Flash isn’t dead

Adobe might have stopped development of its mobile Flash Player plugin, but there is still life in Flash, says Hoss Gifford

When I discover someone doing something that pisses me off, I’m faced with a conundrum. My immediate reaction is to get on my soapbox and publicly rant to anyone who’ll listen about the person in question. But the strategic thing to do is ignore them, because all a rant does is draw more attention to their cause.

But even though I know the right thing to do, there comes a time when my rage overcomes me and I can’t stop myself. Rational thought goes out the window and I write a full page in the world’s biggest selling creative magazine.

So this is addressed to you, the person responsible for the website at www.occupyflash.org. Your ignorant attempt to jump on a bandwagon to get some attention is the straw that broke this camel’s back in the debate on the future relevance of Flash.

By way of a summary, the drivel on the aforementioned site initiates a campaign to uninstall the Flash Player from your computer so that more stuff will be made with HTML5. I have two issues with these ideas put forward by the person behind the site – who went to the length of creating a new Google Analytics account to help maintain their anonymity.

Firstly, Occupy Wall Street is important. We watched with reverence as people laid down their lives in the Arab Spring, and this provided much of the inspiration that compelled a generally apathetic populous to make a stand. Although OWS protesters are not having to lay down their lives for the cause, they are prepared to risk a criminal record, which for most Westerners is a really big deal. By hijacking the name, the person behind Occupy Flash belittles this important cause. This pisses me off.

Secondly, although it’s true that one of Flash’s big selling points on the desktop is its ubiquity, it would have been more productive to campaign to increase the prevalence of HTML5-capable browsers, instead of actively campaigning to limit people’s options. If they had put this much effort into persuading people to upgrade their browser to something released this decade, the person who has got my goat would actually do much more for their cause.

But for every fanatic, there is another equally obsessed fanatic with opposing views. A lot of people earn their living making Flash websites, and as they have come under increasing attack, some have dug in to defend their technology to the bitter end, for better or for worse.

These Flash fanatics are a bunch of bloody idiots. These are the people who insist that the only way to build a promotional website for a movie is as a big blob of Flash, despite the fact that all they are doing is showing off a bunch of videos and images. Wake up people: the browser is actually pretty good at that already, without Flash Player’s help.

There is still a place for Flash sites though. I’d hate for us to capitulate to the nay-sayers and put an end to creativity like www.experience.mtvnhd.com and www.takethislollipop.com.

Both sets of fanatics seemed to lose the plot when Adobe announced they had stopped development of the mobile Flash Player. I admire Adobe’s courage to make such a decision, as it enables them to concentrate their efforts on areas where Flash has a much brighter future.

I’ve had an Android phone for a year now, and have made use of the Flash player on it a total of three times with varying levels of fail. Monolithic content specifically designed to be viewed on a desktop monitor is no fun to use on a phone, and that’s just one of the reasons why no matter how clever Adobe made the mobile Flash Player, shitty user experiences would have destined it to fail, even if Steve had changed his mind.

This doesn’t mean we’ll see Flash developers selling the Big Issue any time soon though. It turns out that smartphone users actually prefer their rich media experiences in native apps, eschewing browser equivalents regardless of the technology used to create them.

This is largely down to the well-established app stores on each mobile platform, the lack of which on the desktop has helped drive a demand for browser-based fun. So it’s great news that Adobe are betting the future of Flash in these two areas – native mobile apps and rich content for desktop browsers.

And before you go moaning that Flash doesn’t make truly native mobile apps, stop to think if that really matters to the people enjoying Machinarium, Tweet Hunt and It’s a Clock.