools like HTML and Javascript are evolving. And Flash is just another tool in the mix. As such it will be in our toolbox for a long time to come, at least in my opinion. And a great tool to work with I have to say (with an exceptional community with outstanding developers like Keith and Scott who both posted above, and me of course, hehe) and one that is constantly evolving. As you might know I also do Cocoa and CocoaTouch and simply love everything about Apple, but I do love the Flash Platform too. Come to think of it, I love just about everything that enables me to create something (almost in the case of Flash...) the whole world can see. With just one exception: I profoundly hate Microsoft stuff.

Boy, that was a lot of English for a Dutch guy.

Neil Mix said...

Ajax doesn't support plugin-free fully-decent animations, graphics and media. Given the anemic pace of browser standards innovation, it's hard to see that happening *ever*. So how does Flash die then -- another plugin takes its place? I get where you're coming from on the rant, but you're proposing that a useful technology will fade away yet I just don't see what viable replacement that would emerge in its place. They're filling a market need, and it's not a simple problem.

Jeff Weber said...

I think the IPhone is proving the point that web applications do not need to be standards-based or even browser-based to be successful.

I think Flash, in the future, can be successful as a tool for building RIA style web applications for certain devices just like Objective C/Cocoa is a great tool for building RIAs on the IPhone.

Maybe in the future, the browser isn't the end-all/be-all that it is today. Certainly using the IPhone as a case-study it isn't.

Put another way, if there is a viable market for Objective C/Cocoa applications on the IPhone, then why wouldn't there be an analagous viable market for Flash/Air/Silverlight apps on other devices?

These are, admitedly, half-baked thoughts, but my gut tells me Flash (and Silverlight) are not going to be "dead". They may need to evolve to be more than browser plug-ins, but I don't think they will die.

-Jeff Weber

Matthew Fabb said...

"Do you think Adobe is hard at work writing Flash virtual machines for every possible configuration of hardware and software that exists in the mobile space. Hell, no!"

Actually, if you looked up the Adobe's Open Screen Project, you will see that the answer is hell yes. Not only that but other companies besides Adobe are working on the Flash Player source code to optimize it for specific hardware and software configurations. While Apple has said no (or are they just being secretive as usual until it's ready for release?) Palm Pre, Windows Mobile, Android, Symbian and more are working with Adobe to create an optimized full Flash Player 10 on all these systems. Note HTC Hero was using the old Flash Lite, since the optimized Flash Player 10 for mobile is only going to be available in beta this October. Someone decided it was better to use the old clunky version of the Flash Player for the Hero rather than no Flash at all.

Also Adobe isn't stopping with just mobile devices, but have been making a big push to get Flash on internet enabled televisions, Blu-ray players, top-set boxes and more. Adobe is doing this through deals with Intel, ARM, Broadcom, Sigma Designs (responsible for 50% of the market for decoder chips that go into Blu-ray players) and many more companies that I never heard of before since I'm not big into the hardware side of things.

All these companies want to work with Adobe to put an extra check box to their feature set and differentiate themselves from the competition (who then want to join themselves to balance playing field). Meanwhile Adobe wants anyone and everyone to join the Open Screen Project to get Flash on as many devices as possible.

"If Adobe manages to come up with a 64-bit clean, GCD-enabled Photoshop, then all bets are off."

Not sure what this has to do with Flash, but it's my understanding from reading Adobe's John Nack's blog, that Adobe is building their Mac version of 64-bit Photoshop from scratch, which is why they didn't make the CS4 release, but should meet the CS5 release (of course, like all future software announcements, Adobe isn't promising anything at the moment).

GlowBoy said...

Hi keith nice effort. But indeed selfish and also not correct. You do know that Adobe is working on full flash for the.mobile phones? Ever heard of the openscreen project ?! Look it up matey.. you definately miss some up to date knowledge... but i guess dropping yourself into iphone development does that to ya. Happy mac'n ;) own and BTW... iPhone doesnt support flash bec MAC holds it down ;)

GlowBoy said...

@matthew fab: i have an hero htc... and it DOES have full flash 10...ffs get your facts straight people

Matthew Fabb said...

@GlowBoy: According to John Dowdell from Adobe, it's Flash Lite 3.1 on HTC Hero:
http://blogs.adobe.com/jd/2009/06/schedules_of_open_screen_proje.html

Check the following page with the HTC Hero and display info on the version of the Flash Player installed to verify this:
http://kb2.adobe.com/cps/155/tn_15507.html

Baush said...

The one thing I love about Adobe Flash is that they are trying to make a software platform that can run on pretty much any OS.

Of course it may come with a price in terms of performance and such, but in a business standpoint, it makes more alot more sense to be buiding an app that works on most OS.

As a developper, I have been working many years with HTML and banged my head trying to make it look and work the same on all browsers. Altought browser compatibility improved in the last few years, HTML is mostly meant for formatting and displaying information.

RIA are possible in HTML/javascript, but then you once again fall into the cross-browser compatibility nightmare with javascript. Another thing, javascript is not meant for rich and performant image processing required for games, 3d, and high-end widgets.

With the Flex compiler, Flash has opened up to open-source application programming with all the advantages that comes with it.

A well coded / designed flash movie will run smoothly. The problem resides in the fact that most flash content are not optimized propertly. There's the same problem with packing HTML with large-scale images and javascript code and animations that loops endlessly..

I did heard that Adobe are releasing a Flash 10 beta 2 that improved greatly performance for the MAC OS player. Your prayers could have been answered.

A realistic alternative for the Iphone's browser would be to have alt thumbnail for flash content and have it activate fullscreen when clicking on it.

LKM said...

So Disney is saying that 0.1% of their visitors use their site by looking at the error message repeatedly?

monomyth said...

I believe there are lots of parallels between Flash and American Car. You are probably right and it's all about the management.

I also think that Quake Live plugin loads my mac way less than a Flash player, I didn't try to measure this though. So, there is plenty of room for performance improvement if Adobe would really want it.

Sean said...

Lack of Flash support is not just limited to iPhone users... There is no Flash support for Windows 64 bit users when using a 64 bit browser (including IE8). For about two years, Adobe's web site has said they are developing a 64 bit version and their "solution" is to use a 32 bit browser.

I agree with you that Adobe seems to be waiting for one or two platforms to rise above, then put their resources into supporting them.

Joel Fiser said...

Silly iPhone Developer.
Of course you want Flash to die. When the iPhone gets Flash (within the year now that RIM has it), you're overpriced apps will be useless.
Users will just go to a website and click on the Flash app they desire.
No ridiculous "approval" required.
Openness my friend. Face it, Flash IS a standard. In fact - it is the most standard piece of software out there. And not because some committee deems it so - but because The People have deemed it so.

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ravi said...

well...what if I turn off javascript on my browser..what if i don't install JVM and .Net runtime and still say that i cant access that particular site because it uses JS or java..and so those technologies are stupid and are dying...what would you say to that..??

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biznuge said...

Fair enough, the disney site, or any other site for that matter should be underpinned by good, cross compliant, (maybe not valid. too much to ask from most CMS's) and mostly available from, as you say, any device with access to the internet.

Does this necessarily reflect on adobe/flash or the developer/group/committee that agreed to building something so inaccessible in the first place though?

I began my web career maybe 7 years ago freelancing flash movies/sites for agencies, and as such I've done some fairly terrible things in my career, standards wise.

I now produce progressively enhanced projects mainly, and would say I'm kinda an advocate of that approach, speaking from experience.

that said though, until javascript is optimised in the way that as2 went to a more standardised format as as3, we're all gonna be stuck with a fairly terrible end result, should flash die as you describe.

Rather than optimising the ecma engine for things such as google chrome, and the newest FF and IE, a real look at the way javascript works (or doesn't) would seem to be an altogether more rounded solution if we're all to embrace websites that can be used both at a very basic level, and enhanced to provide more useful UI elements, such as those currently available vie FP9/10.

If anyone could expand on Javascript and where it might lead to next I'd be greatful, as this is more of a friday afternoon rant really.

Good thoughtful Post anyway man.!

biznuge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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