Flash Hatred Seems Very Unfortunate

Lately it seems as if the whole tech world has gone anti-Flash and I really don’t think it wise.  Apple is leading the charge and plenty of users seem to be following.  But why?  Flash used to be pretty well accepted and the ability to create Flash apps and code ActionScript used to be pretty well coveted.

From my perspective, doing some light Googling and talking with my tech coworkers and friends, it all started after Adobe bought Macromedia.  Once Adobe held the reigns of Flash, the subsequent version of the Flash player didn’t perform well under MacOS.  Apple users quickly began hating Flash implementations because they ran slowly and hogged their system’s resources.  I would probably hate that too, but since I don’t own a Mac, I really don’t care.  Linux has had a fair share of difficulties running Flash, but those have largely been taken care of now.

It didn’t help Flash’s case that so many developers were using it to create some of the most annoying ads ever conceived.  The stupid dancing silhouettes and pre-animated renderings that became the inexplicable staple of a certain debt management company were some of the worst ads ever inflicted upon mankind.  You can get around them with simple ad-blocking plugins for the prominent browsers, so I really don’t see why I should care about these either.

Plugin development didn’t stop at ad-blocking though.  It has extended into Flash blocking plugins that only allow the Flash object to run once the user has clicked on its region of the page, thereby acknowledging that it is OK to run this Flash app.  Since major sites such as YouTube, Hulu, Shacknews, IGN, and many others that I frequent based their core content on Flash video streaming and user interface, I just don’t see the point in having to make an extra mouse click for each piece of content I want to see.  So again, I just don’t care to deal with this.

For most of its life, Flash had little competition.  Its primary original competitor was Shockwave, which just happened to also be developed by Macromedia.  Things have changed though in recent years with the advent of several alternatives:

1.  Microsoft Silverlight is a direct rival and has the advantage of letting .Net developers make use of it without having to learn a new language. (Flash –> ActionScript ; Silverlight –> All .Net languages)

2.  The rise of sophisticated UI-centric JavaScript libraries, such as jQuery and many others has removed the need for the dynamic controls that Flash traditionally provided.

3.  JavaFX is another competitor released in the last couple of years by Sun.  Its goal is to provide a Java based alternative to Flash and Silverlight.

4.  HTML 5 is on the rise and will be replacing many of the video streaming Flash apps.  YouTube is currently beta testing the HTML 5 version of their site and player.  It’s pretty nice actually.

But the worst blow Flash has been dealt is from Apple.  The iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad all prohibit Flash from running.  This is partially to ensure that native applications running on the iPhone are governed by the App Store nazis.  The result though is that there are now millions of people browsing the web that can not run Flash. 

Web developers have had to create mobile versions of their sites so that non-Flash-enabled phones can still make use of their functionality.  As more and more sites lean away from Flash and toward alternatives, such as the soon-to-be prevalent HTML 5, the need for Flash and Flash developers will continue to dwindle.

I actually am very disappointed by this.  Through the years, I’ve played with several versions of Flash, although I’ve never deployed any of my work to production web.  Well, a few tests here and there, but nothing that ever made me or my company any money.  But I enjoyed it; I enjoyed the simple but deep language of ActionScript, only lamenting that the code seemed to be distributed in all sorts of corners of my app on the timeline.  Calling web services couldn’t be simpler and Flash doesn’t force you into asynchronous calls the way Silverlight does; I like having the option to go either way.

What I see happening is that a company with a well established product that has a history nearly as long as the web itself is being forced into defeat because it didn’t provide an efficient client to another company’s OS.  An OS that has less than 10% of market share

Please comment on this post if you disagree with me, but I can’t help but see this as a shame.

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