Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is Adobe Flash on its way out?

There's been a lot of movement lately on the HTML 5 front. Google has begun to roll out HTML 5 based video players on their wildly popular YouTube site, Microsoft has finally joined the SVG, and more and more browsers and slowly but surely adopting HTML 5 as a standard. This all begs the question "Is Flash on the way out?"

Adobe Flash has been, over the years, a technology we all love to hate. It's a resource hog, prone to crashes, and often doesn't play nice with other plug ins, but it also allows us to do things like play web games, have cool animations, and, until recently, watch video and audio on the web. Sure, there were a few other technologies that allowed many of those things, but with a 98% install base, nothing even came close to touching Flash.

Along the way, there have been problems though. Apple refused to support Flash content on any of its mobile devices aside from laptops, and users of slightly aged hardware often found their Flash experience much more annoying than engaging. Companies like Microsoft tried to fix some of what was wrong with Flash by releasing competing technologies like Silverlight but, still, the problems remained simply because the userbase remained. Adobe held us captive and enjoyed a good long run while doing so.

That might all be changing soon as more browser makers adopt HTML 5 as a standard. Using HTML 5, developers can do things like play audio and video content, create really compelling graphics and animations, and do nearly everything they could do in Flash but without all the weight.

HTML 5 promises to bring a new era for developers who've long been frustrated by the necessary evil of developing Flash content, knowing their users could have a horrible experience, but not having a better technology with which to work. Already, Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari all support HTML 5 to some degree and it's expected that Microsoft Internet Explorer will begin adopting the standard in the very near future though, to what degree, is still uncertain. Does all of this spell the coming demise of the lion that is Flash?

Let's be clear: Flash has served us well. Even though it's been frustrating, it's allowed us to do some amazing things. I don't think Flash necessarily has to die a horrible death if Adobe is willing to get its head out of the sand and quit pretending everything is alright. Users not having a choice except to use your technology is not the same as user loyalty. Flash users have already proven they're willing to jump ship to something better and HTML 5 might just be the something better many developers need.

Will Adobe put in the effort required to fix their ailing technology? That remains to be seen. There are rumblings that Adobe itself is looking to replace Flash with something better but what that may be is unknown. One thing is sure: Flash will probably be with us for a few years to come. After that, who knows? Maybe the answer isn't HTML 5 and maybe Flash's replacement doesn't yet exist. But make no mistake: Flash, as it is now, is dead in the water. People hate it and want to replace it. It's just a question of what to replace it with.

What are your thoughts about Flash's death? Overrated? Coming soon? And what do you think Flash's replacement will be?


Diddle Bloppers said...

Flash is still used very much. Just because apple doesn't like it doesn't mean that it's going to die. There are also alot of people who are very loyal to it. Linux users would be very loyal if they would make it for linux. The most recent version does run on wine for the most part, and I use it. Apples business model will fail because most people want to do what they want with there stuff. No one likesa company who controls every aspect of what you buy. The only reason apple doesn't like flash is because adobe chose windows as it's main platform years ago. Flash is here to stay, get over it.

mattdryden said...

This is probably the most ignorant and biased comment i've ever seen. As the author posted above, apple is not the only one to adopt HTML 5. EVERYONE is on board to an extent, as mentioned above. Linux is very difficult to develop for because it is truely the closest thing to a sandbox environment as computers get. You may be able to develop for linux as a base, but anyone worth their binary salt knows that linux was ment to be user developed. Once the user has changed the system around to their liking enough, any program you use will have to either be edited to work with the new binaries, or would have to have been developed to change along with its environment. Most developers do not do this simply because it would be a pain. Not to mention updates. However, I must say that ubuntu is the exception in this case, as it features a fully developed desktop browser and file tree. Kudos linux.

Also, apple is far from controlling when it comes to what you can and cannot do with your hardware. It only seems that way because it is much easier to find what you can do and much harder to do what you shouldn't. Like accidentally deleting your desktop mouse icon, a fatal error for windows users. Apple has a so called" fued" with adobe not because it chose windows as you said (which they did not-flash comes standard on all Mac systems, something that cannot be said for windows) but because it is an old piece of software with old problems that should have been fixed long ago. Apple has always been one to blaze a new trail and move the industry on to better, more efficent things. If adobe can get their act together and fix their flash issues, then apple will welcome their old friend. However, I fear that flash has taken too long and it may be too late, seeing as HTML 5 is able to do the same functions as flash, but faster, sleeker, and with less weight on your processor.