The Curious Life of Flash

Flash has always been the kind of bastard child of the media world. Some people love it, some people absolutely hate it. It flirts between being a programmer-heavy application and something that can make internet motion-graphics worthy of awe. Flash also is usually one of the most insecure programs on the Internet and can easily lock up and crash without much warning. It is a fickle child born from Macromedia and eventually loved more by Adobe.

But even with the strengths that Flash has, many companies would rather not use it or even deal with it if possible. Apple has been staunchly against the use of Flash, even going so far as to completely denounce Flash in an open letter saying that it is not compatible with the future of technology like touch devices and operating on open principles. Even with this major obstacle, Flash has still marched forward. Whether it was posturing on Adobe’s part or Apple’s giving in to their user-base, Apple finally has relented to allow some flash on to the platform. Even though it is just movies, this is a big step for Adobe. As we all know from working with flash, you could make a game inside a movie clip… :)

Regardless of Apple giving in, it is interesting that now Microsoft, who has been a big lover of Flash, is opting out of the use of Flash in Windows 8. The current release clients of Windows 8 feature the Metro UI as the principle way to navigate on the computer. The Metro UI has Internet Explorer built-in (which could be the subject of other rants from me) but it will not be able to run any kind of plug-ins. For Flash to run on IE, you have to have the plug-in installed. To run Flash, users will have to switch to the Desktop UI to be able to view anything with Flash. Well, this seems rather backward, don’t you think? It is also interesting that Microsoft who has generally not hated Flash has now decided to throw it by the wayside the instant Apple gives a bit of room for Flash to grow on the iOS platform.

So really, what does this all come down to? Is it just developers being stubborn and OS developers wanting you to use their tools and nobody else’s? Is it Adobe just holding onto antiquated software? I think it is a combination of all of these. Adobe and Apple have both been known to force people into corners with their technology and software (FCP X not being compatible with anything but the newest version of Motion, Adobe makes it hard to transfer a key from computer to computer or OS to OS). Flash very well could be outmoded by HTML5 and CSS3 but really only time will tell. Completely abandoning something that is flawed but works is never a good call. NASA spent thousands of dollars to invent a pen that could be used in space whereas the Soviets used pencils.

The same time and effort that is being spent on saying HTML5 and CSS3 is great still hasn’t come to any fruition. Yes it all looks great but there still isn’t the official standard. There still is not full compatibility with them. I am not saying we should not start learning HTML5 and CSS3 but we should also not stop learning Flash. HTML5 and CSS3 have yet to really prove themselves and show that they are on the whole better than Flash. I am sure within days of HTML5 becoming standard, someone will be able to break it. That is just how the internet works. The security argument with Flash can be made with anything so that is moot.

So why are we in such a big hurry to rid ourselves of Flash? It works. It functions. It does what we need it to do. It is kind of like that Ford truck from the 50′s that your grandfather has. If you keep it well maintained, it will keep running until the world runs out of oil. I doubt that Flash will ever truly die unless Adobe lets it die. If you ask me, Flash should still evolve with HTML5 and CSS3 to become competitive. Flash should be a tool in everyone’s web tool box. Whether or not I get out that particular hammer for every job is a different than having it for when I need it or would rather work with it.



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