The death of a platform: Is Adobe’s Flash really dead?

The letter f for adobe's flash player on the sand

Adobe recently dropped the big bomb in an announcement that has deep significance to the Internet. Adobe will no longer develop the mobile version of their flash player. Given their partnerships with other companies and for others to build upon, they are also licensing the source code.

The people are asking “Is flash dead?” Not wanting to keep people further in suspense, the answer is a deafening “Ding dong, the witch is dead”. Of course it is.

Why did Adobe kick mobile Flash?

Firstly, you need to understand that Adobe’s flash player dominates the desktop computer market as you need it to watch online videos, view animations, play Internet games, etc on any serious level. With Flash installed in nearly all home computers, web developers have a common platform to work upon and are able to disregard a person’s OS. You can see the allure in working with flash instead of HTML, which isn’t fancy and has visual quirks among browsers.

The key phrase is Adobe has a platform… on the desktop world

When the iPhone first came out, Apple did not allow the Flash player and all was fine. The moment Apple introduced the iPad and it became clear it wasn’t a flop, things changed.

Steve Jobs best describes the flash issue at the 2010 D8 event.

“We didn’t set out to have a war over Flash. We made a technical decision. And it wasn’t until the iPad that Adobe raised a stink. They came after us….That’s why I wrote “Thoughts on Flash.”…We were getting tired of being trashed by Adobe in the press.”

“We don’t think Flash makes a great product, so we’re leaving it out. Instead, we’re going to focus on technologies that are in ascendancy. If we succeed, people will buy them and if we don’t they won’t….And, so far, I have to say, people seem to be liking the iPad. We are selling an iPad every 3 seconds.”

So what’s the problem? Since all computing devices are moving towards the mobile space and flash isn’t anywhere to be found, this essentially means Adobe’s flash platform will die on its feet, in the PC world from where it came from.

Adobe realizes this strategic roadblock and are throwing in the towel. Don’t think they didn’t try. The company’s previous attempts to get a foothold in the mobile world via Android smartphones and HP’s Playbook tablets failed terribly.

Over the years, many techie pundits lambasted Apple for its hardware devices’ inability to play flash online content and a few may even blame the fruit company for Flash’s demise but the blaming finger must point to Adobe and Adobe alone.

One of the reasons Apple rejected Flash was its performance and who wouldn’t? Flash was created for PCs where energy is abundant but on a mobile device, Flash is a huge drain on the battery as is seen by using any mobile phone or tablet with Flash included. Despite many years, Adobe never produced a flash player that was mobile friendly.

For a deeper understanding into why Adobe failed read Steve Job’s letter and why greed and mismanagement can be a killer.

Why should I care if Flash falls?

If you’re a normal person, the death of flash isn’t something you’ll worry or care too much. But there are a few noticeable results because of this implosion:

  • If you have an Android phone or tablet, expect the flash glitches you are experiencing never to be resolved via an update.
  • If you’re a flash developer, expect the demand for your skills to go up along with your salary. Sure as hell, few now will attempt learning to work with flash.
  • If you are hoping to watch flash videos someday on your Android or Playbook device, you can stop now. Its creator is giving up. If that was the main reason for buying, you just go tricked.
  • If you are Google or an Android fanatic, you can stop touting flash as a benefit.
  • If you are on the Occupy Flash movement, you may stop your chanting. You won!
  • If you’re an avid HTML 5 advocate, pop the champagne bottle. That’s a huge win for open standards.
  • If you’re a webmaster and/or an online business, you’ll now want to convert your site to HTML5 and avoid flash like the plague. Unless you don’t care for reaching affluent iOS users.

With a press release, Adobe has brought a wave of change that won’t be felt immediately. Instead, Flash will simply fall back and slowly disappear from the technology scene. Oh, of course, the flash player will continue strong on Desktop PCs for a time. However, eventually website owners will continuously ask, “How can I get my website to appear on Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch, iTV, and iPad?” and everybody will reply first with, “Where have you been?” followed by pointing to a certain logo.

And what will happen to the company Adobe? For that, my friend, you’ll need to read the epic chronicles of conflict.

Photo credit: kiewic

Filed Under: is flash dead, flash is dead, death of the flash

I don't know. Sometimes it feels like my writing & thoughts are way off. Who knows if it'll help anyone or if it means anything.

Written by Ben

  1. Brad Sedito [ @bradsedito ] says:

    Much of this post is factual, yes. However, in addition to seeming a bit bias towards HTML5, is a bit inaccurate – and in my opinion, unnecessarily scares the general population who doesn’t understand the underground trench warfare that goes along with us developers before they even see a UI. I myself am an official Adobe Developer, and an Apple Developer. Talk about being lodged between a rock and a harder rock. Haha.

    I just wanted to mention this, as I am very much on ground zero of this whole debacle:

    – Flash is absolutely not dead.
    People really need to stop proclaiming this like boy that kept crying “Wolf!!”
    In fact, it’s not even in the ICU anymore. He/she (whatever tickles your fancy) was discharged quite some time ago.

    – In addition to Flash not being dead, neither is Adobe Systems. I’m on Creative Suite 6.0 (CS6) development team. I signed a confidentiality agreement, but I can say this: Adobe, despite what others say about them, just wants to get along. They play well with others. When CS6, esp Flash Pro CS6 is released, you just may be shocked how friendly it is in regards to HTML5 it is. I would describe it as the two technologies getting wasted and playing a friendly game of beer pong together, while cracking jokes. 😉 They are doing a great job of proving that a great, proven, worldwide supported technology (Flash Platform) can work very well in tandem with emerging technologies with undoubtedly great potential (HTML5).

    – YES, mobile flash is dead.
    Dead as disco.
    Flat lined, pale in color.
    The open casket wake has already taken place.
    …This will come to pass over time, like when Coke changed their recipe, then it was gross and nasty. So they called it “Coca Cola Classic”. Now, that little branding change has done nothing but help them, a lot, don’t ya think? 😉

    – What most people don’t know:
    Developers, every day, people like me, create APPS to be sold/distributed on the APPLE APP STORE, using the ADOBE FLASH PLATFORM, coded with ActionScript3, and packaged with ADOBE AIR. **What what what?** Yeah. Like I said, I’m between a rock and a harder rock. I can create all the apps I want for any mobile iOS device with flash and all its eye candy goodness, and submit as an app to the masses, but you can’t see it in a browser. Hm, sounds like someone simply just wants a piece of the RIA pie, eh?

    Lastly i’d like to point out that once upon a time, Flash was in its infancy as well, just like HTML5. Right now, it’s sorta lame, I think many would agree. However, one day, it will kick ass, and I think most would also agree. That’s why I’m not picking any sides, or judging books by their cover. HTML5 will mature like Flash did, and be awesome.

    So let’s just wait and see how it pans out, instead of proclaiming to the world that “Flash is dead! Friggin’ DEAD!!”
    Not even just because it’s not exactly true, but because it does hurt Flash developers feelings. We love this stuff, that’s why we do it. How would people like it if all us dev’rs got together and made a campaign against all the things that make you smile?
    I can see it now:
    “Ice Cream… DEAD! Eat butter instead!”
    “Your little dog Sprinkles, DEAD! I just backed over her in my car while pulling into your driveway! My bad!”
    Haha, just kidding of course, but you get the point.

    The moral of the story:
    Can’t we all just get along?
    Pretty please?

    Brad Sedito

    • Ben says:

      It seems I have to tread carefully in not stepping over toes as this seems to be overly personal for you.

      First, it’s safe to say that any article regardless of the medium has a form of bias stemming from the author. Unless you know of an article that doesn’t? We can always find a bone to pick with to throw the “bias” flag. But it’s also true we enrich ourselves hearing different opinions, even wrong ones, perhaps to the point of uncovering a blind spot.

      Secondly, one could say that being close to the trenches can limit your field of vision. This was the case for me when first developing with Java. I thought Java was the best programming language ever, please don’t judge, and was all I needed to learn. How could you need anything else? Well, let’s just say, I’ve expanded my horizon and grown a bit. But it’s still the best :p

      Thirdly, nothing was said of Adobe’s death here. No, I did not revise the article. I did, however, allude to Adobe’s future in the last link, which I had hoped you read. Please take a look. It’s pretty good, IMO. But to ruin the surprise, basically, after all this fight with Apple, Adobe will now return to making software like Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. So we don’t disagree on Adobe’s fate at all. 🙂

      If anything, with Flash no longer a distraction, Adobe actually comes out for the better: they can finally focus on what they do best and that’s software for creative people.

      Lastly, onto the “flash is dead” issue.

      “So let’s just wait and see how it pans out” 

      HTML5 in its current form is rather basic at the moment but we both know it’s in constant development. Once again, we find ourselves in agreement. I, myself, am looking into what new CSS features are baking.

      However, one must understand technology trends. It’s easy to play the wait and see game but if you’re a new programmer, you need to figure out where to spend your time now.

      As an example, imagine someone says iOS & Android devices are the future but I come out saying “no, netbooks are”. Who is right? Time, of course, will always resolve these questions but there are clues right now indicating where things are going. Both iOS & Android devices are surging in sales, meanwhile netbook makers are having a hard time selling. Could they stop producing them in the foreseeable future?

      Similarly, I point to these indicators signaling Flash as a dead end:
      – Mobile devices are selling like hot cakes and will become the future of computing devices.
      – Flash isn’t installed on many mobile devices, notably Apple’s devices, and when it is, Flash doesn’t play well. People are complaining.
      – Flash is installed on lots of PC desktops. However, PC desktop is not mobile. As mobile devices increase, PC desktops will decrease (but not disappear) and the Flash install base will lower. This will eventually lower developers targeting the Flash platform.
      – Adobe announces they’re giving up work on mobile Flash.

      So, in essence, the future is on mobile devices and Flash won’t be on it at all. I don’t see how anyone could argue Flash won’t be dead. Adobe realized their situation and smartly pulled out. A lil’ late but the right move.

      I am aware of developers using Adobe’s tools to make apps for many platforms but, IMHO, don’t think this is an approach many will go through. This will mainly appeal to current Flash programmers and not necessarily new ones. Many will be seduced going the Apple route. You also don’t take into account the current flash programmers who are furious at Adobe for ditching them. I’d be mad if Adobe pulled such a stunt on something I loved. But, hey, I could be wrong. Regardless, this is not enough to stop the Flash platform from falling. Many Flash programmers are leaving in droves and rightly so.

      I do admit I’ve been annoyed by Flash since Adobe didn’t see it fit to make it work perfect on Linux. Mac also had the same problems I believe but I have no grudges though. In the end, that’s irrelevant. You’re supposed to judge my argument based on the points I make, not on my experience, position, status, whether I’m in the trenches, etc. doing otherwise is convenient but a slippery slope.

      Contrary to what you may believe, I didn’t set out to bash the things you love. I simply wrote my opinions down on an industry I follow and love 🙂 

      Let us leave it to time and the readers to judge for themselves but good talking to you, mate. Always a joy speaking to fellow developers.

    • Wong says:

      I have no prmolebs with Apple blocking Flash-built apps from iTunes but I do have a problem with Apple saying I can’t install Flash-based or any other app on MY phone.

      • Ben says:

        See the thing is you already know all this coming in.

        – No flash on idevices.
        – Can’t install any app you want (not 100% sure what you mean by that)
        – Apple is a control freak, etc.

        No matter what anyone says if those are deal breakers for you, then YOU need to decide whether the phone is for YOU, regardless of what anyone thinks. And the best way to tell companies you don’t agree with their decisions is by not giving them your $$$.

        In that case you may want to check Android or Windows phone.

        Suppose you are going to buy a house with a given budget & the following are your options.

        – House #1 is in a terrible neighborhood but is just like you dreamed of inside.
        – House #2 is in a great location but needs a lot of renovation.

        You could think “why didn’t they construct #1 in a better place” or “I wish that house had another room” or “darn, that architect! He wants me to endure living under that thing & doesn’t even have X”

        At the end of the day, it’s all about compromises & you have to make a decision.

        Is #1 right for you? You could say “well, a terrible location is big minus but I really love the inside. Imma get it. I can endure the neighborhood” or you could say “f*** #1. Imma go for #2. I can’t stand the neighborhood” You could argue with the salesman about how you don’t like something & wish it was different but is that really the most practical use of your time?

        You always buy things in packages. (Yeah, I know)

        Look at all the stuff you’ve bought in the past & you’ll see there’s always something you don’t like about it. But you overlook the issues since in the end it’s worth it.

        The question is always, if overall you like the iPhone & can deal with its quirks.

        Just remember who has control here. The consumer. You. Make a decision & move on. You already know how entering the Apple ecosystem is like. You can try to change it but with Apple it’s usually “my way or the highway”.

  2. Vitalicus says:

    Flash rulez !!!
    Fucking apple for not supporting flash !

Silence means 100% agreement