Can Flash be saved?

UPDATE: for a good counterpoint to this blog, see my new post titled “Google +will+ save Flash.”

Let’s go back a few years to when Firefox was just coming on the scene. Remember that? I remember that it didn’t work with a ton of websites. Things like banks, ecommerce sites, and others. Why not? Because those sites were coded specifically for the dominant Internet Explorer back then.

Some people thought Firefox was going to fail because of these broken links. Just like Adobe is trying to say that Apple’s iPad is going to fail because of its own set of broken links.

But just a few years later and have you seen a site that doesn’t work on Firefox? I haven’t.

What happened? Firefox FORCED developers to get on board with the standards-based web.

The same thing is happening now, based on my talks with developers: they are not including Flash in their future web plans any longer.

This has Adobe freaked out. Big time.

So, can Adobe save Flash? No.

But Google can.

The thing is, does Google want to? Google has been positioning itself as a company that supports the open web. It doesn’t like opaque boxes that aren’t friendly to the web. Google has been putting a lot of support behind HTML 5, for instance, and just a couple of weeks ago added support for HTML 5 to YouTube, which takes away a big chunk of Adobe’s argument (I bet Hulu and other players will soon jump onto the HTML 5 bandwagon, or, at minimum, will support the iPad/iPhone video streaming technologies. Even Ustream.tv has an iPhone app now that works fine with streaming video).

Google is widely seen as the only company right now that is challenging Apple at all (and even then, Google’s Android is clearly #2 in the race and doesn’t look like it will be able to challenge iPhone/iPad this year). After playing a bunch of great games on the iPhone, I don’t agree with the claims that Flash is needed anymore. If Adobe is losing people like me and the developers that decide the future of the web, they are in big trouble.

Could Nokia help Adobe out? No. The web elite don’t have Nokia phones and don’t care about Nokia.

Could Microsoft help Adobe out? Well, unless the Xbox all of a sudden supported Flash in some major and cool way, I don’t see Microsoft support mattering at all to the Web elite. And Microsoft is pushing its own Flash copy, Silverlight, which NBC is using for the Winter Olympics and RedBull is using for its Stratos event (it is expecting five million to watch a guy skyjump from 120,000 feet for the world record).

Could RIM help Adobe out? No, because its customers can’t use the web browser so it won’t be able to convince developers or consumers that it is a web leader.

Is there some way for Adobe to convince Apple that Flash matters? No. Adobe had three years to do that and has failed. That said, Adobe has invited press to its headquarters in the next few weeks to see its new platform and my friends who are using it say it’s pretty nice. Uses very little memory and is friendly on batteries.

So, Adobe’s best hope is to get Android to support Flash and Adobe’s best hope is that developers ignore the iPad and ignore the iPhone, or, at least, build better experiences on the Android and Google Chrome platforms that include Flash.

Well, it has one other thing it could do: it could come out with a set of developer tools that lets you build apps for the iPhone and iPad but that also let you deploy even better features to Android and other platforms.

The thing is, I bet those broken links start disappearing by summertime, so Adobe’s window to keep Flash relevant is closing quickly.

How about you? Can Flash be saved?

Adobe better have a great story to tell at SXSWi, because that’s where a lot of the Web elite gather each year. That means Adobe has six weeks to get an answer together for why Flash is relevant.

Can it do it? Can Flash be saved?

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

260 thoughts on “Can Flash be saved?

  1. Actually, Maemo 5 does support full online Flash, for gaming for example. So I guess i some way Nokia are supporting Flash

  2. If Scoble were more educated on the actual technology and terminology, he'd be a lot more convincing.

    I'm not even a Flash fan boy, but I do like facts (correct facts), and I find Scoble's comments full of incorrect information, statements and comparisons…

    Too bad really… I was hoping this blogger was more informed. There are many other bloggers on both sides that actually know what they're talking about.

    Scoble's just one of those over excited technocrat's…

    Study the tech dude, you'll sound a lot more convincing… if you even care about that.

  3. Well, Microsoft can pay companies to use their software. And I'm sure that's what they're doing with silverlight… It's not hard to get companies to adopt your software when you can pay them to do so, regardless of whether or not the software is any good.

  4. Actually, Maemo 5 does support full online Flash, for gaming for example. So I guess i some way Nokia are supporting Flash

  5. If Scoble were more educated on the actual technology and terminology, he'd be a lot more convincing.

    I'm not even a Flash fan boy, but I do like facts (correct facts), and I find Scoble's comments full of incorrect information, statements and comparisons…

    Too bad really… I was hoping this blogger was more informed. There are many other bloggers on both sides that actually know what they're talking about.

    Scoble's just one of those over excited technocrat's…

    Study the tech dude, you'll sound a lot more convincing… if you even care about that.

  6. Well, Microsoft can pay companies to use their software. And I'm sure that's what they're doing with silverlight… It's not hard to get companies to adopt your software when you can pay them to do so, regardless of whether or not the software is any good.

  7. Actually, there's something called ClickToFlash, not only does it block those annoying flash ads, it also has the ability to play HTML5 videos, which is the default setting, so there's no annoying ads by Google.

  8. A minor and tangential point: calling Silverlight a “Flash copy” is either extremely sloppy or extremely ignorant (worse than the way the Register constantly refers to it as a “media player”).

  9. “it is badly written code, it facilitates laziness in coders”

    Actually, this is only true for older versions of Actionscript. AS3 forces well-written code. If you like, I can show you examples of my squeaky-clean As3 classes :)

  10. 99% of the comments here seem to be very uninformed, fanboy nonsense, or completely shortsighted. What are we talking about when we are saying “Flash” here? The IDE? The Actionscript programming language? The browser plugin?

    Let's look at one piece at a time. The IDE and Actionscript language will live on. Actionscript is a completely mature language, and there are tons of Flash and Flex projects that are developed for uses other than on the web, even including the dashboard for Jaguar and Tesla cars. CS5 will even let you compile Flash projects into apps that can run on iPhone/iPad. There will be a market for this type of development for a long, long time to come.

    So, what we're really talking about is the browser plugin, right? Well, in all honesty, and as a full time Flash developer myself, who really cares about a plugin? I develop for Flash because I enjoy the workflow and love the results, not because I am a fan of a plugin. Only thing was, up to this point you couldn't see the results on the web without the plugin.

    Adobe has stated themselves that they don't prefer to create and maintain their own runtimes. It is much easier and more profitable for them to simply provide tools that allow people to create standardized files. So they will definitely be creating a tool to create HTML5 animations and applications, and what better than the Flash IDE? The new Flash source files starting with CS5 will be XML based, and the assets will be in folders instead of embedded in the .fla file, so Adobe is already paving the way for the Flash IDE to be a universal rich media creation tool, whether the output is .swf, HTML5, desktop APP (AIR), or Apple App

  11. Hahahahaha, funny .

    Everybody think that Flash will lose to HTML 5, so everybody is think about Flash as a plug in to browser. Our company has been using Flash since 1998 for Digital Signage Project, Multimedia project and eKiosk. And it's fine till now (we just use Windows and Linux for development, we don't need Mac and never will). We use DirectX and OpenGL as a holder for flash display.

    Today, I also doing some research about Silverlight too. Maybe in next years we will develop project based on Silverlight in addition to Flash.

    It's funny, when anybody talk about Flash/Silverlight killer, maybe you can change your title into, Flash/Silverlight plug-in killer (wannabe).

    Now, let's we think about using HTML 5 as a replacement for Multimedia, Multitouch/gesture, 3D animation, Virtual Reality project. Are you kidding me ?

  12. At the end of the day, Flash will be confined “up market” to the portion of experiences on the web that only it can enable. Technologies like Html5, Canvas, etc. will take over for a majority of the less intensive things that they and Flash can do equally well.

  13. There are a couple of simple straightforward reasons why Apple is not allowing Flash on iPhone/iPad or wherever iTunes App store exists:

    - Apps developed on Flash could be delivered directly though web without going through Apple's store and give them a 30% cut

    - If the apps were developed in Flash they could easily be put on Android and other platforms and would not give the edge that iPhone currently has in terms of number of apps on iPhone vs the Android Platform which is currently 100 : 1 .. if Flash could be used to develop that ratio would be significantly decreased.

    I am surprized all these people buy into Steve Jobs bashing and dont see the real reason behind not allowing any platform on iPhone, which is not just Flash but also Silverlight and Java.. .Why arent we talking about Java or Silverlight not being on iPhone? Are they buggy as well? No.. they open iPhone to other developers and designers and not just to XCode/Objective C developers who Apple could control

    1. Great post! Yes… exactly why isn’t Apple allowing Silverlight on the iPhone either? You are correct. It’s never been about performance or crashes it’s all about money for their iPhone store.

      This year Apple is going to see the tables getting turned when the majority of cell phones have Flash players running and iPhone will just be the odd cell out.

  14. No! I don't want no stinking Flash on my phone, let alone a browser. It borks it far to often for my liking and causes crashes. Good riddance to it, is my view.

    One of the main reasons I bought an iPhone was to have a Flash free experience.

    I see more and more companies starting to develop mobile versions of their website without Flash, which is great as I now do most of my surfing in the iPhone. The future will be in HTML5 not Flash.

    1. The main reason that Flash is not on the iPhone is because Apple wants to control the direction of the mobile Web with its own greed. They don’t want Flash on the iPhone because if they did, they know that free Flash applications and games would be all over the Web for people to access freely on the iPhone. This would greatly reduce and hurt the iPhone app. store sales and Apple knows it.

      To further confirm the idea of Apple’s greed. They claim Flash is bad, but yet already and publicly this April they ARE going to allow apps. and games built in Flash to be sold for the iPhone ONLY through the Apple store so they can get their 30% or so cut from each sale. Yes, it’s true, apps and games built in Flash WILL be available for iPhone purchase in the next few months!

      It’s like this… Apple hates free Flash games and applications, but they LOVE apps and games built in Flash going through their iPhone store when they can make money off of each sale. Starting to get the picture now..?

      Apple is a Steve Jobs-dictatorship not a democracy. They could have easily allowed Flash on the iPhone, but had it switched off as a default and allowed the people that WANT Flash to use Flash. In other words they could have allowed iPhone users a choice, but allowing people the freedom of choice is not what Apple is about. And case in-point… now they are pushing their new iPad tablet, which yet again they will not allow people the choice to switch Flash on or off. A lot of people love Flash and want it, but will Apple give those people that choice? No. The lack of not being able to view Flash on the mobile Web is the primary reason I haven’t purchased an iPhone (and AT&T’s iPhone problems with dropped calls and lack-luster iPhone data support too).

      In the next few months Blackberrys, Palms, Androids and almost every major cell device will have a Flash player, so I will wait for one of those instead. By 2011 it is very likely that iPhone and iPad will be the only devices without a Flash player.

  15. I'd argue you'd be hard pressed to create Aviary in js/html at a reasonable cost and performance. JS simply is not up to some things that compiled swf bytecode can do.

  16. If it were any other device, by any other manufacture, no one would care. Apple, however, has successfully equated its products with “the future.” Modernity and “the future” have been key drivers of the American economy for the better part of a century. Because we accept this aspect of Apple’s branding whole heartedly, without deeper reflection, it’s no wonder that we are so quick to exclude Flash from the future when it is excluded from the iPad.

  17. I will buy the tablet that best supports Flash.

    I need flash support, it’s as simple as that, even thou I’m usually a loyal apple fanboy.

  18. Yeah, it has crossed my mind. But those are the least profitable devices and won't be the fastest growing category of phones from now on. So, if Nokia bases its business on people who don't want to join the modern world it sure won't be an interesting business, will it?

  19. erhm.. Has it ever crossed your mind that most crap Nokia users use there 'device' primarily for making phone calls? And therefore don't give a **** about using it in any other way?

  20. I would like to know where and how I can find those web elite that you have been referring to.
    They seem like some mythical creatures beyond my comprehension.
    Are there some kind of cocktail-circuits around the world where member elites can flash their latest gears??
    I have an objection to your narrow view of what is and isn't web. And I have an objection to your illogical arguments that IPhone/IPad/IMaxiPad are the only decent devices for surfing the internet. I'm just as happy surfing the net with my good old cheap assembled PC.
    It doesn't restict what I access or what I install.
    Anyone proclaiming Flash is dead or will die in a few months or a year or two, due to lack of support for it in apple's products, is either delusional or is apple-washed, I meant steve-jobs-washed, I meant overzealous apple fanboy, who'll proclaim anything steve proclaim.

  21. As a long-time Netflix subscriber, I'd like to add that their rate-adaptive streaming through Siverlight does indeed work (I've used it successfully in WiMAX situations). Granted it had its hiccups when first starting, but after streaming hours and hours of content on Netflix while on the road, I can say it works.

  22. Re: colin

    Truth be told, your post is full of lies. You have no idea what you are talking about! Go write fiction stories or something and get out of the way of real web developers! HTML 5 is a feature-limited little joke.

  23. Apple is clearly a closed off dictatorship, whereas Adobe is an open source democracy. Ungrateful Apple owes its existence to the innovative graphical software that Adobe has produced over the years. Apple was just lucky with the iPhone, but won't be so lucky in the future. The new iPad is just a sadly over-priced kid's toy.

      1. Yeah, let me know when you get your new iPad so I can give you some animal crackers and a baby pacifier to go with it!

  24. If I was to use your analogy, no, the Apple faithful are not the open mouthed gaping faithful, you are. Every site will be some homologous “Flash” site with everything done in Flash, navigation, content, applications. Truth be told, Flash is crud. You know it, every web developer worth their salt knows it. If they are lazy Uni students writing web pages they will code it in Flash. Everyone else does the right thing and codes their pages accordingly.

    You, however, will continue to write code in the carbuncle that is the infection on every part of the Internet – Flash. May you be consumed in the circle of fire that is reserved for you in hell. That being the place reserved for Flash developers.

  25. Remember the “1984″ ad that pitted Apple as freedom and creativity (the girl in red shorts) vs. IBM – the oppressive controlling Big Brother presence.

    Apple is undeniably the new Big Brother, controlling everything from which apps you can download to whether or not you need Flash – a de facto Web Standard.

    Apple Fanboys – you're the mindless drones watching the presentation – in case you don't recognize yourselves.

  26. Nicholas – your argument is flawed on so many levels. If Flash was to be the saviour of the web as so many, including yourself profess, why are there applications and plugins out on the net to actually disable flash plug-ins on web sites. I use such an application to just deny flash being played on a web site to conserve CPU and memory resources. I performed an independent test – one machine with flash enabled and one with flash disabled. With flash enabled my laptop was driven to 100% on both CPU's.

    Flash is a resource hog – it is badly written code, it facilitates laziness in coders and is the scourge of the HTML industry. The quicker it dies a natural death the better. I navigate away from Flash only websites as a matter of course. Yes, Flash makes sites lovely and nice, but it also makes it a pain to use.

    Apple's stance on not supporting Flash is a good one – if they clean their stuff up and make it kind to the resources that run this stuff, the sooner the better. Until then, off your flash embedded soapbox – before it crashed with an out of memory exception.

  27. It *is* Adobe's fault in part for making a plug-in that can hog upto 50% of your CPU just to have some moving graphics in a banner/skyscraper. If they made it more efficient, that would certainly help their chances.

  28. It *is* Adobe's fault in part for making a plug-in that can hog upto 50% of your CPU just to have some moving graphics in a banner/skyscraper. If they made it more efficient, that would certainly help their chances.

  29. Silverlight video streaming is apparently better because it has rate-adaptive streaming – i.e. doesn't just freeze if there's a bandwidth problem, the quality of the video just downgrades. Like RealVideo used to do – anyone remember Real Media?!

  30. HTML 5 is very over hyped. The only thing it can really do is replace static video… wow, big deal. It is not INTERACTIVE. HTML 5 is very limited in what is can do. Replacing a static video is a very small portion of the interactive pie. Flash has had the ability to play video for years and HTML5 is just now trying to catch up to the basics of that simple task.

    Apple is hardly innovative. The iPhone is popular now, but it may not be so popular in the future especially with AT&T services not getting better. The new iPad is very archaic compared to modern devices. Apple is getting ready to get their puffed up pride knocked down a few clicks.

  31. Hi Roy,

    Just to add some more thoughts on top of what you pointed out.

    And before that, Mr.Scoble, with due respect, you’re just flamebaiting for trolls with your thoughts posted on this entry.

    Yes, HTML5 is relevant, fast and is the future, but Flash has its stand that Adobe need to wake up and patch up all these loop holes. Alright, let’s step back, say if all of you wants Flash to die, sure, look at what Flash Platform does to the entire creative industry (except web), what will replace that? You want to launch firefox for a kiosk to work?

    I do agree that there is absolutely not much of a versatile choice to choose from, except Flash being the bridge between a designer, a design-develop-er, and developer. Which at least when used right, it doesn’t rape your thoughts mentally and of course, your CPU resources.

    It is all like 10 years ago again, when everyone is discussing the relevancy of Macromedia Director, where Flash is reigning. True, Director was “phased-out” silently from the market where most of the offline-interactive products are made out of Flash. And out of that, there’s definitely a lot of half-a**ed and non-standard compliant one.

    But the same question does apply, you kill Flash, find a replacement, or everyone dies the next day.
    It’s the same metaphor as you use a plastic bag (Flash_ vs. a recyclable bag (HTML5). It will be a never-ending questioning where will this lead to, I doubt at this point you will see HTML5 mature to a point where you will be able to “effectively” build Farmville-like game in a realistic time. In the end it’s still business.

    M$ is like some preachy wannabe hip hop dancer steps into the game looking for some market share pie (look silverlight / bing). Adobe mindlessly bloating their softwares with a lot of features where you doesn’t really need to use (look, newer version, longer to load). Apple on the other hand starts to become what it’s like during their early era. (what ipod you want? we have a, b, c , d, e and you can…listen to music!)

    It has become so apparent that Flash haters and flash-blockers are bubbling just almost everywhere because it feels like during the DHTML days, you see flashing javascript background. All these kind of people should be penalized and fired right away. And the reason why the Apple-experience is better is due to their draconian quality-check standards. Yes, there are a lot of crappy apps, but as long you code/make it the way it should be, you may pass. And that is why there isn’t a breakdown in the experience of using Safari in iPhone. I’d feel Adobe is desperate trying to get into the Apple userbase, but it isn’t going anywhere until there is some unbelievable dictatorism-type of quality check for every Flash made. (And that isn’t going to be realistic :) )

    Thumbs up to the commenter above that coined the perfect summary for all these, “It’s the result that matter, people does not care it’s Bing, Bong, Bung, or Whatever as long as it gets the work done”

    HTML 5 will power the web (partially?). Period.
    Flash lives. Period.

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