Flash is dead! OK now get off the band wagon and calm down dear!
February 28, 2012 6 Comments
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.
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.
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!
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 🙂