Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Flash in the Pan

When the first iPhone was released in 2007, one of the bigger claims was that the phone would deliver a web browsing experience identical to that of a desktop web browser.  At the time this was a huge deal given the sad state of WAP browsers and web pages.  The one little caveat that Steve forgot to mention, however, was that this breakthrough new experience would not support Adobe Flash.  This may not seem like big news in today's HTML5 world, but at the time it was shocking that Apple would not support a technology that was on the majority of web pages in existence.

Over the years much has been said about Apple's choice to exclude Flash support.  Lawsuits have been filed, pundits have expressed more than their fair share of opinions, and competitors used the fact as a unique selling point when Adobe released Mobile Flash in 2009.  Today marks the end of that era with Adobe announcing the end of development for the Mobile Flash product.

This is big news in itself, as future versions of Android (and thus Android handsets) can no longer tout this as an advantage over iOS.  Adobe also mentioned that it would start investing more in HTML5 development as it scales back on Mobile Flash.  This little nugget of information is probably the larger news, despite it not being the main headline of the day.

With Adobe adding support for HTML5 it is essentially abandoning a flagship product that has been the underpinning of the internet for a decade or more.  As Apple products have moved to the mainstream over the past few years, so has the opinion and viewpoint that Flash is an unnecessary technology.  Steve Jobs famously blasted Flash in an open letter, citing HTML5 and other technologies as the successors to rich internet experiences.

This does not mean that Flash will be dead across all media.  Flash is still very much alive in the regular desktop experience.  With Adobe first making the move to HTML5 by creating the Adobe Edge product, and now the decision to jettison Mobile Flash, there are a lot of questions raised about the future of Flash as a whole.  Add to this the monthly stats about increased mobile browser usage (and decreased desktop usage) and you can't help but wonder just how much time is left on Flash's clock?

Should Adobe eventually abandon Flash altogether it will have a ripple effect across the entire industry.  Restaurants, bars, and clubs will need to completely redo their clumsy splash-screen websites.  Banner ads and rich media display ads will need to be converted to HTML5 or another new technology.  Online video watching will also be drastically different as FLV goes away.  It's fairly easy to see why Flash has maintained such a stronghold across the internet, but with its own creator turning a cold shoulder it looks like that fifteen minutes is dwindling down.

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