Goodbye to Flash?

December 2nd, 2015

So it is beginning to seem as if Adobe has finally recognized the reality that Flash is yesterday’s news, and it’s time to move web developers along to using HTML5 instead. But let me start at the beginning.

In the spring of 2010, Steve Jobs wrote one of his rare editorials, this one about the fate of Flash. It was designed to justify the lack of Flash support in iOS, and came at a time when a beta version was available on some Android smartphones.

The long and short of it was that Flash was a relic of the PC and mouse era, and besides, it wasn’t the most secure platform. It was also proprietary to Adobe even though licensing was essentially free. Instead, Jobs suggested that there were open standards, such as HTML5, which would do the trick.

Well, maybe not. It took a while for HTML5 to not just gain support in popular browsers, but to flesh out the features to allow displaying the sort of animations that were part and parcel of Flash. Now I have to tell you that Flash is embedded into one of my sites. Our original developer, Brent Lee, said Flash was the bee’s knees, and that everyone was using it, so might as well get with the program. He also helped design the original format for this site, but Flash wasn’t a part of it.

The reaction to the editorial was expectedly polarizing. Apple was attacked for its decision not to support Flash, perhaps with the intimation that it was a case of the pot calling the kettle black, since Apple had its own proprietary standards. But the fact is that a lot of what Apple uses in its OS is actually based on open source Unix components.

Predictably, Adobe responded that they did not agree for various and sundry reasons. I remember voicing a challenge to Adobe in this blog, and on my tech radio show, to demonstrate that they could actually make a version run reliably on iOS without clogging resources (as it did on Android). They never took me up on the offer, or anyone else’s challenge. The version of Flash provided on some versions of Android was beta, poorly optimized for a mobile platform. Indeed, the sort of navigation tricks that worked fine on a traditional Mac or PC with a mouse, trackball or trackpad, were not comparably functional on a smartphone or tablet with a touch interface.

So it wasn’t possible for Flash navigation schemes to work as effectively without redesigning a site.

Flash for Android never got to the release stage, and is no longer offered. While Flash is still supported on Macs and PCs, the popularity of smartphones and tablets has forced web developers to use other alternatives, primarily HTML5. Sometimes a site offers both, and you receive the version of the multimedia content that’s compatible with the device you use.

I still have two Flash elements on our sci-fi site, Attack of the Rockoids. I’ve asked for some assistance in moving all of it to HTML5, and maybe I’ll get that help eventually. The online tools I’ve tried are hit or miss.

While Flash is still available, you need to update regularly, or take advantage of Adobe’s autoupdate option to provide the regular fixes to newly-discovered security problems.

And now it appears Adobe is finally getting the message. In 2016, Adobe will release a new version of its Flash Professional software that reduces dependence on Flash. It’s renamed Adobe Animate CC, which means it’s part of the Creative Cloud subscription scheme. It will include support for HTML5, which means you can evidently encode your content in either format or maybe both. Obviously, I’ve not seen this as-yet unreleased product.

What I would like to see was some soft of easy conversion capability in the new app, so you can quickly funnel all your old Flash content through this app and have it converted to HTML5. That would be a great way to migrate from one format to the other.

Now the fact that Adobe is not using the word Flash in the name of the app is telling, and it’s clear they are recognizing reality. But even if it was easy to move on to HTML5 for your animations and other Flash content, it’ll probably take years to exorcise it from the Internet.

I am not a fan of subscription apps, but I would think that, if you can easily convert the Flash content to HTML5, you could rent it for a month or two, get your work done, and let the license lapse. Or maybe Adobe will provide a free converter. Yes, there are other converters available, free and retail. As I said, I tried a few of the former without much success.

While I do not wish to see a company’s product rendered obsolete, Flash’s day in the sun expired a long time ago, but it has been a slow, painful death.

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2 Responses to “Goodbye to Flash?”

  1. DaveD says:

    Had decided that after OS X Lion, l would no longer put Flash on my Mac. Still have it on an old Mac running Snow Leopard, but I have “update fatigue” from the too many security issues with Adobe Flash.

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