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Thoughts on Flash

July 04th 2012 | peterelst




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Thoughts on Flash

A lot has happened over the last couple of years changing the landscape for Flash, particularly when it comes to mobile devices. There was a point not so long ago where there was a clear resurgence and major platforms prominently advertised Flash Player support - those days are no longer.

Apart from RIM with the BlackBerry PlayBook there will be zero leading mobile platforms left that have continued support for in-browser Flash content. Adobe has announced it will be pulling the Flash Player for Android app from the market on August 15th and it will not be compatible with Chrome on Android. We've known from the November 2011 announcements that the mobile Flash Player was no longer a focus for Adobe and we're now seeing the consequences of that.

I don't want to make this another rant about Adobe, but rather highlight the problem we're all facing with separate Flash Player strategies for desktop and mobile. It is astounding to me how any company can invest in web technology in one area and not the other. There is not a separate web for desktop as for mobile.
Many long-time friends and colleagues in the Flash community have seen this coming and are increasingly moving towards HTML5 and web standards - Adobe is now clearly doing the same and they've shown some promising steps in that direction. I'm not saying that there is no value in Flash but its valid use cases are increasingly limited and I believe it is time for the Flash community to come to terms with that.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should - there is a contingent of developers who, whether out of support of the platform, rebellion or a sense of nostalgia, live in the believe that Flash Player continues to be a viable option for all your web development needs. That clearly is not the case and you're shooting yourself in the foot and doing your clients no favors by advocating that.

The situation at the moment is one where desktop Flash Player might still have its place for high-end gaming with Stage3D and DRM where web standards still need to catch up and the same content can get compiled to mobile devices using AIR. Enterprise with Flex (now at Apache as an incubator project) can still play a role where you have clear control of the environment your applications will be running in.

It is becoming clear to many that switching from legacy Flash content to HTML5 is not always a straightforward exercise and while we might slowly be getting towards feature parity it remains painful to port cross-platform applications and just expect it to work everywhere. You need to take a few steps back before you can leap forward, and to me web standards is clearly what we should now be embracing.

With what is happening with Windows 8 going for a white-list approach, deprecated mobile Flash Player on Android and mobile devices becoming an ever greater chunk of your audience - there needs to be a sense of urgency with everyone moving over your content. There are a plethora of tools available claiming to play back SWF files through web standards or convert your files to HTML5 while in reality they barely support a subset of animation and only the absolute basics of ActionScript. The fact is we're lacking good tools and a straightforward workflow to make this all possible.

I think the Flash community like no other can rise to the challenge and come up with open and freely available tools, frameworks and workflows that make this process easier for everyone involved. Lets not have Flash Player end up like the floppy disk and years of great content get lost or become increasingly inaccessible.

This article was originally written by Peter on his Google+ account and republished here as it echoes our thoughts. Join the discussion at G+! Also, check out the website Lots of good articles here on the transition the Flash community is already well into.

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