Opinion: More Flash Not Less?

Adobe Flash logoI got into a debate with a colleague recently in which he took me to task for my premature burial of Adobe’s Flash technology, used for media-rich web-sites all over the Internet.

I cited every news story of last November, such as Adobe kills mobile Flash, giving Steve Jobs the last laugh (remember, Apple devices to not support Flash thanks to Job’s opposition while CEO).

I also cited the press release from Adobe, Flash to Focus on PC Browsing and Mobile Apps; Adobe to More Aggressively Contribute to HTML5, which seemed to nail the coffin lid.

And for good reason; whilst plenty of big brand sites, micro-sites and media sites (video, games, music), are stuffed full of it, Flash is derided by serious software engineers and loathed by search engine optimisers. With Adobe conceding the game, I thought its’ future was black. No Flash on mobile, no new Flash Player versions, the future on the desktop in doubt, HTML 5 wins the rich-media battle; over and out.

I was corrected however, as my colleague cited the exact same Adobe press release:

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. We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry.

Put another way, Flash isn’t going anywhere just yet. It’s just changing the delivery mechanism.

The Adobe advocates in the wider development community have come up with various tricks, authoring tools and server-side scripting workarounds; Flash-laden websites no longer serve up a single, impenetrable page. Flash embedding provides for deep, searchable, indexable sites that will allow (almost) the same detailed traffic and behavioural analysis and search engine optimisation.

It was pointed out to me as so many web-only brands are fighting the brick-and-mortar websites, the demand for eye-catching media-rich on-line store-fronts increases. The availability of fast broadband takes the sting out of flash download times.

Further, HTML5 is barely out of the starting blocks. What’s the stop-gap until mass adoption? Flash.

Which devices are proliferating like Tribbles? Smart-phones and tablets. If Adobe is right and they can wrap Flash content to get it onto mobiles, why should all the corporates that have invested considerable monies into development drop it before they have to?

There’s a large herd of skilled, experienced Flash developers on the hoof, with more joining from developing world nations every day.

It’s true, HTML5 is an eventual Flash-killer. It’s also true that until standards-compliant HTML5 browsers dominate both desktop and mobile, we may see a lot more Flash sites, not less. AJS

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