The future of flash Part I – Flash on the web

“Flash is pretty much dead” – is what I keep hearing and is something you probably heard to if you have dipped even the little toe in web development. Still we watch youtube videos and use google streetview on the flash platform. So what is this all about?

A few years back Adobe announced to stop the development of Flash Player for mobile devices and this caused a lot of confusion on the market. First of all we need to understand the difference between Flash Professional as a creative desktop application and Flash Player, a free plugin for web browsers. We all know Flash Player since every now and than it insist in a rather stubborn way to be updated. It allows us to watch Youtube videos, use Streetview in google maps or to play most of our favorite FaceBook games. In fact most of the games that we play in our browsers are played back with Flash Player and were created in Flash. Flash on the other hand “is a multimedia and software platform used for the authoring of vector graphics, animation, games and rich internet applications that can be viewed in Flash Player.” (Wikipedia)

The rumored death of Flash was brought about by the fact that iOS devices never supported Flash content in the built in browser. Adobe reinforced this with their announcement back in December 2011 to stop the development of Flash Player for the Android as well. This however never meant that Flash cannot be used to output to mobile devices. It has more to do with the monetization on mobile content than a technological drawback.

The success of a device depends on the number of applications available. Apple, Google and even Microsoft do everything they can to please the developers and get them to create content for their mobile operating systems so to make them more appealing to users. Since most of the flash applications on the web are free if the user could play them in their browsers no developer in their right mind would bother with releasing the same or similar games for the respective app market. It might be hard to believe but most developers want to earn money by selling their apps and this is where the iOS’s and the appstore’s real strength is. It is extremely appealing for developers and this results in over 900000 apps being available for us to choose from.

The fact that developers want to sell their apps affected Adobe as well. Flash Professional and Flash Builder are still the only development tools that allow exporting applications to both Android and iOS devices from the same code base so creating a native app in Flash is a great option for developers. Anyone who knows how to use Flash can start creating mobile content as standalone applications. All you have to do after setting the appropriate movie size is switch the movie target from Flash Player to Android or iOS. You will export your content as a .pka or .ipa file thanks to the Adobe Integrated Runtime a.k.a. AIR.

Wit the help of the CreateJS toolbox animations created in Flash Professional can also be exported as HTML/Javascript content so the will safely play back on desktop and mobile devices alike.

Taking all this in consideration it is safe to say that the days of Flash websites are over. It is a market where Javascript, HTML5 and CSS3 can deliver great results. But Flash is far from dead. It is still the go to platform for video streaming and Digital Rights Management, native app development for mobile devices and console grade gaming for desktop browsers.