Some thoughts on the future of Flash

1 Comment 29 January 2012

It’s that time of the year again when people write off Flash saying this year really is the end of flash with HTML5* taking over the world. I’m not so sure and here are my thoughts why.

Regular readers may have noticed over the past year or so an increase in HTML5, JavaScript and CSS experiments on this site and a lot less Flash. In fact I will soon be officially changing my day to day role to work almost exclusively with these technologies and much less (if at all) with Flash. More on that sometime soon.

However, my reason for jumping the Flash ship like Captain Schettino is not because I think it is going to sink and this year everything will be done in HTML5. I’ve been working almost exclusively with Flash and ActionScript for over 7 years now and I feel like it’s the right time for a change. It will be nice to add some new feathers to my programming hat and I will definitely sit more comfortably at work knowing I have more languages to call on to solve problems.

I don’t think it’s all doom and gloom for Flash though, in fact I believe Flash leads where HTML follows. Sure you can do a lot of stuff now in JS/CSS that you used to only really be able to do effectively in the browser with Flash; but Flash is still moving forward and you only have to look at audio stuff to see that. AS3′s SoundMixer Class enables you to do all sorts of cool stuff with audio (for example this from trioptic) whereas HTML5’s audio tag still has some short comings. This article about the recent HTML5 Cut the Rope games explains more. Let’s not forget the HTML5 specification is still a working draft and 2014 is the target date for recommendation by the WC3.

HTML5 specs have to be agreed upon and implemented across many different browsers and platforms and even then there will always be some differences and quirks. Flash can move much faster as it’s only one platform, and in theory should work the same across all browsers.

Another big plus for Flash at the moment is the ability to compile for different devices such as iOS and Android using AIR. I recently had to give some rough costings for a Mobile app to run on multiple operating systems (despite having never built such an application) and recommended AIR as a potential platform to develop in. I’m sure there are some issues with using this technique, possibly like similar technologies such as appcelarator suffer from, but it seems like it could be a good option.

I think consumers don’t really care what technology is used as long as it works. The only people who are getting excited (or scared as some Flash Devs I know) about HTML5 are us Developers. Imagine Joe average Internet user viewing my recent Pacman demo – they would think it’s pretty crap really, and maybe rightly so. They have seen amazing 3D Flash games so why would they care about a rubbish 2D prototype just because it runs in the browser on an iPad.

Also, do we really need browser games on iOS with the app store already offering so many great games? Although, maybe that’s not the point. I think in the immediate future HTML5 will be mostly used for UI stuff, replacing Flash for user interaction stuff like the simple example I created below.

Anyway, I’m really having fun using JavaScript more and more. Sure it has it’s quirks, and can at times feel like a step back from AS3. But it’s interesting seeing what you can do in a browser without a plugin and overcoming new challenges JS throws up for me. Every JS project I work on I feel like I’m learning loads and it’s an exciting time.

It’s also nice not having to compile a SWF every time you want to make a little change, pressing cmd+R is so refreshing. I’ll leave it on that poor joke – all comments from Flash devs who are moving in the same direction as me, and also those not, are really welcomed as always.

* To quote Richard Davey from his recent blog post about HTML5 Games (well worth a read) – “When I talk about “HTML5” I’m doing so from the popular media use of the word, rather than the technical one. On a technical level HTML5 is of course just a specification for a mark-up language. But the media has chosen to use the term as an umbrella, spanning lots of browser related technologies…”


Posted in ActionScript, CSS, HTML5, JavaScript

One Response to Some thoughts on the future of Flash

  1. 30 January 2012
    Shoookin

    I agree, Flash still has it’s uses. For example audio and video, HTML5 still has a lower overall penetration than Flash, so if you really need to reach everyone you’re going to have to use a combination of both Flash and HTML5.

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