Flash is dead …. Again. Officially this is my fourth or fifth time hearing this in the last 15 years.
Ok, so time to get some facts straight.
Flash CC is not the Flash Player
When people talk about “Flash”, in general, they are talking about the Flash Player. The Player is the embedded object that plays animated content in your browser. Recently the security issues identified concerned the Flash Player. There is also the development tool called Flash CC. This is used to produce content for the Player but also other formats including apps, video, HTML5 and WebGL. Though they are obviously related, they are 2 separate programs.
A key concept here is that the Flash development tool (Flash CC) is used to produce other content besides “Flash” content. If anything, over the last 12 months, the majority of Flash developers are using it produce apps, video and HTML5 – not content for the Player.
So the next time, you hear someone talking about Flash, ask them to clarify – is it the Player or the development tool? (it’s probably is the Player they are talking about).
Kill Flash means Kill Browser Plugins
We hear a lot about “Kill Flash”, actually people are referring to browser plugins (Flash being one of the main ones). Back in the day when Web browsers were basic, they used plugins to add additional functionally such as video and interactive animated content. Plugins used to include the Flash Player, Java, Silverlight, QuickTime and others. With the advent of the HTML5 standard, many plugins are not needed anymore as their functionally is included by default in the browser.
In general, browser suppliers are attempting to move away from anything that is not Web standards compliant. Java (applets) and Silverlight have been depreciated and are rarely used now. Also the browser Chrome does not support the Unity Player anymore.
The Flash Player is, by far, the most ubiquitous of the browser plugins. As such, it attracts a lot of attention. Even though it was patched quickly, the recent security issues have not done it any favours
The Bigger Issue: Browsers and Control
Flash also played its part in the bigger issue of controlling the distribution of digital content. Since the advent of the first personal computers, there have been competing operating systems with competing digital content. Despite what you hear about the open Web and interoperability, each of the large technology/media companies would really like you just to use their software only. Java’s “write once, run anywhere” software was a real threat to the then established platforms. Hence you don’t see it anymore as a consumer technology.
The Flash Player was a real thorn in the side for some publishers. It allowed consumers play games and watch movies off-portal. Off-portal refers to the open Web i.e. you are not signed into any particular network or platform. Steve Jobs famous spat with Flash had more to do with digital distribution, than any particular technical issues.
The most popular mobile app type is …….. games, by a long shot! With the Flash Player, you can get access to a lot of free games. Even with the security issues, it will be interesting to see if consumers keep playing free Web games via the Flash Player. HTML5 games have not really taken off – you’ll see why if you try playing one across different devices. So what is the alternative?
What’s After Flash: WebGL
Web G what….
And guess what; you can create WebGL content with Flash, the development tool! Having said that, WebGL is still a bit raw and its performance does vary on difference browsers and devices – it’s still not the finished article.
As you can probably tell I’m a big fan of Flash as a design and development tool. It brings content creation, animation, UI design and interactive scripting together in one package. Yes, it has its glitches and I would not be using it for 3D games or similar apps. For 2D games and apps, it is still a very efficient and creative tool, used as part of an overall digital production process.
So when people say Flash is Dead, they are really talking about browser plugins. Maybe they are right; online consumers will be the ultimate decision makers here.
Developer & Chief Bottle Washer