Is the ship called “Flash” sinking?

Posted on November 13, 2011

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Flash is now 15 years of age and old news for a long time.

My hopes to build entire websites in Flash lasted until 2005 / 2007. But when still nothing substantial had happened regarding SEO, memory management and performance issues in Flash I gave up. Something had not happened in Flash that I had hoped it would. Namely that it would mature into a compatative alternative to plain HTML. That it would become the weapon of choice for richer sites with gorgeous visual story telling (how do you move from “A” to B”?) and rock-solid content rendering.

Adobe and the crisis

I hate to see the results of the communication set out by Adobe in the past week.

People read what they want to read and right now, most people seem to simply read: “The Flash-ship is sinking!”

When filtering out the bottom line from the Adobe posts I read something else. They laid-off 750 people. And laying-off 750 people is not something you do when you are in your peak moment. you lay-off 750 people when your losses are bigger than your profits. Meaning that Adobe might be in a very rough financial weather right now.

And yes: that leads to killing projects as well. Like Flash mobile for browsers.

Between my lines

In the post below, based on a response on Google+ I basically state the following between the lines:

  1. HTML5 will open new interest for interactive content and better experiences. This will eventually rub off in a good way in the direction of Flash. Especially when the HTML5 hype takes place for the HTML5 reality
  2. If you are good in what you are doing, Flash will very likely become your gold mine in the next years. As HTML5 will not be able to deliver everything a Client might want to communicate and Flash will not disappear as an option. If you are available and skilled, your skills will be even more in demand than before
  3. I think Flash might come back with a vengeance. With all the fuzz about HTML5 and the death of Flash, Flash developers who do and did not give up might focus on things that will completely kick HTML5 ass
Flash might also die. Or slowly “phase out”. But that really is too easy thing to say. And honestly a very boring opinion to express as everything ends at a certain point. Including this blog, the sun, this universe and your- and my life.

Building your company on only one technology

Someone on a Google+ stream I hooked into stated yesterday: “I definitely won’t advice anyone to build their business on Flash Platform technologies”

Building a company on just one technology only is smart / only works well when that technology is “new” and “hot” and “wanted” and still in the up-slope movements of the hype. After the peak of that hype, clients in most cases just go for what works best for a specific budget. By then that technology has revealed all its specific shortcomings and has become “nothing exciting” like happened with Flash and Java and any other technology, and most of these companies start expanding their bag of tricks (again).

If you have always relied on only (that) one technology, this might be your wake-up call and your time to learn something new. Which means: always have a plan “B” in your pocket. Times change, whatever you do. Whether it is due to an economical crisis, a specific technology falling out of (temporary) grace or whatever.

Why this current situation is irrelevant

If your client wants something, you simply deliver. If you can not, you try and find a solution.

I started with Visual Basic, moved into HTML and JavaScript and learned to program C#, Java and Flash for those reasons in the past ten years. Because my clients required solutions in these directions, because one market dried up and another emerged. And from each language and environment I learned something new. Right now I earn all my money writing ActionScript and MXML in Flex projects for big companies. Something I could not have predicted six years ago when I started exploring C# to up my market value because I thought by then that Flash had become a personal dead-end.

Instead, my Flash-experience turned out to be very valuable by the companies that started hiring me. As I was able to fix issues their teams were not. Either due to lack of people or due to abandoned projects from mergers.

The hype and the reality of every day

This year, the hype is HTML5. A year from now that hype has been replaced by the everyday reality of projects, budgets, disappointments, quality assurance, bug fixings and the (financial) end result below the line. From there on HTML5 will be just one of the family, old news and one of the many options to go for.

Let’s see

Let’s wait and see how Adobe gets through the next year. Let’s see what Flash player 12 will bring. Let’s see what people will come up with in any and all technologies. Let’s see how these results will cross-pollinate. Let’s see what else will spring up. Let’s see how people like HTML5 a year from now. Let’s see if people will put new love into Flash.

Flash developer? Losing clients? Change your strategy

And yes: if you are a Flash developer, this might be a tough time for you – as budgets that might have gone to Flash development are now going to HTML5 development. This only means that you might have to change your short term strategies and see where the market is to keep up your earnings.

If you are a skilled Flash-developer, you will be probably able to earn even more in the next years than your did until now. It’s not all tablets that counts. HTML5 can not solve all creative requests. And who knows what directions commercial Flash content on tablets will take.

New to Flash? I can imagine you hold back

If you are new to Flash, I can imagine you are holding back to wager your career on something that holds such an uncertain future as Flash does. Will it still be here two years from now? Will Adobe at a certain point drop the ball as a whole?

Will there be any work at all in Flash?

Flash mobile

I kind of do not understand how Adobe AIR for mobile phones will not have the trouble Flash Mobile for the Mobile browser has. In the end, it will have to run on the mobile platform.

Instead of browser-based solutions, Flash Mobile will be AIR-based solutions. (An Adobe Runtime Engine with some extras, that runs as an executable). As I hardly develop for mobile I have no clue what direction Flash mobile will take.

Like everything, this is not the end

Flash is old news. And maybe the whole ruckus about Flash and the possible death and the discontinuation of specific projects (like Flash for mobile browsers) is a huge wake-up call to those who care.

Not a wake-up call to drop the ball. That would be completely stupid. How many plugins are there, capable of what Flash can do? How much time will they need to reach the same coverage? What tells you they will not suffer the same fate?

Maybe this is a wake-up call to put our experience into new action. And the time is not bad.

With Flash 11, Adobe finally solved one of the biggest issues of Flash: that content was rendered over the CPU instead of the GPU. Meaning that whatever you wanted to create in Flash was already crippled by lack of performance and the lack of raw computing power the GPU gives you.

Now those issues are solved, new content will arise in and for Flash that was not possible before and that will not be possible in HTML by far.

I am not that somber about the future of Flash. I think that the entire HTML5 thing will lead to a new and even bigger interest in Flash a year from now than I experienced in the past 5, as HTML5 shows what the potential is of interactive content.

And I would not be surprised to see stuff emerge from the Flash site rendering and using HTML in a way not done before. Challenging the HTML5 movement heads-on from within Flash.

Deep inside the realms of my imagination I see brilliant Flash coders already working on the rise of a new type of Flash content that will blow everything away we knew from the past.

Who knows: Flash might even rise from the alleged ashes as a new bird.

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Posted in: Opinions