Is Flash Really Dead ?

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No, I think it’s changing, that’s all.

It’s been a long time since I wanted to write this post…

Everything is going open-source these days, and some parts of Flash seems to be following the same movement.
But is its death the real problem ? Look around you and tell me what you see ? HTML 5, Haxe, Unity, Loom, Cocos2d-x, and dozens more 2d/3d engines that are doing and/or trying to do the same things Flash has been doing since the beginning: unified cross-platform development.

And what have all those tools/frameworks in common ? games (except for HTML 5, it’s a bit more than that, like flash… :)). Flash was never a contestant of HTML. It just is a tool to provide developers with features HTML wasn’t made for.ย But because of the gaps of HTML, Flash took a big place in creating and proposing interactive contents on the web. It’s aim was a good one, to unify development across different systems.

It led to many good things and certainly to the fact that the web got more sexy and interactive. That happened years ago, while HTML 5 is only providing with those (almost) same features now… and still with a couple of compatibility issues.

So why people think flash is dead or dying ?

Well I believe it all really started to change with a guy named Steve Jobs. He said true things about Flash, while I think a bit manipulative.

  • Flash is not open-source: ย a slightly contradictory statement given how Apple seems to manage its own products, platforms and development tools. HTML 5 and JavaScript are not open-source either.
  • Flash is slow and takes too much on the battery life on mobile devices: true but I don’t think an HTML 5 + JavaScript app or game would take less resources… those are also running on virtual machines, just like Flash.

I believe the Holy Grail Steve Jobs was trying to make all of us look at (HTML 5), in comparison to Flash, was just an excuse to hide business concerns and the fear of not controlling everything like Apple is used to.
And it led to a biased vision of what Flash and HTML 5 are.

After that dramatic event for Flash developers (:)), JavaScript has been taken much more seriously by the different web browser manufacturers (Google, Mozilla, Apple, Microsoft, …) and its performance has increased over years (which is a good thing). Adobe’s plans for Flash (speed optimizations, new language “Action Script 4”) were slowly but surely abandoned in profit of JavaScript tools. I have to admit that I really felt Flash was being abandoned back then.

I don’t really care in who controls who or what. In the end, we always have the choice the accept or not what others are proposing (whether Adobe or Apple)
I believe in the fact that people should be aware of what is going on, have the right information in order to make their own opinion.

I understand Adobe slowly (not so slow after all) shifting towards JavaScript and HTML 5. In the end, they are selling tools to create interactive content. Whether in Flash or in JavaScript, it doesn’t matter. And if they don’t even need to develop the engine running that HTML 5 + JavaScript, it’s even better.

I understand Apple trying to preserve its very closed “macrocosm”. It’s business after all.

But now… what do we have ? after years of “Flash is dead” and “HTML 5 is better” ? Flash is still here and HTML 5 has still a couple of steps to take: compatibility issues, not so “cross-platform” as features added by one browser manufacturer is not implemented the same way by others, or is not implemented at all, slow evolution as “everyone” has to agree on what to do, things that Flash offered years ago are finally being offered (and sometimes not as good as Flash) for HTML developers.

In fact the Holy Grail had already been found. It was not perfect but it was good, and still is. And like I said, I believe Flash paved the way to what the web is now and what HTML 5 is becoming. But now that HTML 5 is filling its own gaps, Flash is becoming less useful.

It has to change. And it is changing.

Flash is now much more focused on games and this is all we ask from it. Of course you can still create great apps that can run on almost every major system. I do use it to perform some repetitive tasks on my computer, or some kind of custom editors for my development needs, thanks to Adobe AIR.

That being said, on a very practical point of view, and as of today, Flash still allows you to write one piece of code and cross-compile it for the web, ios, android, window and mac (with very few changes) without all the limitations other platforms currently have.

And seeing how JavaScript has evolved and how fast it can be now compared to how it performed years ago, I still see the possibility of a bright future for Flash. If only someone decides to take it where it deserves to be.

I truly believe in it, still. At least in its concept and what it already has right now ๐Ÿ™‚

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  1. When Steve Jobs wrote that letter i felt like “Mom and Dad are getting Divorced”, i hate html5 trends, its all the same every time “if i see one more parallax effect im going to murder someone”. Flash was awesome, writing code for apps or sites was a joy … but lets face it, if it can’t run on a mobile browser its dead. So lets not waste any more time bitching about it, and lets begin to learn multiple coding languages to do what we can do with just one in the past. bye

  2. True, but I think it’s more subtle than that. Websites in flash are dead, but I think Flash still has a role to play in games and apps. Huge community, lots of professional extensions and frameworks/libs that provide with new features and allow you to write mobile games/apps fully functional, quite stable and reliable. But I’m definitely keeping en eye on Haxe and OpenFL, as well as Unity (from which I discovered a really nice feature: component based system, I think this will become a main topic on this blog as for now :))

  3. viktor

    It always comes down to the advertisements, if major corporations and developers tend to say that flash is dead then it will eventually die. Nobody cares about real numbers or practice. Trend became the most influential aspect of the change in informatics. It feels trendy to have a new tool like html5 and when everyone says that flash is dead no arguments are needed. When new developers see somewhere written that flash is dead they will not choose to learn and use it. We need new, better games, not just mobile flappy birds to create a long-term buzz around it again and then rebuild the community. Building a bigger, louder community to attract new developers would be the most important thing if we wanted to resurrect it. When a normal middle school student who starts to learn a new programming language decides that he/she wants to develop games for the web and mobile I don’t think he will make a long list of scientific arguments about each technology. He will go to forums and visit the websites of famous developers, read articles and watch presentation about the choices he can make. At the end he will choose the platform that is developing fast, has the biggest community, has the best presentation and the PROMISE that it is very likely he will not head for a dead end if he chooses that technology. Flash needs these at the moment, these should be the biggest priority. We don’t just have to concentrate on developers who know and use flash for a long time, we have to think of new ones.

  4. I totally agree with you, except for one point:
    The community around Flash is huge, especially for web games, I think it’s the biggest.
    Now I believe we need a new version of ActionScript, something that will make it compare to seemingly “more” professional languages like .NET. And more importantly, a faster Virtual Machine. With that, I believe Flash is still gonna be there for a long time ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. James Almeida

    It’s funny – yo pretty much summed up exactly what I have been thinking since Steve Jobs opened his mouth. But in my opinion, Flash will not be gone anytime soon. It is evolving into more of a game/application development tool with immense crossplatform potential. I mean it has already accomplished what HTML 5 and Javascript are trying to do (and probably won’t for a some time to come) run well in every browser and every platform.

    I just really think that Adobe needs to find what Flash is still good for and really push it. Maybe even rebrand it as a new tool for developing mobile and desktop type apps, and animation.

  6. That might actually be a good idea

  7. Goofyfoot2001

    Action Script 3 is an awesome language and I’ve been a developer since the 80’s. I’ve stopped doing flash simply because tablets and phones rule right now. I’m with the guy that said they should re-brand. Also of course implement a new tablet/phone environment. Screw apple.

  8. I don’t think they will, but they should, or put some efforts into lime/openfl or something similar (with the same advantages flash is providing right now of course)
    When I have doubts, I focus on what I actually need to do and most of the time I end up realizing that I don’t need all that “native performance” thing with all the troubles that comes with it (need a mac to compile for ios or mac, need visual studio for windows) and that flash is providing with just what I need right now: everything in one package for almost everyone (and quite good performance in the end)

  9. Yogibear

    I don’t think that Apple have done anything wrong by ignoring flash. I just think that they are backward thinking in not supporting it now. I know its old technology but there are still lots of sites out there that use it. I do not know why they stopped supporting it so early on, cause I knew they did in their first inception of iOS. I am not a developer or a programmer, just a guy interested in technology. If I am not suppose to be here I apologise.

  10. ๐Ÿ™‚ of course you have your place here ! anyone who is interested is welcome.
    Apple (Steve Jobs) did something “wrong” by being manipulative and not honnest. Now we can argue that it’s just part of a commercial game but still, what he said was not totally right.
    Now about that “old” technology: yes, Flash has been here for a long time but I can’t help but notice that the “new” technology (html5) is just trying to catch up with what flash offers since a couple of years already, and it’s still not there…
    I wouldn’t be surprised to see flash coming back as a plugin on mobile, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it “go” either…

  11. and about the reason why apple doesn’t allow flash on their phones/tablets: I think it’s just to avoid the whole free “flash market” and oblige people to stay on their app store.

  12. Andreas

    I actually miss something else in the “post Flash area”: low bandwith consuming and easy to create vector graphics. I always used Flash for animated Cartoons and interactive quizzes etc. and as my target Group has very low bandwith i cant just use gif-animations.
    Is there any alternative to Flash in this field?

    And actually…i really remember the “pre Flash” area (yes, im that old) and there where damn good reasons for Flash concerning compatibility.

    Adobe ruined Flash (Steve Jobs just read the funeral speech).

  13. Hello
    well flash is still around and it acutally is getting more and more interest after the post html5 buzz era. ActionScript 3 also increased in popularity:

    But there are also alternatives to flash: OpenFL (total and native replacement of flash), Haxe and of course HTML5 (depending on what you want to do)

  14. There is a brand new IDC study that “examines the current state of HTML5 and provides insight for strategic decisions around HTML5 adoption for application development projects”. I believe the study clearly shows that HTML5 is not a serious competition to Flash and AIR as cross platform technology, which includes PhoneGap:

    “HTML5 has a strong premise and many strengths. However, no technology can meet the unifying expectations placed on HTML5 in this age of rapidly proliferating device capabilities”.

    No technology… that leaves zero competition to Flash, Flex and AIR as cross platform solution for web, desktop and mobile apps development all in one. So it is now basically between having multiple teams and re-doing the same app over again for each platform, or writing it in AS3. Therefore, how long to you think it would take to educate enterprises in that context, with arguments as strong as “it broke records with Olympics apps on iOS and Android”, “it did it again with World Cup”, “it reached one billion app install on mobile devices”, “there is not one world class live video event on desktop that does not use Flash”, “Flash Player know plays HLS natively and broke records of video quality again with December 2013 update”, “we get updated version of the runtimes every few months”?

    Instead, social media is flooded by water carriers, bitter disenfranchised Flash developers, and fake social personas on competitors’ payroll trying (or doing without even realizing) to make the world believe Flash, AIR, Adobe is everything with it is dead.

    For almost 5 year we have been seeing the same “HTML5 will take over Flash in 20xx” with a new number, every single year. It would be an understatement to say it is not happening still today in 2014.

    We do not need Adobe to do this, we do not need more from Adobe than what they are doing, we can pick everything else up ourselves, from communication to developers training to evangelism to crowdfunding to jobs marketplace. I am trying to set a few things up including a nonprofit foundation, a training academy and a freelance marketplace. But honestly, I am getting utterly annoyed, frustrated and disgusted by the fact that I have to fight our own people.

    So what the heck is wrong with us?

  15. I don’t think that Flash is dead. Just HTML, CSS, JavaScript became better – they are now good enough for all those simplish websites which want to look a bit more fancy with some transitions, sliders or what ever. Flash is still the better option for games and I believe that it remain that way for long time. For other than that Flash is just not needed anymore.

  16. games and apps I believe ๐Ÿ™‚
    totally agree

  17. What is wrong with “us” ? I think it’s human nature trying to reinvent the wheel over and over again. It’s also human nature looking for new trends or trying to be better than something else. It’s human nature being scared of being left alone. It’s human nature looking to value itself or simply wanting to learn and discover new things. I think it’s just human nature (if you didn’t get me before :))
    But like you, I do believe Flash has still much more potential than HTML 5 or other platforms for apps and games. And it is still here ! so I think we better use its full potential as long as it is here.
    cheers !

  18. ๐Ÿ™‚
    a bit harsh but I agree…

  19. Amir

    Flash is dead and Steve Jobs was right. Flash content never can be found by SEO and their security sucks. I’ve visited many companies and I don’t think anyone using Flash Professional anymore these days and even Adobe knew this. That’s why they introduced Edge Animate and Flash will say goodbye soon just like Fireworks.

  20. I don’t think you’re well aware of the capabilities of flash and what is actually going on right now… Not only the html5 web market took quite a serious hit recently (see fgl blog post or my last blog post about it) and flash web games are doing well, but the “flash for web” is only the tip of the iceberg the flash platform (and i’m talking about AIR here) can offer.
    I believe this is because of this kind of misunderstandings that flash has a “bad” reputation…
    On top of that, flash is not the only platform here, there are many other technologies that are doing the same things flash has been doing for years, but nobody hates them… this is what I find “interesting” and disturbing, the hatred against flash particularly… it has been going of for years now, but where is html5 right now ?, not even close to where flash was 10 years ago…

  21. enekii

    I just miss the days when flash didn’t crash and was stable. in other words I miss macromedia. you know before adobe

  22. beegee

    I am a Flash (AS3/Starling) developer for mobile games and applications. I do not believe in Adobe’s commitment to the platform and I hope that they announce an end of life date for it sooner rather than later. Major players are ending web support for Flash. ActionScript knowledge is quickly becoming an irrelevant skill to industry employers. Other engines can release to a greater number of platforms using either the same or slightly modified code base (Unity, Unreal), and will run more efficiently.

    It is incontestable and detestable that Adobe’s track record for addressing security flaws is abysmal. Halting development on AS4 is not a great sign, retasking their devs towards Photoshop and Illustrator doesn’t give me much confidence either. Flash will die slowly and painfully without a larger community maintaining and enhancing what currently exists. Adobe is not providing that.

    The only thing Adobe really has going for them in this arena is the well-integrated workflow for non-programmers who want to quickly make low-budget games. Unity and Unreal are quickly closing that gap.

    If they care about Flash, they will open source it. If there are useful things for developers to learn in there, HTML5 and Flash will both become better as a result; or we will end up with a much better, more secure standard that takes the best from both. Either way, Adobe doesn’t have to waste their resources maintaining a format, and we get to reap the benefits as content creators AND consumers.

  23. I agree with you on several point, but you tend to forget AIR with its multi platforms capabilities
    AIR with Stage3D is actually faster than Unity and Phonegap in 2D on mobiles !
    Yes the flash platform may (or will) die one day, but as for now, it’s there and it’s quite efficient and mature. I say this is a sin not to use that, no matter how many ignorant and hateful people this world is hosting. They will soon have html5 ads to worry about…

  24. I operate several flash sites, and was one of the best I had … 2 years ago I used to see 90000 page views or 13000 unique visitors in a single day… Today, I hardly get 1000 uniques. Maybe Flash is not dead, but it’s dying very fast. Not just the technology, but the overall user interest for it.

  25. Try html5 then.
    The games are not to the web anymore, they are to the mobiles. And html5 is shit for that, nobody wants to play on their browser, they want to play within an app. That’s where flash is.

  26. Fabrice

    I just found your blog and I must say I am glad to read someone who knows the difference between Flash Player for browsers and AS3 / AIR.
    No, Flash is not dead and it enters a more interesting phase of its evolution yet. A mature language development targeting multiple platforms with consistent debugging and profiling tools.
    It was time to move on as animated advertising banner.
    I am developing for over 15 years on this technology and I have never known as bubbling…

  27. Fabrice

    Et un “salut la Belgique” d’un parisien ร  la Rรฉunion… ๐Ÿ˜‰

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