Flash is dead! OK now get off the band wagon and calm down dear!

If I had a pound for every time someone had told me recently that Flash is dead, I’d take you all out for a pint and tell you about why Flash is far from 6 feet under. But so far, no one has been so generous; so I’ll have to make do and blog about it instead.

Now I’m not a techie and I’m not a coder, and I’m not a business woman, but as a designer for a serious games company it is my responsibility to keep abreast of technology developments as much as I can. We can’t afford to stagnate, if we do, then we’ll most likely fall by the wayside, left behind in the race to innovate. So we’re always thinking about the tools of our trade and how we can use them to create our product lines.

As our readers will no doubt be aware, our products are all built using Flash, and have been since PIXELearning was ‘born’ in 2002. Now Flash by all accounts is dead and buried and HTML5 is all supreme, we bow down before thee! But the whole Flash is dead argument strikes me as a giant bandwagon rolling along collecting the less informed as it goes along. Now I’m not just saying this because my company creates Flash products, and I want to protect our USP, no far from it, I’m saying it because I don’t agree with the HTML5 devotees.

It’s almost a little like the trends we see in Fashion, or music, we all switch relentlessly between fads it’s a wonder we don’t all have mental whiplash. HTML5 is just one of these latest trends. HTML5 is certainly not the first challenger to Flash, the same panic occurred with the launch of Unity and with Apples refusal to include Flash on its iPads and iPhones. Flash weathered those storms, why is this one any different? But this one does feel different; it feels slightly more concrete in people’s minds, when they say Flash is dead, some of them truly mean it in their heart of hearts. However when we examine the main criteria for evaluating the vitals of Flash we at PIXELearning see a different story.

For me there are 3 elements to examine when reviewing technologies for our projects, the commercial, the security, and the functionality, below I’ve outlined the top reasons in each of these categories of why HTML5 does not meet our criteria to be a serious contender for our business right now.

The Commercials:

Flash is a standard plug in on 99% of all desktop machines, most e-learning is built in Flash and it’s supported internally. It’s also backwards compatible and compatible across pretty much all browsers. The latest version of Flash even now runs on Apple devices with the Adobe Air wrapper. This ubiquity for one makes it easy for buyers. You’re over the first hurdle.

Virility is more an issue for commercial developers and marketing game developers but it’s still worth discussing. Due to the mass adoption of Flash, for a game to go viral it’s pretty simple. You can forward on a link and the next user just has to load the game. If you take other platforms such as Unity and do the same, you see approximately a 50% drop off rate when they hit the download screen. Obviously Flash has a slight advantage due to its age and this will change with time, but for us, with corporate IT policy still very much locked down, it’s a huge advantage to use a technology that won’t cost the client any more, cost in terms of time of upgrading their system. To put it into context, a certain supermarket chain wanted £2000 per machine to alter the standard desktop configuration to include Java– that blows your ROI right out of the water before you’ve even started.

Security:

Flash compiles the run time code into a nice little package called a .swf which includes the run time files and keeps the source safely tucked away. With HTML5 there is no protection, you just view the source code there and then. For us that’s just not really an option; so there’s little protection for developers right now!

Functionality:

We really push the boundaries of Flash as much as possible (with client technical environments in mind) and we can do an awful lot. When we compare this to what we can achieve with HTML5 there really is no competition. Honestly try to Google for cutting edge games in HTML5 and please post them in the comments – there are very few examples of anything advanced out there. Even when companies like Google use HTML5 to create their Google Doodles they use a Flash movie to run the more complex elements like audio.

Of course all of these points are less of a problem for companies like Google and Facebook who have their own economies of scale, but for those who don’t have that luxury, Flash is most certainly not dead, it is alive and kicking and will be for many years to come.

Adobe haven’t helped matters in their quiet launch of their strategy – to now focus on gaming and premium video – an announcement that hasn’t had as much press as it should have but they are certainly not throwing in the towel just yet as far as we can see.

So don’t count Flash out just yet, it is still important for many organisations worldwide, and will not be replaced overnight. HTML5, or whatever is coming next, has its angsty teenage years to live through before it becomes a fully mature competitor. Saying that, even though I have my doubts I’ll still keep a watchful eye on new developments and hope to see some great examples posted in the comments section. Consider the gauntlet well and truly thrown 🙂

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6 Responses to Flash is dead! OK now get off the band wagon and calm down dear!

  1. Richard says:

    Great article Helen, cuts through the technical bable and puts the logical reality of Flash. Wish I had written it 🙂

    By way of putting forward an alternative point of view let’s look at the same logical reality of the alternative being put forward HTML5. Here is an excellent article from a techie that I think needs to be viewed from a pragmatic “well what does that mean in practise” position.

    http://www.javaworld.com/javaworld/jw-08-2011/110815-hard-truths-about-html5.html?page=1

    I would point two just two Truths that made me think that we are some way away from the death of Flash. For example, Truth 1 Security – any doubts on that and will a Corporate welcome HTML5 with open arms? Truth 6 Forced upgrades are n’t for everyone – as a developer of solutions we do not want to be supporting new issues caused by the constant upgrades issued by the various browser manufacturers who are all implementing their own variations of HTML5 support in their browser. If you count Desktop and Tablet browsers alone I worked out that is potentially 21 or more environments that could cause problems for one piece of software (7 browsers for desktop and tablet with 3 on average versions active)

    That’s my two cents worth what does the rest of the “L & D” world think?

  2. farook says:

    I am exicited about HTML5 but Flash can do all these things html5 can do in a better way.Creating slideshow in HTML5! wow! what, flash did that 10 years ago! It is very easy to create a flash animation, for example a ball bouncing in flash professional in less than am minute. Javascript is a mess when compared to AS3.

  3. Scott says:

    No flash functionality on iPads and iPads are in almost every home. Because Flash is practically impossible to implement for touchscreen technology and finger browsing (which by the way is the future of all technology), flash may not be “dead”, but it is certainly on its way. Unless someone can code flash so that it responds to the actions of a person’s finger (i.e. swiping of the finger across the screen) vs. a point and click mouse, say goodbye to Flash and get your shovels ready.

  4. Helen says:

    Thanks for the comments Scott! I’m going to let our Lead Flash Developer answer your points on the capabilities of Flash as that’s his area of expertise, but what I want to chat about the future of interaction….

    I’m a huge Apple fan and I would find it hard to live without my iPhone but to make the statement that finger browsing is the future of all technology is a little too far fetched for my liking. Have you ever had to work on a touch screen for a day? How about a week? A month? Touch screens are great but they aren’t the bee all and end all of interaction. I would not want to work using a touch screen interface; loosing my keyboard and mouse would mean my work would take longer and I would probably suffer from RSI within a few months due to the resistance of pressing a screen thousands of times a day. No thanks. Not to mention current software just isn’t set up for touch. Very few people currently have the fine motor control to work software packages without a mouse or pen input device. I’m very used to touch screens and even I get frustrated! Yes this will change with time as we adapt, and I see increased use in quick interactions such as shops and mobile devices of course (and where they are appropriate) but for everyday work, especially in technical industries I personally don’t think they are as efficient.

    If you’re thinking Minority Report style interactions, where we work with holographic displays, that’s a long long way off – you just have to play on a Kinect to know how far gesture recognition tech has developed. Yeah it’s pretty awesome as a novelty, but it’s still in its infancy and is incredibly glitchy. And boy do you get tired waving your arms around! So sustained interaction isn’t going to be comfortable. Unless future humans develop much stronger biceps 😉

    Maybe by the time gesture and touch input has developed enough for it to be useful beyond browsing the net and casual inputs, Flash may have moved on, or more likely something new will have wowed us all, who knows, but I don’t see the death of buttons and physical input devices any time soon.

  5. Sandip Thakordas says:

    Hi Scott

    Thank you for your comment, as it is a common question for many people who are unaware of Flash capabilities. Firstly I will answer all your questions and then explain a little where Flash is moving towards.

    1. No flash functionality on iPads and iPads are in almost every home.

    Okay simple answer to this is, a game called Machinarium, an award winning game that was published for the iPad 2, created in, yes that right Flash AS3. (Available in the app store and iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/machinarium/id459189186?mt=8). So already Flash is available on iPad, and speaking on my experience I have created numerous apps (not for publishing, mainly for testing and improving my skills) that Flash, using Adobe Air 3, work on the iPad. As we all know the iPad is a Touch screen device, so for any games that are created on the iPad, they must be compatible with touch screen devices. So to answer your question:

    2. Flash is practically impossible to implement for touchscreen technology and finger browsing (which by the way is the future of all technology), flash may not be “dead”, but it is certainly on its way

    What better way to prove that Flash is possible to implement on a touch screen device, again simply by the award winning app, Machinarium, as it will not be much of an app if the user can not click on and interact with the game. (Technical point: To create a touch screen event, it is simply implementing a mouse click event on an object, when object is clicked on touch screen hardware; the object simply acts if it’s being clicked by a mouse icon).
    Finally, your last question:

    3. Unless someone can code flash so that it responds to the actions of a person’s finger (i.e. swiping of the finger across the screen) vs. a point and click mouse, say goodbye to Flash and get your shovels ready.

    Okay swiping finger across the screen, again this is been proven by adobe that this can be done, now I can explain how to do this, but this comment is already getting too long, so my solution is a link to a video that demonstrates that this can be done, and to make sure it is not edited in any sort of way, this video comes directly from Adobe, with the help of Lynda.com:

    http://tv.adobe.com/watch/learn-flash-professional-cs6-/simulating-mobile-content-with-the-new-content-simulator/
    (Please skip to 1:50sec on the video to see the swipe functionality).

    Currently this video shows for android devices, but it will be pretty much a similar principle to a put on an iOS device, using Adobe Air 3.0.

    Okay that’s pretty much answered your questions. Finally I would like to say, that flash is becoming much more than an application that is used on the web, it is now becoming a 3D games platform for the web, using stage 3D! Fully functional 3D games that are running on the web without being ‘resource hungry’ for a quick example please visit:

    http://www.nissan-stagejuk3d.com/

    Flash is upgrading, let’s see how HTML5 compares to this. If you have any other questions that you will like to be answered using flash, please feel free to ask me.

    Thank you,

    Sandip Thakordas

  6. Alex Feterman says:

    HTML5 still depends on JavaScript (inexpressive, powerless, broken by design) and standards that are not (and never are) quite going to work everywhere the way Flash or Java do. Someone needs to work on *really* standardizing the APIs and the way they work while those of us who want to develop more methodologically continue trying technologies like Elm, Scala.js or TypeScript and the like. JavaScript is the lingua franca of web coding, but I feel like it set the entire software industry 50 years back, lacking even the most basic mechanisms to build safe, scalable, maintainable solutions. I regard it in the asm.js way instead.

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