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The Importance of Stepping Aside

For make no mistake, Adobe is killing Flash entirely. The moment Flash failed to scale efficiently to mobile devices it was doomed. Mobile Internet access is the heartbeat of technology's future and Adobe has had the nous not to prolong a slow death. Like almost every technological invention, progress has deemed it irrelevant. It has taken 16 years, but HTML has caught up.


With HTML5 we finally have an open source alternative which is just as good and – what is more – it scales. The theory behind HTML5 has excited many for years, not least the late Steve Jobs, but in dropping development of mobile Flash it is Adobe which has quit on its own terms and given the format its biggest boost to date. It is an execution Adobe has been quietly planning for some time. It began trialling a Flash-to-HTML5 converter in March and it has given its three million developers an ongoing bread line by enabling Flash, in its own words, "to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores."

By killing Flash and putting its backing behind HTML5, Adobe is also effectively killing other proprietary multimedia platforms and Microsoft Silverlight is seemingly next for the chop. Oh the irony: the purveyor of proprietary formats voluntarily ceding its position to open source and in the process dooming all others with the same mentality. Of course Adobe itself will be fine. In its Q3 financial results announced in September operating margins were nearly 30 per cent, annual revenue growth up 10 per cent and annual earnings up 20 per cent.


"Our industry is in the midst of a major transformation," said Adobe CEO and President Shantanu Narayen on announcing the figures. "We are aligning around two large initiatives: Content Authoring and Digital Marketing. Each of these opportunities offers significant growth potential, and Adobe is well-positioned to be the market leader in both." This doesn't even take into account Photoshop and its latest jaw dropping innovations.

All of which means we should be thanking Adobe and Flash for both past and present. Firstly Flash for taking web development out of the dark ages – the rich pages you enjoy now owe it a huge debt, regardless of how they were coded. Secondly to Adobe for not holding on until the bitter end, despite paying $3.4bn for the technology, and allowing the open, predominant markup language for the web to once again take centre stage.

HTML5 the floor is yours. You better not get stage fright…


November 12, 2011, 6:46 pm

This is one of the best comments I've read on Adobe's announcement. You're quite right - "ave atque vale" is the appropriate response to Flash's obsolescence, not the triumphant "good riddance" that seems to be the blogosphere's general response.

Flash's PR problem, I think, had a lot to do with the fact that the most prominent examples of Flash were the most annoying for users - blinky Flash ads, annoying intros on websites, implementing copyright protection, and so on. The really useful implementations of Flash were mostly behind the scenes - e.g. the flash uploader Gmail used before the input tag began generally supporting multiple files (and before widespread support of HTML5 made drag and drop possible), educational applications and so on. As you've rightly pointed out, Flash was what made interactivity possible, and for every website that had a perfectly needless processor-killing Flash menu, there were (and are) legions of websites that use it to do things that genuinely improved our experience of the web as users.


November 14, 2011, 3:38 am

Many thanks lensmann. You're right. Flash has been a wonderful tool often poorly used. I'm thankful that HTML5 is now ready to replace much of it, but I suspect it won't be long before poor implementation of that also begins and we'll all be franticly searching for the "HTML5 Blocker" for our browsers ;)


November 14, 2011, 7:02 pm

Excellent article, certainly the best on the web on the subject. Well done Adobe on being a proactive company & taking the tough and correct business decision. I love flash, without it the web is a hollow and 2 dimensional place (iPad owners will probably disagree). There's no doubting that its had its day though and it can be immensely frustrating if implemented incorrectly but as you point out, will poor implementation of HTML 5 eventually result in a similar situation in the future?


November 14, 2011, 8:24 pm

I'm not a total Flash hater, @frankyboy might disagree, I just loved winding him up.

But Adobe are totally to blame for the hatred, yes Flash adverts are very annoying and something Adobe is not really responsible for. But what Adobe is responsible for is stopping Flash from hogging CPU, this could have easily been avoided, a badly written Flash App should not have been able to do this.

Here is an example of CPU hog that should not have happened, using a Revo(Atom based PC) as a media box, if I say left a website open with Flash active and then decided to play a Movie it would stutter due to Flash hogging CPU, for a starter Flash isn't even visible so it should have been taking Zero CPU usage, basic optimizations like this would have really helped there case.

Also taking over 2 years to fix security flaws didn't help either, and the only reason I believe they ended up fixing them was because of Jobs remarks.

So far I have not seen HTML5 become a CPU hog, fingers crossed it stays that way and badly written HTML5 websites won't drain Laptop/Smartphone etc battery's within 5 microseconds. :)


November 15, 2011, 3:49 am

A number of these points are very relevant. Of course the obvious response is who - for the last 16 years - has come up with an alternative to do it better? Only now is HTML5 becoming ready for mass adoption.

Also Flash being far more of a system hog than HTML5 hasn't always been true, certainly not until recently: http://www.streaminglearningcenter.com/articles/flash-player-cpu-hog-or-hot-tamale-it-depends-.html


November 15, 2011, 3:02 pm

> alternative to do it better?

Well in 90% cases yes, HTML & CSS, Javascript has been able to do pretty neat things for a while now. I personally see no reason now or in the past that websites required Flash, unless it was a Games/Interactive type website, but even then there was Java. (Yes, ok Java has had it's day to :) , even though it keeps nagging me with updates. )

> Also Flash being far more of a system hog

Please note, that is just a comparison of video playback. Flash of course does a lot more than that.

Ok, I'm now starting to sound super Anti-Flash again. It's not the concept of Flash that bothered me, it certainly had it's place, it's just a shame Adobe didn't spend more time in R&D on it, to sort out all the niggles it had. Your link also pointed out another issue, if you wasn't Windows, support was even worse.

simon jackson

November 17, 2011, 9:49 pm

I'm a software developer by trade, though more in the desktop rather than web space, but i was under the impression HTML 5 doesn't replicate all flash functionality, rather just vector graphics and embedded media playback. You still need java script and CSS 3 to get animations and real interactivity.

I appreciate it's never going to happen, but what i'd really like to see in the web is a single, unified, proper object oriented technology, which replicates the interop/RPC capabilities of CGI as well as the interactivity of "proper" applications by way of a "proper" message loop/event handling. It would be really cool to be able to develop applications which can either execute code locally on local resources, and at the same time seamlessly switch to RPC to pass data to be processed to a server which is them pushed back to a client. I appreciate one can create this impression with asp.net/vb or javascript and CGI, but it'd be nice to have a single standard which did it all. If you like, a proper object oriented web language to replace the old model of marked up text.

Just my two cents!

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