Flash better not be dead

Flash better not be dead

Summary: If rich internet applications have to start relying on HTML5 anytime soon, then a whole lot of educational content just became toast.

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TOPICS: Apps, Browser, PCs
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And not just because my day job is with a company that sells a Flash-based virtual classroom. Literally thousands of educational applications rely on Flash for rich interactivity that HTML5 simply can't match.

Jason Perlow (among other ZDNet writers) called out Adobe's announcement that it was ending development of Flash for mobile devices. Fortunately, this hardly translates to Flash's death. In fact, Flash on mobile has always been kludgy with native apps and Air applications providing a far better experience, in no small part due to the size of the screens involved.

Adobe hardly announced that it was killing off Flash altogether. They have deep investments in desktop Flash, as do countless developers who rely on the ease of development and incredibly rich feature set to achieve browser-based applications that can't be had any other way. Java has some traction here, but fragmentation of plugins and configuration issues mean that IT staff (especially overworked, underpaid staff in schools) don't relish Java software. And HTML5 is getting better quickly,

But as Adobe wrote in their official announcement this morning,

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...These changes will allow us to increase investment in HTML5 and innovate with Flash where it can have most impact for the industry, including advanced gaming [author's note: Including educational applications, games, and content] and premium video. Flash Player 11 for PC browsers just introduced dozens of new features, including hardware accelerated 3D graphics for console-quality gaming and premium HD video with content protection. Flash developers can take advantage of these features...to reach more than a billion PCs through their browsers and to package native apps with AIR that run on hundreds of millions of mobile devices through all the popular app stores

I have to say, I'm not terribly worried here about the future of Flash. Adobe's own tools make porting code written in Flex to Flash, Air, and native apps fairly straightforward. Tools to port to HTML5 are also emerging from Adobe. There is clearly going to be a slow evolution towards platforms that are universally supported across browsers, but to say that Flash is dead is like saying that mobile apps are dead because Adobe is moving to support HTML5 better.

Adobe is advancing an ecosystem of tools and platforms that talk nicely to each other and allow for parallel development, using, as it says, the capabilities of "HTML5 and Flash [which,]...together...offer developers and content publishers great options for delivering compelling web and application experiences across PCs and devices."

Is there marketing spin here? Of course there is. Adobe has invested a lot of capital (monetary, political, marketing, and otherwise) in mobile Flash and they didn't exactly come out and say they miscalculated. That being said, we're still a long ways from an HTML5 that can replicate the functionality of Flash.

I've already seen a fair amount of panic on various ed tech and web development listservs over the demise of Flash. There is plenty of time to take a deep breath, keep our eyes on developments in both platforms, and leverage existing work to ensure that educators continue to be able to use cutting edge web-based tools with Adobe underpinnings, regardless of the devices on which their students learn.

Also read:

Flash is dead. Long live HTML5. Adobe ceases development on mobile browser Flash, refocuses efforts on HTML5

Topics: Apps, Browser, PCs

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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31 comments
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  • RE: Flash better not be dead

    Hi Chris, Problem is that educators want the same rich media they use on the desktop to work on the flood of Student Owned Devices that are in the schools now. Flash is no longer an option then and we are using ways to develop content without it as well as redoing stuff that is currently Flash based. Some stuff will never be able to be converted but we have had lots of success with drag and drop sort of things and of course video using HTML and javascript.

    Authoring tools for HTML 5 are getting better with products like Adobe Edge.

    No Flash may be a hard pill to swallow right now but it is and has been a reality for a while and the sooner we start using plugin-less alternatives the better. The vast majority of SODs in schools do not support Flash.
    CowLauncher
    • They Don't?

      @CowLauncher <br><br>Strange - the majority of the "educational" tools I have seen my kids use in school the last couple of years involves Flash....<br><br>What are you seeing I am not?
      rhonin
      • RE: Flash better not be dead

        @rhonin we are talking SODs here. Mobile technology kids are bringing to school. In one of our large jurisdictions SOD network traffic doubled that of school workstations! Over 5000 connected users a day were from SODs.
        CowLauncher
    • RE: Flash better not be dead

      @CowLauncher I agree 100%. Our entire household has iPads. My wife can do 90% of her school work on her iPad now without flash. There are a few things that she has to use the desktop for. Same for my son (who's 8). Hopefully education institutions will make the transition.
      VincenttheITguy
      • RE: Flash better not be dead

        @vegeyman9 yeah, but you just indicated how you and your family are outside of the mainstream. iPads are not mainstream and with Android already overtaking Apple iOS. Apple did not not lose it's marketshare but it didn't grow either. While Android is rocketing. You are also missing the fact of Adobe Air on iPads. So you may or may not be aware of what Adobe is bringing to your experience nor whether or not the Apps were developed by Flash. You simply don't have the 'Flash Player' which is different that Flash. Flash is a platform for which the Flash Player supports.
        michaelalaggia
    • RE: Flash better not be dead

      @CowLauncher

      Unlike the theorists here, I actualy produce interactive eLearning and have done for over 25 years. A few years ago, we moved our Windows only eLearning player to HTML/Javascript and since our eLearning uses synchronised voice-over and video we need a means to support it on the Web. Now I can use WMP even on the Mac with the appropriate add-ons but only 2 technologies promised the broadest support - Flash and HTML 5.

      We have duplicated the Windows only functionality of our eLearning on the Web which includes all the interactions we were using on the desktop. There is now no difference beween our native code eLearning and the web-based stuff and the WYSIWYG development system (written in .Net - I'm not crazy) will publish to either.

      The only thing I need Flash and HTML 5 for is to play audio and video - mp3 and mp 4 files. All other functionality can be handled by HTML/Javascript/CSS. Of course our modules detect which is available (and the HTML 5 is full) and use either HTML 5 or Flash as appropriate.

      Our modules currently run on all platforms with the exception of iOS which has not implemented full HTML 5 - specifically the use of autoplay for audo and video. To make a module run correctly on Apple devices I need to wrap it in an Apple web shell to remove these restrictions - however, then the product can only be sold from the Apple store.

      Can HTML 5 replace Flash? - Well for my purposes, they are identical and until every browser on every device offers full HTML 5 then I'll keep supporting it. However, I do think Flash will be replaced eventually.
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: Flash better not be dead

        @tonymcs@... Sounds like you guys know what you're doing. My company has a lot of in-house developed training in Flash, which breaks quite frequently when new versions of Flash come out. All of this is a moving target. A supported browser today is not supported tomorrow. IOS5 and Android will leapfrog each other. Meanwhile you've got training to deliver. Adapt or die!
        JoeFoerster
  • If the future of computing is mobile?

    <i>"Fortunately, this hardly translates to Flashs death."</i><br><br>I think it does translate to Flash's demise. At this point, it would be wise to start thinking about a transition plan.
    Bruizer
    • RE: Flash better not be dead

      @Bruizer Thing is Flash isn't just a delivery system, it is also a development system too. The development part isn't going away, what Adobe are doing is making the familiar Flash development environment produce HTML5 rather than Flash byte code. So really this shouldn't be too much of a problem. It might well be for somethings it's a case of recreating the deployment assets from the existing development assets.

      But are Flash's days numbered? Yes, as a deployment technology - I'm not sure this has to equate to the death of Flash development.
      jeremychappell
  • RE: Flash better not be dead

    Shrug, new tech always leaves someone behind.
    NoAxToGrind
  • RE: Flash better not be dead

    Have your employers starting thinking about a post-Flash world? Because it didn't end today, but tomorrow? Adobe might give up. After all, their stake is that people buy Flash authoring tools and server software and if the web designers change because of fashion or good-enough-disruptions, Adobe is going to follow them. Adobe might sell it to someone else. Adobe might be bought. OS vendors may agree on an api to duplicate Flash functionality which allows them to control, via implementation, the experience and the security. (I know, that's an unlikely one because it sounds like Java Applets II: This Time It's Personal.) Take a look at what Google wants to do with NaCl.

    Flash is a versatile and useful tool and it made complete sense to develop in that environment, but if your business relies on it being there forever, I think it's clear that, to borrow a phrase from a popular business book, the cheese could be moving.
    DannyO_0x98
  • RE: Flash better not be dead

    Adobe has announced that they are not supporting mobile. By doing so they have ignored the future platforms of choice. It is my belief that investing more into supporting Flash would be foolish.

    In 2011, 364 million personal computers will be sold, says Gartner. Importantly, 468 million smartphones and 63.6 million tablets will be sold. The trend for sales of these portable systems skyrocket into 2015. To ignore this installed base is to ignore the future.

    Educational software developers need to think strategically and support trends in technology. Too often there is an 'ostrich mentality' because it is "educational software" being developed. Our kids can't afford to have their heads in the sand and the devs need to look to the future to keep their businesses above the ground.
    @...
    • RE: Flash better not be dead

      @@fredsko

      They bough Phonegap. The writing was on the wall.
      monteslu
  • RE: Flash better not be dead

    Hey Chris,

    You've provided no technical details on what you think makes Flash so much better than HTML5.

    Just the tooling?
    monteslu
    • RE: Flash better not be dead

      @monteslu - if not the tooling, then simply the back catalog of already-created content. It all needs to be re-authored if it's to be brought into HTML5-land.
      JustSomeGuy3
      • RE: Flash better not be dead

        @JustSomeGuy3

        I don't think it will need full re-authoring. Just some porting. If Adobe is smart, they'll do some automation.

        There's already some HTML5 swf interpreters showing promise.
        monteslu
    • RE: Flash better not be dead

      @monteslu
      Well no, not just the tooling. Flash code is far more complete than HTML 5. Also HTML 5 is quite inconsistent. Not only because it packs different languages (CSS, Javascript,...) but alse because it collects instructions and practices inherited from various browsers (some code comes from chrome, but other (drag&drop) comes from IE). you obviously should document yourself. On Flash and also on HTML 5.
      JB5645
      • RE: Flash better not be dead

        @JB5645

        That's still almost nothing specific. More complete? What technically? Give me an objective piece of functionality that flash does that HTML5 doesn't.

        Dragenter,dragover,dragleave, and drop events are all part of the spec and work on Firefox and Webkit based browsers. IE not implementing them is a problem with IE, not HTML5. Use Chrome Frame for functionality not implemented in IE yet.
        monteslu
      • RE: Flash better not be dead

        @JB5645 hahaha i am glad no more learning complicated flash development. sick tired learning new flash coding.
        ipadsucks
    • RE: Flash better not be dead

      @monteslu
      For instance, the Flash 3d library (not even the new stage3d). The old one, available since Flash 9.

      Your argument is silly. Even the books on HTML 5 aknowledge that it is far from Flash. Common, start learning. Go buy The missing manual : HTML5 (for instance).

      By the way: do you know why Youtube is still in Flash, even on Chrome : obviously because HTML 5 does not offer the same performance, functionality and/or functionalities.
      JB5645