April 30th, 2010 - by Golgotha

After receiving many emails and instant messages the last couple days over the whole Apple vs Flash tit-for-tat that’s been going on. I feel compelled to give my thoughts.

For starters Steve Job’s article, Thoughts on Flash, is full of truth and fiction. The biggest part that rubbed me the wrong way was his lack of distinguishing between Flash and the SWF file format that Flash produces; Jobs conveniently leaves this out. Of course the average person knows nothing about the distinction between Flash, the tool that is used to create a SWF file and the actual SWF file that is used on a website. The SWF file is ‘open’ and there are other products, not made by Adobe, that can create SWF files. So it is fair for Abobe to wave the ‘open’ flag.

As far as Apple being ‘open’. Not so fast there Jobs. I can’t even use the SDK on my Windows machine. You must own a Mac if you want to create applications for an iDevice.

Is there anyone that truly believes Apple could not get Flash to play on their devices if they wanted to? Just say it Jobs, I don’t want to support Flash. Period.

Now my final thought and it’s not a good one for you Flash developers is this: Flash is dying, but it’s not Apple that’s killing Flash. It’s three things: 1.) Ajax 2.) jQuery and 3.) HTML5. These technologies have been slowly killing Flash the last few years. Look around, sites that once used Flash have fazed it out: Yahoo, MSN, IGN and many many others. Because of these technologies, Flash’s strengths are no longer there. It’s been relegated to advertisements and entertainment sites.

27 Responses to “Flash Is Dying, But It’s Not Apple Killing It”

1 Ben O.

Nice write up – There is some technical stuff here I haven’t ever heard of and, frankly, don’t ever want to know about. I’ll have to trust you on that front.

I thought that windows users were able to write apps with the SDK that apple released. I’ve never looked into it, but I thought I heard that there were source codes available for both formats.

I find it hard to believe that every single app was written on a Mac. There just aren’t that many out there.

But, I could be totally wrong on that and have absolutely nothing concrete to base my assumption upon.

Ben O.

2 PR

I generally agree with this – though there are exceptions that make the whole “apple mobile won’t do flash” thing annoying to me.

For things like navigation, video, simple drawings and simple animations, HTML5/CSS/Javascript is the right technology, and a better solution than flash. Has been for a long time.

But, there are a whole slew of things that you cannot do in those technologies, that Flash does extremely well.

As an information visualization guy, a few examples from the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/04/02/nyregion/taxi-map.html

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/02/23/movies/20080223_REVENUE_GRAPHIC.html

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/26/sports/olympics/20100226-olysymphony.html

And something entirely different, but a powerful presentation, particularly for instruction:

http://www.wechoosethemoon.org/

These kind of things cannot be done in any practical way with HTML5/CSS/Javascript.

I’ve experimented with similar infographics with HTML5/etc but it’s a lost cause. Even if you took the time to pull it off, they don’t run on the iPad due to its lousy Javascript performance (http://www.globelogger.com/2010/04/my-macbook-pro-runs-javascript-267x-as-fast-as-my-ipad.html)

So, while you’re absolutely right that these open technologies replace some large percentage of flash (95% ?) there’s that remaining 5% that matters.

The property that all my links above have in common is a very high level of interactivity. Does the iPad kill that level of interactivity? I think it does. Might that change in the future? Maybe, but frankly, we’re not even close right now.

That is creativity dying – and that’s too bad.

Of course you can do all that interactivity (and more) with an iDevice app – but that brings up your other point:

On the notion of “open” technologies – Steve Jobs is playing semantics here. He compares Flash to the HTML5/etc mix and it’s a reasonable argument to say these technologies are more open than Flash (though, you’re absolutely right, SWF *is* open). In the next breath Jobs talks about the app Store – which is shut tight. Not only do you NEED a mac to develop (Ben O: people on PCs cannot develop, but they use VMWare to get around that – so effectively still run a mac), but you must also pay $100/yr to have the right to submit to the app store. So from a cost perspective, the one time cost of buying Flash is much less than the ongoing cost of being a member of the apple developer network.

I like macs – have been using them for years – but Jobs is playing silly games here – and for anybody deep in this stuff, he comes out looking like a bully. But, will it matter? Probably not. While I agree Flash has been dying for a while, he might have put the final nail in the coffin even if his arguments don’t hold up.

But sadly, in that world, a lot of creativity departs the web.

3 Golgotha

I agree, there are still some areas that Flash excels at. For me, Google’s finance chart page is one of the best uses of Flash ever.
http://www.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ%3AADBE

I have always said to use the best tool for the job.

4 Dave

I imagine with the new windows 7 phone coming out we’re gonna see silverlight stepping in more.. My opinion on flash is that it killed itself by not innovating. It did update.. but nothing very dramatic.

5 rockcrusher

i begin to learn flex days ago, but the html5 are so advanced that i give up the flex. So i decide to learn html5 first, but i worry about the IE9.

6 mack

Why say this, the web design with flash is beautiful, and in Israel, there is a web called mix, which can help people design web fully adopted flash easily.

7 Jafar

Some of the most impressive websites on the Internet are made with Flash.

8 Golgotha

@Jafar- one mans impressive, is another mans slow loading, unintuitive, non-user-friendly site.

9 Golgotha

Oh and just in case you missed it, Apple has put up some impressive demos of HTML5 / CSS3 here: http://developer.apple.com/safaridemos/

You will need a browser that supports both.

10 unisbm

Oh, the flash is so useful in the world website in the past twenty years, though there is html5, but i think flash still be a important thing to many people including the user and the developer.

11 Sofia

i begin to learn flex days ago, but the html5 are so advanced that i give up the flex. So i decide to learn html5 first, but i worry about the IE9.

12 burakg

Pretty nice article and your observations are definetely true. Not all but many sites used flash jsut to show their portfolio or for an attractive menu, but now jquery and ajax owns Flash galleries. With HTML5 and CSS3 flash will be out of the game unless Adobe makes something innovative

13 nieb

Comparing flash and html5 is like… hum actually I miss words to describe it.

Flash is THE UNIQUE USABLE TECHNOLOGIE today. Html5 work on 8% of the computers. You’ll be able to sell a website with html5 when it’ll work on 95%. In what? 10 years says the w3c.

So what you could compare is flash ten years from now and html5. That would’nt be fair of course. But that’s the way it’s gonna work.

And btw, there’re sooooo many things you cannot do without flash… When you use video, it’s not only to watch a movie. It’s for streaming, for using the webcam and the mircophone (for a live chat…) it’s for… sooo many things impossible in html5.

Today, flash and html5 are both quite good. flash is better for somes things and html5 for others. Ten years from now, html5 will be exactly the same. If flash improve itself only half the way it did for the last ten years… It’s gonna be no match for html.

And the point you’re totally missing is the hardware. Ten years from now (and it’s definitly useless to think befor that date) the smartphone will probably be more powerfull than most of the desktop computers we have today. And those desktop computers… So the question of the processor utilisation won’t have to be though in the same way.

14 ore

I love the html5, because it does not need too many knowledge about flash,flex, but it can still give people the same effect easily.

15 محطم

I watched Jobs’s speech about flash,and I agree with him.I’am a adobe fan too.I hope they can get along well with this.

16 crusher

I like flash, but i like Html5 more, I hope flash will Cooperation with more people To change their own destiny!

17 portable crusher

Some of the most impressive websites on the Internet are made with Flash.

18 truimagz

@ORE

You say you like html5 better than flash, and html5 can do all of what flash can do.

That’s odd because Html5 looks nothing like flash to me.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfmbZkqORX4

In fact, I see comparing flash to html5 is like comparing a 2010 gm vehicle to a skateboard.

Is GM the best car company? no. But at least I can hop in an actually drive around…today, not 10 years from now when your scateboard looks more like a car.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVjIsL8qwNw&feature=related

Just admit the only people backing html5 are lazy devs who missed the flash boat, and now think they got away with being behind industry standards.

Actionscript and flash is very powerfull to a real developer who has to actually work today, and can’t sit around waiting 10 years for hype.

19 Gavin

I completely agree. I especially notice it on IGN. Flash has gotten to the highest point it will ever get. HTML5 is going to exterminate it completely.

20 Jacob

I do agree with this. I’ll go for HTML5/CSS/Javascript and a better solution than flash.

21 Jakk @ Technology Blogged

Apple has nothing to do with flash’s market growth / decline / anything.

95% of the flash market is advertisements if my sources are correct, and the reason Apple doesn’t allow flash, or rather a reason for it, is for that very principle > most users do not want to be barraged by ad’s.

I agree that Flash harvests creativity however, and lets be honest, it is not going away any time soon!

22 truimagz

@Jakk,

Has it occurred to you that maybe the reason why “any” content is available in the first place is because of the ad revenue.

Take away the ads and so goes the content.

And isn’t apple supplying “iads” to take the place of flash ads anyway.

Jakk, your point makes no sense in a capitalist society.

23 Jakk @ Technology Blogged

@truimagz what on earth are you talking about? Did you read my comment at all?

‘If my sources are correct’ left the comment open for correction.

‘I agree that flash harvests creatitivity’ is an opinion.

‘Apple has nothing to do with flash’s market growth / decline / anything’ is a fact.

I know what you mean about a capitalist society in terms of advertisements, and also that even if Apple doesn’t use flash they’ll find an alternative anyway, “iads” was your example.

My comment makes complete sense in an opinion, view and free expression society.

24 Florian Schommertz

Yes, Flash is dying.

Just use ‘google trends’ to get the proof.

Try ‘actionscript’ instead of ‘Flash’ because the discussion about Flash is to big.

When looking up global interest in ‘actionscript’ you really see into the minds of former flash developers (and designers who need flash actionscript help) – they start abandon it.

25 Auto Loans Today

On the notion of “open” technologies – Steve Jobs is playing semantics here. He compares Flash to the HTML5/etc mix and it’s a reasonable argument to say these technologies are more open than Flash (though, you’re absolutely right, SWF *is* open). In the next breath Jobs talks about the app Store – which is shut tight. Not only do you NEED a mac to develop (Ben O: people on PCs cannot develop, but they use VMWare to get around that – so effectively still run a mac), but you must also pay $100/yr to have the right to submit to the app store. So from a cost perspective, the one time cost of buying Flash is much less than the ongoing cost of being a member of the apple developer network.
+1

[…] longer there. It’s been relegated to advertisements and entertainment sites.” Here is the link: http://www.search-this.com/2010/04/30/flash-is-dying-but-its-not-apple-killing-it/ Week 5: Apple is one of the top companies in the world when it comes to computers, phones, and […]

[…] longer there. It’s been relegated to advertisements and entertainment sites.” Here is the link: http://www.search-this.com/2010/04/30/flash-is-dying-but-its-not-apple-killing-it/ Week 5: Apple is one of the top companies in the world when it comes to computers, phones, and […]

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