Can Flash Move Forward?

There has been a long debate about Adobe Vs. Apple, or even Flash Vs. HTML5. Whatever side of the fence you are on—you probably won’t be changing your mind anytime soon. Flash brings a lot of features and creativity for web designers, but then again the promise of HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript is slowly becoming a great competitor.

Can Flash Move Forward?

Before you jump the gun and decide what team you are on, take a look at the history behind Flash, Apple and HTML5 to get all sides of the spectrum. You may be surprised at some of the information you didn’t know about the subject.

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Can Flash Move Forward?

What you think? Can flash move forward? It’s a endless debate as there is so much to consider before reaching any final conclusion. Here we are talking over some critical facts which can’t be avoided. Let’s start with the little history of flash.

Origin of Flash

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Flash was first established in 1996, and was a part of Macromedia. According to Wikipedia, “The precursor to the Flash application was SmartSketch, a drawing application for pen computers running the Pinpoint OS developed by Jonathan Gay, who began working on it in college and extended the idea for Silicon Beach Software and its successors. When PenPoint failed in the marketplace, SmartSketch was ported to Microsoft Windows and Mac OS. With the Internet becoming more popular, SmartSketch was re-released as FutureSplash, a vector-based Web animation in competition with Macromedia Shockwave. In 1995, SmartSketch was further modified with frame-by-frame animation features and re-released as FutureSplash Animator on multiple platforms. The product was offered to Adobe and used by Microsoft in its early work with the Internet (MSN). In 1996, FutureSplash was acquired by Macromedia and released as Flash, contracting “Future” and “Splash”.”

Jump to present day and, “Flash has indeed spread to near-ubiquity on computers, with better than 98 percent penetration, according to Adobe’s statistics.” reports Stephen Shankland of CNET. Flash is used for more than just video files, and can create great looking graphics that can make a page pop.

The problem with flash is that it can affect a pages loading time depending on the size of the file. This could be a mere half of a second to a few seconds, which can feel like an eternity on the user end. A great web designer usually knows how to work out these problems and create a loading time that is good for them and their client.

Adobe and Apple

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You may or may not know that back in the early days of Adobe, Apple actually worked very closely with the company. According to Steve Jobs, “Apple was their [Adobe] first big customer, adopting their Postscript language for our new Laserwriter printer. Apple invested in Adobe and owned around 20% of the company for many years. The two companies worked closely together to pioneer desktop publishing and there were many good times.”

Now, their relationship is not so great, and Jobs has decided to ban Flash from Apple’s hand held devices—including the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. He doesn’t feel that Adobe’s business model is “open” for the web. Jobs on the other hand do believe that HTML5 is open enough. HTML5 is getting more and more attention, but isn’t supported in all browsers yet making the leap for commercial use not quite ready. HTML5 has a myriad of new developments, one of which is a video tag. Jobs has come out to say he believes this is the future of the Internet, not Flash files—which have dominated the web design scene for years.

Adobe feels the accusations Jobs made, such as they are not as “open” as they say they are. Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, told the Wall Street Journal that, “that the difference is that Adobe believes in open content. He says that their Creative Suite software was designed to work on multiple devices and that Apple’s “recent behavior show[s] that they are concerned about Adobe being able” to provide this product that works across multiple platforms.” He goes on to tell the WSJ that, “The technology problems that Mr. Jobs mentions in his essay are “really a smokescreen, “Mr. Narayen says. He says more than 100 applications that used Adobe’s software were accepted in the App Store. When you resort to licensing language to restrict this sort of development, it has nothing to do with technology.”

HTML5

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The main competitor against Flash is HTML5. The newest form of HTML has many new upgrades. The advantage Flash has over HTML5 is that it isn’t quite ready for release. Internet Explorer for example won’t be compatible with HTML5 until the release of IE9, which isn’t released yet, but is scheduled to be in beta by late September.

The new technique most people seem to be fixating on is the video tag. Without this tag, there would be no debate where Flash is concerned. The Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) last month declared HTML5 in a “last call” phase. Comparing Flash and the capabilities of HTML5’s video tag is like comparing apples to oranges. Flash has been around for numerous years, allowing for many upgrades and fixes to bugs. HTML5, although a great new option, is still in its infancy age and will probably need a few years to be a better competitor for Adobe.

A big step for HTML5 is YouTube’s upgrade to support HTML5’s video tag. Back in January YouTube rolled out an HTML5 compatible version to their site. PC Magazine reported in Jan. that, “You can sign up for the beta simply by visiting YouTube’s HTML5 page and start enjoying HTML5 videos today, but there are restrictions: videos with captions, annotations, or ads will still be rendered by the Flash player, and fullscreen mode isn’t supported.”

This month Wired is reporting that YouTube now has a mobile version of their HTML5 videos available, “the mobile version of Google’s video-sharing website received an upgrade Thursday. The new m.youtube.com has a bunch of new features, including high-quality video playback in the browser using HTML5.”

Mobile

Where mobile is concerned, Flash isn’t the best option, and could be its Achilles heel. Flash 10.1 is now available on mobile devices but only on certain operating systems. Below is a screenshot from Adobe’s page outlining compatible mobile OS.

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RIM (BlackBerry OS) and the iPhone still do not support Flash. The newest phone from BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Tourch will have, “Webkit browser supports HTML5, which has been a selling point by Apple and Google on their mobile devices,” reports CNET. There are other reports speculating that BlackBerry is working on its Flash compatibility, but nothing has been confirmed or denied from the company.

Neilson reported this month that, “Android’s share of new smartphone subscribers surged past new iPhone subscribers in the U.S. during the second quarter, commanding 27 percent of recent smartphone purchases compared to 23 percent for the iPhone.” Good news for Adobe, although these numbers are not including the iPhone 4 sales, which were staggering.

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The above chart outlines the sales for multiple mobile OS and shows Android’s rapid growth. Whether it will continue to grow is hard to say, but it is showing promise.

According to TFTS, “a recent Wall Street Journal report says that more and more programmers and web designers are considering dropping Flash as their clients want their products and websites to be compatible with the iPhone and the iPad.”

Jailbreaking Just Became Legal

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The U.S. Copyright Office amended the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and is now saying jailbreaking your phone is legal. Meaning you can legally hack into your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and make changes. Allowing a user to download apps not in the app store, and use Flash if they want.

Many users of Apple products may not share its stance regarding Flash and Adobe in general. Now that jailbreaking is legal, it could open the door for people who just can’t live without Flash. For those of you who are thinking about jailbreaking your phone, you should consider the following :

  • Doing so will exclude you from any warranty you have with the phone
  • It could stop your phone from working all together (or bricked in Apple jargon)
  • Apple service stores won’t fix your device if it is jailbroken

Why Flash Won’t Be Going Anywhere

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One reason is that most designers use Flash. It is one of the best programs out there for creating great graphics and video platforms. HTML5 is looking to be a great competitor, but it will be a long time before it is at the same level as Flash, if that ever happens.

Flash is also compatible in all browsers—a HUGE advantage over HTML5. Many companies are concerned about reaching their audience, not using the latest web code upgrade.

An advantage CNET points out is that, “Flash video can use a variety of “codecs” for encoding and decoding video as it’s sent from server to viewer. Viewers don’t need to know anything beyond how to click a video’s “play” button, a contrast to Net video’s incompatibility-fraught early days. But with HTML5, though, there are two prevailing codecs right now: H.264, supported by Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome, and Ogg Theora, supported by Firefox, Chrome, and, according to plan, Opera. IE, the dominant browser doesn’t support any at HTML5 video at present.”

Companies that rival Apple are also jumping at the bit to make devices to rival the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone. Motorola for example, is taking a stab into the tablet industry and creating their own tablet device (with the help of Verizon). Motorola has decided it will “be access to Verizon’s FiOS cable service [and] support Adobe Flash, a platform of choice for more than 90 percent of web videos,” according to the International Business Times.

With more and more companies wanting to rival Apple in these verticals, it will make Flash more appealing for other companies to embrace. That is the great thing about being on the other side of the debate—other companies will embrace the Flash technology to market against Apple’s products.

Not Everyone Who Buys Apple Products Feels The Same Way About Flash

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According to the Inquirer, “researchers at Changewave found that the most common dislike among Ipad owners was the device’s lack of Flash support. Given that over 80 per cent of respondents in the report claim to use their Ipads for web browsing and almost 50 per cent for viewing video, areas in which Flash are particularly pervasive, it’s not surprising that users find lack of support for the format annoying.”

The FTC is also reported to be looking into the ban on Flash. 9 to 5 Mac is reporting that, “Apple may face an FTC investigation into its refusal to allow Flash support on the iOS platform. This is speculation based on a recent refusal on the part of the FTC to grant Wired access to the 200 pages of complaints against Apple filed by Adobe.” It is too soon to tell if this speculation is true however, but something to keep an eye out for.

Even with these complaints, it doesn’t seem to be enough from people buying Apple’s products. The iPad sold over a million units in 28 days, and the iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million units in 3 days.

Moving Forward

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It isn’t an issue of who is going to move forward in the debate, but what platform works best for your clients. Right now Flash is more compatible with the many different browsers, but HTML5 will catch up eventually. Flash may also deliver better images and quality video, but HTML5 can do a lot, and doesn’t need expensive software to do so. In the end I think a hybrid of the two will be what web designers will be using. Some clients will be Flash crazy, while others will favor HTML5 in the future.

The point is that Flash, which hasn’t had a real competitor, will eventually have one with HTML5. This just means Adobe is going to have to step up their game to deliver better quality results than HTML5 or it is going to lose clients. People can be on team Adobe or team Apple, but it is going to come down to who can render the best results over multiple platforms at a low cost. End of story. The business model isn’t changing, Adobe is just getting a competitor.

It is far too early for HTML5 to be a viable competitor, but in a few years from now we could be seeing it catch fast. You don’t have to take Steve Job’s rigid stance on the subject, but instead have a more open ended approach. Decide what works best on a case by case situation. Does your client need a fast loading time? Are they implementing too many videos onto the site? Do their visitors use a HTML5 compatible browser? All of these are points you need to consider before using HTML5. In the future browser compatibility will be a non-issue and level the playing ground.

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13 Comments

  1. I think Flash is not going anywhere for the next couple of years at least, but is true that HTML5 and the apple story can make it go faster.
    I think another solution for Adobe is to integrate a little bit more flash and After Effects, that way they give Flash more powerfull rendering capablities, still working fine with the integration part.

  2. Thanks for u r information

    its very useful

  3. Great post. After reading this post it is sure a question on Flash.
    Today there are so many options from CSS, Ajex, jQuery etc so why to think for Flash but I feel Flash will remain there.

  4. Flash needs to get back to its roots, which is in frame-based animation. Enough of this web ad banner cr@p.

  5. Nice article, actually flash is one of the best frame based animation tool for web and desktop applications but not good enough for mobile ;)

  6. Its a thing from the past.

  7. many companies have grown too fast, compete with each other

  8. video’s incompatibility-fraught early days. But with HTML5, though, there are two prevailing codecs right now:

  9. I think the real for any designer to consider when using Flash is simply to decide if Flash is the right tool for the particular project at hand.

    If it makes sense to use Flash then use it, but be sure to provide alternate content for devices that do not have the Flash player enabled.

    One of our clients recently requested an engaging animation to be added to their home page. We used Flash to provide the animation and embedded an image to be used in place of the animation if no Flash player was present.

    While the page was not as engaging without the animation at least a visitor using an iPhone was not left staring at an empty screen.

  10. Really nice work and I like how you showed the process.

  11. Impressive Work…Love it

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