Flash is alive and kicking! Why does it feel like Adobe’s trying to kill it?

I’ve been a Web/Flash designer and more recently a developer for over a decade now. I have been an avid supporter of the Macromedia’s and now Adobe’s Flash technology and all that it enables. However, as my livelihood relies on it, I’m quite concerned at the increasing lack of voice from Adobe and it’s evangelist team. I’m starting to get the feeling they’ve got things to say, but someone on high has told them to hold their respective tongues…

I posted my thoughts on Apple’s decision to not support Flash on iOS back in April of 2010. I stated then, and I believe now more strongly than ever that that decision was based solely on business and not technology reasons. As a long time HTML/CSS/Javascript developer, I essentially moved away from the mish mash of “standards” to the only standard I knew on the web – Flash. Apple lambasted Flash for it’s proprietary nature and it not being a W3C standard. It did this whilst adding brick after brick to the walled garden App store that now threatens to kill off the browser based ecosystem the web was built and thrived upon.

I’m hoping someone from Adobe who’s involved in the Flash/Air/Mobile team can give me some clarity on the following concerns:

http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplatform/ – why was this blog shut down? There wasn’t really a reason given, so to the average person looking on it appears as though the Flash platform is redundant.

http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplayer/ – why have there been no comments on any posts since late March 2012?

http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplatformruntimes/statistics.displayTab3.html – how come these statistics (which were once used to guide clients as to whether Flash was a suitable technology to use for their project) have not been update since June 2011!? Relying on sites like riastats.com is fairly hit and miss, and Adobe really need to take the lead on the penetrations statistics of their own software. Couldn’t the Omniture acquisition be used to generate a good overview of the penetration of Flash on desktops?

http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplatformruntimes/statistics.displayTab2.html – this page (actually it’s a tab from the last link) really should be taken down. I realise Adobe’s a big company, but leaving pages like this up 8 months after the technology was abandoned) just looks sloppy. If Air is still going to be supported then this page really needs to be amended to reflect that refocusing.

http://www.adobe.com/flashplatform/statistics/ – this page has got good potential to illustrate to stakeholders why they should be interested in using Adobe technology, but is hard to understand in its current state. Are the stats indicating Flash and Air installs, or has this been adjusted to take into account only those devices that are able to run Air apps? Perhaps the reason this page is so hap hazard goes to the heart of Adobe’s marketing strategy issues for Flash and Air – there’s no clear delineation between where Flash ends and where Air begins. I blogged about this a short while ago, but to rectify the current situation, a massively focused effort needs to happen at Adobe. We need a clear and concise guide for stakeholders and clients detailing what the two technologies are capable of. Without this, Flash’s demise (and Air along with it) WILL continue.

Hopefully some clarity can be given on the questions above, I’m sure there’s others in the Flash community who would appreciate it as well.

I commented on the NBC apps Adobe recently released (made using Air from one codebase, win!) as well as the recent decision to retire the Android Flash player. Adobe seems to giveth with one hand, and taketh away with the other. I’m going to be blunt – what the f@#k is going on at that end at the moment? Who’s in charge of the Flash Platform/gaming team/Mobile/Air team that’s allowing this absolute cannibalisation of a brilliant technology?!

Perhaps the reaction from the marketplace was inevitable. Going down the Flash in the browser for mobile path obviously sucked up a few resources, but getting to a stage where the plugin was working on Android, advertising (heavily) that fact, and then within the space of 18 months abandoning it is madness. Now what happens when Windows 8 comes out, and Flash works again on the browser in mobile devices? More confusion, more erosion of the brand, less work for Flash devs, less appetite for Air (if that’s what we’re supposed to be doing with 10 years of experience navigating Flash/AS).

As I sit here and write this I ponder the future. And which eggs to put in which basket. At this stage, the thought of retreating back to the good old days of browser nonsense, untyped javascript and css hackery does not excite me. WebGL isn’t a standard yet (unless you’re happy to ignore over 30% of the desktop market, and goodness knows how much of the mobile market which is kinda the whole point of this big HTML5 frenzy at the moment right?!) and writing Native app code (limiting myself to a single platform) doesn’t appeal either. The possibility of a single code base being used for desktop, mobile (both phones and tablets), and some smart TV’s is a very enticing one. I can’t stress what I’m about to say enough – Why Isn’t Adobe SHOUTING from the top of the mountain that using Flash and Air this is possible right now!? Not only is it possible, the savings in developer time are immense when you start to have a singular code base, and the ease of development that Flash/AS3 enables. I’m seeing this first hand in the prototypes that I create for the iPad and Android from what is essentially code destined for the Flash plugin on the desktop. A colleague of mine has been working on interactive prototypes for the last few months, and in the time it’s taken him to create a working prototype, a team of 2 native app developers have essentially achieved nothing.

To conclude, Flash is alive and well. Air is enabling it on devices (Android, iOS and Blackberry with Adobe suggesting Windows 8 device support will be coming soon). It’s doing it better, cheaper and more pervasively than any other web standard. The reason: it is the web/device standard. The problem: Steve said it wasn’t.

So come on evangelists (whether you work for Adobe or not) it’s time to put the story straight on what Flash is, and what it can do. I’m sick and tired of punters writing shite about a platform that is superior in every way to it’s competitors, blindly towing a line that was never based on facts in the first place.

P.S. To counter the obvious comment that will be something along the lines of, “you’re not ever going to get Flash onto the iPhone so just get over it you f@$king douche!” well yes, I can actually get all of my lovely work on there via Air and you can pay for the privilege via your beloved App store – the point of this post is two ask why tech stakeholders and tech commentators aren’t aware of the incredible productivity that Flash/Air facilitates? My secondary point being, why is the web being dictated to by Google and Apple, forcing users to download apps when the web is now very capable of doing the same job (whether via HTML5 or the Flash plugin which still belongs in the browser on these now very powerful devices). Ok, have at it! :-)

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13 comments on “Flash is alive and kicking! Why does it feel like Adobe’s trying to kill it?
  1. ben w says:

    Have pondered over many of those myself.

    Get the feeling though that I won’t like any of the answers (if any were ever to be given), for instance on the stats front maybe there has been a nose-dive so rather than post them they were just ignored? But who knows right.

    Be interesting to see if any adobe folks respond…

  2. Philip says:

    I’ve been thinking about what the best way might be to structure application architecture when creating a single codebase/multiple device application.

    Perhaps using an MVCS approach with robotlegs will allow me to easily keep the model and services away from the view. So let’s say that I have multiple view packages (ie. com.myapp.view.tablet, com.myapp.view.web, com.myapp.view.phone). What would be the best way to select which view package I use?

    I wouldn’t want to compile all view packages into one SWF/APK/etc and decide which view package to use at runtime – that would be mad. So conditional compilation in the controller (when mapping commands) could work.

    Just wondering if you have any thoughts on this? This would be a great area for the platform evangelists to elaborate on if they haven’t already.

  3. JNT says:

    I really share your thoughts – the whole anti Flash move might be a clever astro-turf campaign involving brand-conscious end users to remove the biggest competitor for paid apps: Free, web based apps – formerly known as professionally crafted Flash sites, but free of charge for users..

    Pls also see (and comments)

    http://blogs.adobe.com/jnack/2012/07/adobe-on-html5-were-trying-to-go-beyond-what-you-can-do-with-flash.html

    Wth? Quo vadis Adobe? IMHO they could simply optimize their _compilers_ and sell them (ADT, mxmlc, Falcon). They should care about the different demands for developers and designers and don’t try to make a ‘one-size-fits-it-all’ megalomania tool. The idea of designers creating professional software with ‘a little’ help of tools never really worked out.

  4. Marcos says:

    I am a Flex Developer, and Flash Player will not be available to browsers in the future, that is, it will not be possible install flash player as a plugin in browsers.

    An example of this was Windows 8′s first release, that has blocked the flash player install at their new IE version. They allowed (maybe just at this time) download and install it from its market only.

  5. carl says:

    Hi,

    I found your article very interesting. I have often felt that Adobe is failing to capitalize on the potential of AIR. Your article definitely points out some big holes in their marketing strategy.

    To Adobe’s credit, Lee Brimelow put together this Flash Gaming microsite: http://gaming.adobe.com/

    It’s probably their best effort to date to try to actually showcase the relevance of AIR for cross-platform / multi-device development.

    In addition to neglecting those pages that you pointed out they also fired or transferred some of their best talent in the “community relationship” space. They fired Doug Winnie who was a very vocal and prominent in the developer community. They also took Brian Rinaldi who was a flash community manager and shifted him over to HTML/JS stuff.

    Thibault Imbert who is one of the hardcore Flash player engineers often keeps the community informed of the cutting edge enhancements to AIR and Flash Player: http://www.bytearray.org/?p=4516

    Other than Lee and Thibault its very hard to find anyone at Adobe that is really pushing the platform forward in any sort of way that is visible to developers and the “average client” looking for a technology solution.

  6. Michael Kaufman says:

    Thanks for posting this. Re: why isn’t Adobe shouting about cross-platform compilation. I guess since they couldn’t get Java users to use Flex, or JavaScript users to use AS3 – maybe they feel like it’s a fruitless proposition to try to get Obj-C devs to use AS3 as well.

    It is sad to go through mobile app jobs on Indeed & Dice, search for ‘mobile apps AS3′ and find absolutely nothing. Certainly some backup from Adobe would help.

  7. I have to agree Adobe should be “screaming atop the mountain”. But hey, as long as I don’t have to code it, I kinda like the html5 browsing solution. At least nobody would do a Flash banner nowadays.
    Problem is, Flash’s really good for game development, but for 10 web enabled flashers, there’s maybe one game developer.
    Nobody wants to hire a flasher for web stuff, but game studios and social gaming agencies have a real hard time recruiting decent Flash developers – trust me, I know.
    It’s now up to the community. Ditch Flex, focus on low level Flash optimisations, and get a job in the booming Flash casual game market. Or ditch flash entirely, travel back in time to ’96 when variables were untyped and class purely prototypal, and learn Javascript.
    Me? I sure made my choice. Flash it is. At least until there’s a class and an interface keyword in JS.

  8. Amen brother !

    This smell’s like a conspiracy. I used Flash for almost 8 years pro time and I did some incredible thing’s with it.

    I can code HTML5/CSS/Javascript and well it takes more patience and more time and really not that great at all from a developper point of view so much code for just a little effect…

    Anyways, Windows 8 will Win if the next Internet Explorer comes with Flash installed in it, on a desktop or tablet and even smarthphone.

    Apple and Google will lose big time and Adobe is clearly getting manipulated.

  9. Stewart Grey says:

    If Adobe want to keep flash going, why not open source it like other web tools?

  10. Keith says:

    THANK YOU!!!!
    That is exactly how I feel.

  11. Andrew Dobson says:

    Hi mate,

    A belated reply to your excellent post that I’ve finally got around to finishing and posting.

    http://www.andrewdobson.co.uk/blog/?p=183

    You know, and I know, that the technology could still have a bright future and that it’s still the most efficient way to deliver the kind of work that we’re paid to create…Adobe and the community needs to start stepping up.

  12. Jason Langdon says:

    Rest up Dobby, and thanks for following up with your own blog post. Let’s hope a few more of the Flash community can band together and ameliorate the false information and marketese that currently pervades our technological landscape.

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