Flash - a-ah - saviour of the universe
Flash - a-ah - he'll save everyone of us
Flash - a-ah - he's a miracle
Flash - a-ah - king of the impossible
-Queen, lyrics – Flash (1980)
Steve Jobs must be smiling somewhere. That was the common reaction to the news this week that Adobe is killing off development of mobile Flash. A second was to celebrate, jump around like a lunatic and a sing 'Ding Dong the Witch is Dead'. We'd suggest a third: quiet respect – would be far more appropriate.
"Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores," revealed sources close to Adobe when speaking with ZDNet. "We will no longer adapt Flash Player for mobile devices to new browser, OS version or device configurations. Some of our source code licensees may opt to continue working on and releasing their own implementations. We will continue to support the current Android and PlayBook configurations with critical bug fixes and security updates."
The shock here is the speed with which Adobe has changed its stance. Responding to Jobs' famously critical open letter towards Flash in April last year, Adobe said it was convinced it "could provide a terrific experience with Flash on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch" and would bring "Flash Player and AIR to all the other major participants in the mobile ecosystem." Two months later Adobe unveiled the release version of 'Flash Player for Mobile'. 17 months later it is dead. HP has taken longer to massacre webOS.
This all seems very strange for a company which, to this day, still crows that Flash Player is used on 85 per cent of the top 100 websites, is responsible for 75 per cent of all web video, is relied upon by 98 per cent of enterprises and is installed on 98 per cent of PCs, not to mention the three million active Flash platform developers or that 19 of the top 20 device manufacturers worldwide have committed to shipping Flash technology on their devices (stats here). There is good reason for these figures: Flash was brilliant. Thinking otherwise is like dismissing the role Shakespeare played in the eBooks your read on your Kindle.
Flash itself has been around for over 15 years, an eternity in tech terms. It originated in the SmartSketch application, was published by FutureWave Software, turned down by Adobe in 1995, bought by Macromedia in 1996 and ultimately acquired by Adobe at the second time of asking when it paid a whopping $3.4bn for Macromedia in 2005. The reason this purchase cost so much is because Flash was at the heart of the Web, it was the primary driving force – when all others faltered – in transforming the dull text heavy layouts of web pages into the living, breathing, dynamic multimedia sites you visit today, and that deserves a lot of respect. So too does killing Flash while it remains the dominant player…