The Death of Flash

by Egatz

The bones of Steve Jobs continue their easy rest, especially since November, when Adobe capitulated by announcing the end of mobile browser Flash development. Not only that, but they have moved their focus onto HTML5, something they should have embraced a long time ago.

Sure, we’ve bitched about Flash for years, but there was a time when we here at The Egatz Epitaph praised it as a comprehensive animation tool in the mid- to late-nineties. Back then, if you wanted animation, you could either learn to program in Java or wave your fingers in front of someone’s monitor in pantomime. Javascript was another option. Anyone else remember Director and Shockwave files? The field was limited for mortals and/or professionals interested in other things to deploy on the Web, like writing and designing.

I remember sitting at a MacWorld convention in Boston and some corporate tool was showing Flash animation running in real time. It looked great for vector-based animation, and the development was easy. No programming. It was like the difference between choosing a Mac in 1984 or opting to use MS-DOS and its command-line interface. You needed your head examined to stick with Microsoft and the green all-caps text on black. Adobe, you saved us!

Those years are long gone. Flash was the the main horse Adobe bet on to deliver rich content via the Internet for many years. Far too many years. Flash is so processor-intensive there’s no practical use for it on a mobile device, especially if you care about battery life or burning your hand.

In their mea culpa, Adobe wrote to ZDnet:

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. 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.

We can’t get too crazy on Adobe for backing the wrong horse, or, more accurately, a good horse for far too long. We all do this now and then. They inherited Flash from Macromedia, and it was one of the few things of value they got when they gobbled up their only competitor.

The lesson to learn here is being able to learn from bad decisions. It’s like knowing when you should’ve stepped away from a relationship when all you were hanging on to was your own desperation. The fine engineers at Adobe—and not the multitude of managers—will hopefully now turn toward HTLM5 and make something incredible. That is, if management will let them.

It’ll be particularly interesting to see what happens to video development on the Web via HTML5 now that people won’t be tempted to jam their video into some Flash-wrapped delivery mechanism—a Rube Goldberg-type arrangement Flash was never intended to do.

Although the future is ripe with possibilities, things are not great at Adobe. With stock prices still in the toilet not helped by throwing 750 people out of work, let’s hope the company gets innovative again, creating tools, clients, and browser plug-ins worthy of their corporate origins, such as the days when PostScript technology helped spark the desktop publishing revolution of the late-eighties. Let’s hope they kill desktop Flash quickly, and offer us new development tools to get excited about again.