Flash and Standards: The Cold War of the Web
Issue № 302

Flash and Standards: The Cold War of the Web

You’ve probably heard that Apple recently announced the iPad. The absence of Flash Player on the device seems to have awakened the HTML5 vs. Flash debate. Apparently, it’s the final nail in the coffin for Flash.

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The arguments run wide, strong, and legitimate on both sides. Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls Flash Player buggy. John Gruber of Daring Fireball says that Apple wants to maintain their own ecosystem—a formula Adobe’s software doesn’t easily fit into. On the other end, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch argues that Flash is a great content delivery vehicle. Mike Chambers, Principal Product Manager for Flash platform developer relations at Adobe, expresses his concerns over closed platforms. Interactive developer Grant Skinner reflects on the advantages of Flash.

         

However, the issue is larger than which one is better. It’s about preference and politics. It’s an arms race. This is the Cold War of the Web.

Ceasefire#section1

Both the standards community and the Flash community are extremely good at sharing knowledge and supporting the people within their respective groups. The relationship across communities, however, isn’t nearly as cordial. Two things are happening: either the people within each camp stay to themselves, or one ignorantly hurls insults at the other.

As new technologies emerge, their following naturally starts small. An effective rallying cry is to find—or create—a common enemy. Huge strides such as Doug Bowman’s Wired redesign, Dave Shea’s CSS Zen Garden, and Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards had a significant influence, not only on the standards community, but on the entire web design industry. They positioned standards as an alternative to Flash and table-based sites, not in conflict with them. However, less enlightened followers wrongly interpreted these champions’ examples as the first assault. As Adobe Photoshop Principal Product Manager John Nack says, “people want a certain ‘killer’ narrative.”

The same thing is happening today. Those pushing the HTML5 specification forward, such as Ian Hickson, Jeremy Keith, and the NYC gathering of geeks, are offering it as a new alternative with some major advantages over existing technologies. Yet again, some have dubbed it the harbinger of doom for Flash.

The antagonistic nature of this debate is destroying the industry. Designers and developers waste their time playing the “one-up” game, as opposed to collaborating. Specialization has its advantages, but only as a subset of a larger whole. Jamie Kosoy, my colleague and Associate Technical Director at Big Spaceship, says it well:

         

We don’t have a single “Flash developer” at Big Spaceship. In fact, we grimace at titles like that.…We happen to be good at (and love) Flash, but we also happen to be good at (and love) a couple trillion different other technologies.…We believe in strategic thinking and great design and pushing the limits. Nowhere do we say it has to be done in technology X or programming language Y in order to be a successful and engaging project, and we don’t believe the users who engage in the projects we put out there do either.

A line in the sand#section2

The problem with rallying behind a technology is that it traps us within the confines of its constraints. We easily shift “don’t know” and “not sure” into “can’t” and “won’t.” Creativity is dictated by programming languages. How sad.

Technologies aren’t inherently bad or good. They’re only appropriate or inappropriate for certain circumstances. They’re a means to an end, not solutions within themselves. Each one is powerful in its own right to accomplish a certain goal. The responsibility to use an appropriate technology lies with the one who made the choice. Unfortunately, we’ve misinterpreted irresponsible development as inadequate technology.

Case in point: Loading. Flash provides powerful methods to track the download progress of every miniscule element. And what have we chosen to do with it? We load everything up front and make the user suffer through minutes of a loading sequence, instead of loading assets progresssively as they’re requested. The Flash platform does not deserve the blame for bloated websites—the developers who made these poor decisions do.

Until we realize the foolishness of faith in technology, we’ll see the same cycle repeated.

Doomed to repeat the past#section3

JavaScript has grown exceedingly popular of late, with much credit due to easy-to-use libraries like jQuery and the rediscovered usefulness of Ajax. More and more, sites use JavaScript to provide great functionality for the people who visit. More so, many experiments—like Scott Schiller’s site and Browser Ball—push the boundaries of what JavaScript is typically used for. The same is true for HTML5, with amazing displays such as 9Elements’ HTML5 Canvas and Audio Experiment or Jilion’s more practical SublimeVideo player.

These new executions bring interesting questions, many related to user experience. If a feature needs a lot of code or graphics to power it, do we need to give the user progress indication (read: preloader) before they can use it? Once we use HTML5 video to interact with other videos, text, and graphics, will we need blending modes in HTML6 to create more seamless online environments? Will JavaScript developers realize the value that sound brings to an online experience and have to create ways to handle audio? Will we need a visual editor so that designers who don’t code can take advantage of <canvas>? Will heavily scripted web applications become intense processor hogs?

If this sounds familiar to you, it should. These are the kinds of questions the Flash community explored throughout its early years. Regardless of your opinion about Flash, it’s difficult to deny the tremendous growth it has experienced. From a simple drawing application, to a full-fledged scripting language, to powerful streaming video capabilities, and more, the Flash platform has expanded exponentially to respond to the needs of its users—the people who use it to create and the people who use the end result. For better or worse, Flash has shaped the way people absorb online content.

We now have the advantage of learning from that journey, and we’re already reaping the benefits. For instance, any interaction model that modifies the full page refresh breaks the browser’s back button functionality. While it took eight years from Flash’s inception to birth a solution such as SWFAddress, JavaScript developers have the benefit of hindsight and were able to implement a similar solution for JavaScript-based applications much faster.

I’ll go so far as to assert that most technological advances are born from something that would be good for people using it. When we put stock in technology and try to be creative for creativity’s sake, we almost always repeat our mistakes. When we try and solve problems instead, we force ourselves to care. Innovation is a natural side effect.

Worth fighting for#section4

But we take pride in our technologies. If I’m not striving for my guru ranking in a particular programming language or design style, then what really matters? I’ve hinted at it throughout the whole article, but let me make it painfully obvious.

People.

People matter. Not users, but people. A user is a faceless entity, robotically performing tasks that we test and optimize. A person lives, laughs, cries, loves, hates—and uses the sites and applications we make. My mom. Your five-year-old. His grandfather. Her best friend. Their science class. They don’t tell us how much they appreciate our progressive enhancement or how we use the drawing API or our impeccable use of attribute selectors. They only say that a website was confusing or hard to read or fun to play with. That’s the real motivation for excellence: bringing ease, joy, and fun to the people around us.

We should be getting to the point where people can’t tell how a site was built. I love coming across a site where how it was made is not immediately apparent to me. That’s how it should be: Create something excellent where the technology is transparent, and allow only the curious to look under the hood to actually see what’s going on. JavaScript, Flash, HTML5, tables, Shockwave, Unity—no one cares when people using it can do what they’re supposed to. When something is broken—whether it’s functionality or the user experience—that’s when you’ll hear whining about platforms. Create a great experience for people and you’ll receive due praise, regardless of the technology.

We want you#section5

The bickering is getting old. Here’s what we can do.

Start supporting initiatives instead of bashing them. Do you think Flash sucks? Don’t write a “Dear Adobe” rant on your blog; contact the Adobe team directly and tell them what you think could be improved. Think HTML5 is a joke? Get involved with the working group to make it better. Got a problem with how a certain site is built? Approach the creators with your concerns and suggestions, privately and humbly.

Agencies: Stop writing job listings for HTML5 designers or ActionScript gurus. You’re just fanning the flames. Instead, invest in creative people who know how to execute in a number of ways, people who prioritize learning new tools to solve a problem over honing their chops. Don’t sell (or discourage) Flash or standards to your clients; instead, sell creative brand extensions, accessible content, enjoyable experiences, and simple maintainability.

Allow technologies to die on their own. Macromedia Director is no longer popular because its usefulness decreased, not because we crucified it. The old way of writing JavaScript is fizzling out on its own, because we support unobtrusive and DOM-based methods.

Teach. Approach your local college (or high school!) web design program and offer to instruct the new generation of designers and developers. Web design education is stagnant; it will take dedicated people who are willing to challenge the status quo to change that. Get involved with the wonderful work that’s being done in the area of web design education, such as the WaSP InterAct program, Opera Web Standards curriculum, or Adobe Education Technologies.

Finally, remember what really matters: People. For everyone’s sake, it’s time we all learned to get along.

71 Reader Comments

  1. Great article Dan. It is great to see this viewpoint being talked about on ALA. These allegiances to technologies are ridiculous and have been hampering the creative web industry for years. Our work is presented in a rapidly changing environment and ultimately we must focus all of our endeavours to ensuring the people using our sites have a seamless experience.

    The “people” are also constantly changing and so are their expectations and we should be looking for the right technology to fit their needs, and not restricting their experiences due to preferential technical decisions.

  2. @wiseguydigital:

    bq. we must focus all of our endeavours to ensuring the people using our sites have a seamless experience.

    Absolutely! Well said.

    @Addy: My pleasure!

  3. I agree with the majority of your sentiments. It isn’t the tool itself that failed, but the people who abuse the tool that cause the frustration. This is true of a wide arrange of tools However, I feel like articles like this are just as predictable as the articles that present one side or another. Every so often, a heated debate like this takes place and then a “Can’t we all just get along!” article is written. I feel like that’s what this is. It doesn’t address the specific things that are abused and hurt the user experience.

    Abusers of the tool will read this article and feel good about themselves. Haters of the tool will read this article and feel good about themselves. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  4. bq. Create something excellent where the technology is transparent, and allow only the curious to look under the hood to actually see what’s going on.

    In this debate, truer words were never spoken. Thanks, Dan.

  5. @Nate: I appreciate your thoughts and definitely see your point.

    bq. Every so often, a heated debate like this takes place and then a “Can’t we all just get along!” article is written. I feel like that’s what this is. It doesn’t address the specific things that are abused and hurt the user experience.

    You’re absolutely right. I certainly don’t intend for this article to be the end-all for this topic. My goal in writing it was to level-set and quell some of the angst in people who choose sides blindly. For the ones who already get it, there should definitely be a more explicit article that addresses finer points of UX, technology, and the like, but I find that it’s a harder sell when the general mindset is so scattered on parts of the issue that don’t really matter.

    I’ve actually already started a draft for that next step article, but I’m genuinely hoping someone beats me to the punch 🙂

  6. Nice Dan! I think there is room for all players in the game. HTML5 and CSS3 will give us a whole new set of tools but Flash will always have a place. I believe in hybrid sites and try to follow standards for the content but Flash can manipulate the display and customization in a pretty immersive way. I dont like players in the device game trying to dictate the tech but its all part of the game. It will be interesting to see how flash runs on non-iPhone smart phones and the support for exporting iPhone apps.

  7. A noble attempt to put people in the first row. And, I couldn’t agree more. This voice was missing. Well done.

    Unfortunately, life is never that simple with you. And yes, the complications are indeed multi-dimensional.

    1st Dimension: this is not about flash or html5, this is about how _people_ use devices like the iPad. Touch interfaces have their own paradigms of interaction, and you probably would agree in that we so far only got a glimpse of what their potential will be. Well, Apple has demonstrated that html5 can stand up to a fairly good start. Flash hasn’t.

    2. Dimension: this is about what happens with our legacy vs what happens with our future. Some innovators cut loose from the legacy on purpose. Many loose in the attempt. A few succeed. Those that succeed create a major perturbation but also value. The point is that the largest part of the legacy of flash applications, games, etc is not suitable to be used on touch interfaces. But, you already have 100,000 apps that do.

    3. Dimension: commercial interests. This is about one company breaking the market domination of another and attempting to establish domination itself. The sad part is that whole communities of developers and users become the cannon fodder. Very sad indeed.

  8. Flash makes designing soooooo much easier. I don’t even care about the fancy animation features, just the fact you can lay something in place and it will stay there, no matter what broswer it is viewed with. You can layer elements and I can put my graphic design skills to full use without having to use heavy png’s with javascript alpha IE 6 hacks and all the other head aches that come from html/css designs. You can easily create nice hover states for links without using multiple div’s, overflow containers, blah blah blah. You can set things side by side without using sketchy floats and clear fixes. With Flash, everything just works.

  9. I completely agree with the idea of not having titles like “Flash Developer” or “HTML Designer”. Daily, I work with Flash, HTML/CSS, PHP and whatever other platform a client requires.

    If you only work within one platform, you’re limiting yourself and what you can build for your clients. I think most “Flash Developers” called themselves that to attract clients when Flash was the hot thing. It’s time for people to just call themselves “Web Developers” or something similar.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what you build it with, as long as it works and was the right choice for the project.

  10. Well said, plain and simple. I just want to see more people start to think of the experience, getting from A to B and stop twisting “I can’t” in to “it’s impossible”.

  11. I agree with the author – I’ve never really believed that the two technologies were threats to each other. As eager as I am to have a <video> tag for basic embeds and such, there’s one thing that HTML 5 can never replace on its own: Flash games. In my opinion, if in the future Flash came to be used *only* for making web-based games, the technology is *still* well worth keeping alive.

  12. @malbrecht: Thanks for your thoughts, though I must disagree with you on a few counts.

    bq. this is about how people use devices like the iPad. Touch interfaces have their own paradigms of interaction, and you probably would agree in that we so far only got a glimpse of what their potential will be. Apple has demonstrated that html5 can stand up to a fairly good start. Flash hasn’t.

    That’s not entirely true. _Wired_ and Adobe demoed their “tablet app”:http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/02/the-wired-ipad-app-a-video-demonstration/ built in AIR, which I would say supports touch interaction rather well. Adobe’s “AS3 Multitouch class”:http://help.adobe.com/en_US/FlashPlatform/beta/reference/actionscript/3/flash/ui/Multitouch.html is out as a beta, and Mike Chambers also addresses “how Flash handles touch events”:http://www.mikechambers.com/blog/2010/02/22/flash-player-content-mouse-events-and-touch-input/ .

    bq. The point is that the largest part of the legacy of flash applications, games, etc is not suitable to be used on touch interfaces. But, you already have 100,000 apps that do.

    I think this is a bit of an unfair point. I don’t expect my Super Nintendo cartridges to work on my Wii. While the current Flash IDE may not address the iPad scenario head on, I’m confident that the next versions will have answers to those questions. Inferring that Flash is a legacy technology because it doesn’t cater to a future device is still a bit premature.

    bq. This is about one company breaking the market domination of another and attempting to establish domination itself. The sad part is that whole communities of developers and users become the cannon fodder. Very sad indeed.

    On that, I must agree.

  13. @Alan Hughes:

    bq. With Flash, everything just works.

    That’s a bit of an oversimplification, wouldn’t you say? Everyone I know that uses Flash has her fair share of bugs and workarounds. I think every technology comes with its own set of compromises”¦Â things that are simple in one environment are exceedingly difficult in another. For instance, trying wrapping dynamic text around an image in Flash 🙂

  14. Quote:”Agencies:Stop writing job listings for HTML5 designers or ActionScript gurus. You’re just fanning the flames. Instead, invest in creative people who know how to execute in a number of ways, people who prioritize learning new tools to solve a problem over honing their chops.”

    I agree with the concept of cross-training and the value of talent over tools, but this is a bit of an oversimplification. It’s a great concept for an agency environment, perhaps, where a developer/designer is working in a supportive environment, complete with mentors, training, and a career path.

    It doesn’t quite hold water, though, in the independent contractor world with its needs of the hired gun/pro from Dover. Contract engagements require resources who can come in, ramp-up quickly, and deliver quality work immediately. General purpose “cool creative thinker” sounds great in theory, but can be a tough sell.

    So, I agree that agencies shouldn’t lock resources into constraining titles. But the reality of the marketplace requires specialized skills, so it behooves resources to both deepen -and- widen their skills to survive an ever more capricious hiring pool.

  15. I have always been a web developer who LONGS for a feature-rich, standard API to create consistent and compelling user experiences on the web. And while I am certainly more than proficient with HTML/CSS/JS, I focus my efforts in the Adobe Flex space.

    HTML5 is a monsterous step forward in the right direction. But, just because we (will) have support for canvas-based interactions and a common approach to video and sound, does not mean that we have a great platform for web app development.

    We are still a long way out from the ability to create a user interface while working in one HTML5 compliant browser and have confidence in the fact that the other browsers on other platforms will render our precise and complex application consistently. This is why I build and deploy using the Flash player. Despite minor differences between Flash Player releases, Flash Player provides an extremely consistent deployment environment which works equally well in all major browsers and on all major platforms. (iPhone/iPad aside)

    My other reason that I prefer working in Flex over HTML is that the Flex Framework provides a very extensive tool kit to build complex user interfaces. Not only are the standard controls like ‘checkbox’ and ‘button’ present, but they provide the ability to painlessly generate custom, reusable layouts and a ton of libraries and tools to make server/client communication a breeze. JQuery has come a long way, but the time and effort required to build, test, and deploy comparable apps in JS and Flex is so much less in the Flex world.

    Now, many of you might disagree with me on that point. So, this brings me to my main disagreement with the article. While it is important to be a well rounded developer capable of building anything in any language, it is far more important to have expert-level knowledge of the tools and best practices in a given language/environment. I have been a full-time Flex developer for several years now and am blown away by how much I didn’t know even just a year ago. I just don’t see how those who dabble in HTML/CSS/JS and dabble in Flex can be masters in either. Flex is complex and easy to do wrong.

    So, if anyone wants to do serious Flex development, for the love of God, please don’t hire someone who has some experience making Flash/Flex widgets and some experience in PHP. Hire an expert who knows the inner workings of the Framework and can leverage the good and avoid the bad.

  16. @ Dan Mall

    I was more specifically referring to the problems I listed. Yes there are other problems I realize with Flash, but using it to do the more graphic web designs, it makes things so much easier.

  17. I’ll miss flash if its penetration decreases and ad publishers start using javascript-css-html combination for abusive ads. Flash in its current form is a quarantine environment. Disable when not needed or abused and get rid of these evil ads. That simple.

  18. The problem with Flash isn’t in its usefulness as a technology, it’s in its implementation: Flash Player. Windows users may enjoy Adobe’s full attention and support, but other platforms are largely ignored. Adobe has given OS’s like Linux and OS X just enough attention that everything works, but it certainly doesn’t work well.

    You say we should send a message to Adobe if we want things changed. Well, we _have_. We’ve been pleading with Adobe for years to devote the resources needed to make the Linux and Mac Flash Players as fast and stable as their Windows counterpart.

    Flash needs to be gotten rid of because it’s under the control of a single entity with limited resources that allocates them according to the size of their user base. It’s not a true technology. It’s a product; and telling Adobe about where it could be improved is never going to be enough if we can’t improve it ourselves.

  19. I have read a lot of rants about both, Flash and HTML, and I finally find a balanced article like this that just makes me feel happy. Complaints and attemps to discredit the competition just lead nowhere. Same happens with locking proprietary systems or frameworks, supporting such decisions in poor rants against the competition.

    In fact, both technologies play well together. Every progress from one of them is a great progress for the whole web world landscape. Even when they could be competing between themselves at some points, that competition benefits end users with more reliable technologies, and benefits developer with a broader array of tools to solve common problems.

    There is not just thing as Flash or HTML developers. There are web coders, programmers, designers or engineers, that rely on lots of technologies to develop the best solutions posible. And, if the landscape changes, their skillset will quickly change, as already happened in the past.

  20. @ mrmambo:

    bq. Contract engagements require resources who can come in, ramp-up quickly, and deliver quality work immediately. General purpose “cool creative thinker” sounds great in theory, but can be a tough sell.

    Tough sell, yes, but I’d say it’s a more effective one. The contractors I work with most are the ones that excel in multiple areas. For instance, I worked with a guy who was brought once to help with HTML/CSS and then on a separate job to build a CMS because he was equally skilled at both. It led to repeat business for him.

    For what it’s worth, I certainly believe in practical specialization, but my points in the article are more related to a technology-agnostic _mindset_.

  21. Great article. I have a comment on this statement:

    Don’t sell (or discourage) Flash or standards to your clients; instead, sell creative brand extensions, accessible content, enjoyable experiences, and simple maintainability.

    This is great advice, however, it’s just a polite way of saying “discourage Flash”.

    Although you made it clear that Flash isn’t necessarily to blame for accessibility and maintainability problems, the reality is that it will continue to cause accessibility and maintainability problems as long as uneducated developers continue to use it. And due to the nature of the web, I don’t see that ever changing.

  22. @Louis Lazaris That’s an interesting point… you mean to tell me every site you’ve ever been to that uses standards (and especially ajax) has been well crafted with accessibility and maintainability in mind? Because I can think of some pretty high traffic sites out there with horrible ajax experiences, lightboxes layered on top of lightboxes, pop-unders and all sorts of other horrible user experience decisions.

    Flash has never overcome it’s SKIP INTRO history in the mind’s of a large chunk of our industry. Standards has never been able to overcome testing across every browser and platform in another. It’s our own micro version of the Arab-Israeli conflict — it’s all deriving from the same place, but for some reason we can’t seem to find a way to get along. We’re a fractured community bickering about who’s making things the right way instead of helping each other move forward.

    The point Dan’s trying to make is that gratuitous overuse of anything is bad and that instead of simply brushing aside something as such, understanding and finding an appropriate use for it is the true sign of an expert in this craft.

  23. Dan, I found it interesting your section discussing the similarities between the need for tools to develop in Flash versus the idea that HTML5 might need similar tools. The difference, and this is the core of the argument, is that the proprietary nature of Adobe’s tech means that very few people can develop for Flash _without_ Adobe’s tools while the openess of HTML5 allows for a whole ecosystem of tools (and their developers) to benefit. I assumed from your title this is where you were headed as the Cold War analogy fits well against the capitalistic nature of Adobe against the communistic nature of the web standard’s community.

    On another point, you said that agencies should stop advertising for specialists because developers have multiple areas of knowledge. Surely you would admit that simply adding a Flash adept developer or a web standards guru to the staff doesn’t mean the agency can support a change in their process or that it’s the type of work they want to do. If the pipeline is based on one of these two, the designers are used to designing for it, the project managers know what to expect, and sales people know how to sell the approach’s benefits to clients, it seems rather counterproductive to hire someone that would be happier working in a different environment.

    Finally, I don’t just want to see Flash replaced with better iterations of HTML, I want to see browser plugins in general go away.

  24. The problem with flash is that on most of my Mac OS X computers its a complete resource hog and causes my browsers to crash. This means i don’t use flash, and it makes me hate every site that needs flash for some part of its functionality, because then i either have to enable it in my browser, or switch to firefox just for that one site. I want to use websites where i don’t have to load some plug in that makes my system unstable or degrades performance, or reduces my battery life signfiicantly.

    It’s not the technology as such people are hating, it’s the plugin. If we need to kill the technology to get us out of this plug in hell, then we’re prepared to do it.

    As far as i can see all Adobe has to do is ship an amazing version of the flash plug in, that behaves, doesn’t crash, and doesn’t use 80%+ of the resources on a dual core 2.4ghz computer. Looking at what OS X can do then the processing power is there. And if Adobe have written something that is tied to one platforms concepts (i.e Windows), all i can say is we’re on version 6 of OS X – you’ve had enough time to do something about it. The windows version doesn’t suffer the same performance issues.

    If adobe aren’t able to do this, then they should give the job over to someone who can.

  25. “dryan”:http://www.alistapart.com/comments/flashstandards/P30/#c328482 :

    bq. Surely you would admit that simply adding a Flash adept developer or a web standards guru to the staff doesn’t mean the agency can support a change in their process or that it’s the type of work they want to do. If the pipeline is based on one of these two, the designers are used to designing for it, the project managers know what to expect, and sales people know how to sell the approach’s benefits to clients, it seems rather counterproductive to hire someone that would be happier working in a different environment.

    From a business standpoint, it absolutely makes sense to hire the more “familiar” one, the one who can deliver expected results that everyone is used too. But, in my experience, safety sometimes hinders creativity, innovation, and open-mindedness. It often produces unremarkable results and encourages the staff to strive for mediocrity.

    “geekmoose”:http://www.alistapart.com/comments/flashstandards/P30/#34 :

    bq. The problem with flash is that on most of my Mac OS X computers its a complete resource hog and causes my browsers to crash

    I must disagree. You can publish an empty SWF and run it with virtually no lag on resources. That leads me to believe it’s not the player or the SWF format, but what the SWF contains that causes concern. As I mentioned in the article, the unoptimized development is misinterpreted as a faulty platform. Rather than executing the messenger, let’s teach the writer how to craft her message. That way, everyone wins.

  26. This is a great article, and it extends beyond “Flash vs. HTML5” because it refocuses on what I think the real question should be: What’s the GOAL of this project?

    For example, people come to me and say “I need a PowerPoint file,” but what they really need is “I have to share a lot of information in an interesting way to a large group of people.” Sometimes PowerPoint is indeed the answer (GASP!), but sometimes a video might do a better job, or Keynote, or, yes, a custom-built Flash app.

    People get so caught up in the “how” that they often forget the “what.” Here’s to getting back to “what,” while learning many, many “how”s.

  27. I really don’t think the Flash/HTML debate is “destroying” our “industry.”Â Nor do I believe the blandishment that technologies are neither good nor bad. Tell that to a gun-control advocate. (Flash doesn’t kill Web sites. _People_ kill Web sites. Won’t anyone think of the _people_?)

  28. This is realy a good story about flash vs the world. Still i prefer to go with HTML5 since i own apple products. And i dont like flash since every animated-gif banners are now replaced by even more irritating flash banners. But i still don’t know every function of HTML5.

  29. Concentrating on creating an awesome website design which is aimed at reaching out to the people it is supposed to has to be our first priority as designers. Selecting which technologies to use to achieve this depends on the context and requirements of the client, and our own judgement on usability, execution, SEO targets etc. Afterall, when an author writes a top novel, the emphasis is not placed on the typeface used when it is printed… generally, it has to be invisible! Let the content do the talking.

    Great article Dan 🙂

  30. bq. I must disagree. You can publish an empty SWF and run it with virtually no lag on resources. That leads me to believe it’s not the player or the SWF format, but what the SWF contains that causes concern

    I must disagree with you on that one – as this is content that works perfectly well in Windows, without the resource hogging. If you are correct, then what you are stating is flash code optimisation must be done separately for each OS that it runs on.

    If i could say that it was one particular site then i would blame that site, but it isn’t. It’s all flash that i run. Even if they fix the resource hogging there is still the instability issue. And it’s a significant instability issue.

  31. Nice article, and I agree that if you have a peeve with Adobe you need to let them know.

    But … I’ve asked them three times (once in public) about a simple thing they could do about Accessibility in Flash, and there’s been no response.

    Are they listening?

  32. Great article Dan! We’ve been seeing this topic popping up quite a bit ever since the iPad announcement like you mentioned. Pretty funny how intentional Jobs was with that sly maneuver of bringing up the NY times.

    With the slow death of Flash, our “web design (web design)”:http://www.dontblinkdesign.com firm has really wondered what this means for Flex and it’s future. We’ve developed some great Apps using this technology, but in the end the SWF output is basically no different than Flash.

    Do you think this means the end of Flex too?

  33. The iPad will certainly shine a spotlight on the issue as I think more people will expect a seamless rich media experience on this device compared to the iPhone. Your proposals for developers achieving detente and cooperation are spot on.

  34. Thanks so much for this great article! This topic is something i’ve been mulling about. Here’s a blog posting I recently wrote about, “Moving Beyond Flash – A Web Designer’s Interactive Toolkit” here…

    http://blogs.sun.com/funbits

    Thanks for the additional links to alternative JScript design pattern libraries. I’m quickly add those into my emerging technology toolkit.

  35. There’s been some chatter lately about how the next version of HTML 5 might make Flash irrelevant. And not only Flash, but also Adobe Flex, Microsoft Silverlight, and Oracle JavaFX might similarly become useless.

    Thanks,

  36. I think Flash has a somewhat steeper learning curve which makes it harder to start out. Poisoned tongues could say that some of those “standards designers” secretly tried out Flash, one or the other time in their career, got stuck, got frustrated, gave up and now are fighting it.

    You also can’t easily look at Flash’s source code, which gives it a kind of an armored monster feeling, compared to the open and helpful HTML/JS ferry. But once you learned how to tame the monster, it can become your best friend.

  37. Flash is a closed plugin. I do not think plugins should be a part of the web as I think it should ideally be completely open.

    So, I am against Flash simply because I want as much opness in web technologies as possible. (There are reasons for this, but I won’t go into too much details here, you hav probably heard it all before.)

  38. What a great article, which addressed the bigger issue of the HTML5/Flash argument. It sums up what happens all too often – trying to fit a project into the known expertise of a technical team. The result is a “less-than” product and a customer wanting more. This article should be mandatory reading for every IT hiring manager. Thank you for the read!

  39. Many people from all over the world have turned to the acai berry in the hopes that it will cure their weight loss problems. TOP GRADE ACAI

  40. I think Jquery still has much to learn and I don’t think we can truly compare itself with Flash until our computers become so powerful that the visual line between them becomes blurred. jQuery clearly does animation but not to the extent that Flash is capable of and so until then, I don’t think they can really be compared on the same level. On a side note, I think Flash and or jQuery may very well both become extinct in the near future in favor of cleaner and, ultimately, more user friendly interfaces. Having to wait for a menu item to fade in or some kind of animation to occur can become quite irritating when you’re simply looking for some information, but anyway, great article about how these technologies have changed the web.

  41. Hello Dan, I think your article speaks to the core of what’s important in design and development: The end result and how it impacts those who use it. The challenge is that once individuals invest a sizeable amount of time in a particular technology, they are hesitant to switch to another. In art, some people prefer watercolors while others prefer oil paintings, and others may prefer collages. Each requires very different tools and mindset to accomplish.

    We have to embrace the different technologies available to us and pick the right one based on the problem at hand rather than using the one we have learned to solve every problem.

  42. I think its all out in the public .. no mincing words – no askance

    its html 5 versus flash

    me thinks ….

    regards
    from nesher+israel+lednichenko

  43. Dan, i’m commenting again here. (Hope you don’t mind.) I’ve been thinking about this whole fiasco. We all know the web and standards are not perfect. /ie “Almost standards and Quirks Mode” ..

    I just can’t help thinking that all this has everything to do with money, power and business. Getting to the top and staying there. Maybe it’s a fleeting thought or i’m in a extra sensitive mood. 🙂

    In any case happy i could get it off my chest over here, with people who actually care about the web..

  44. Excellent article. The way people become so passionate about their style of web design has always baffled me. There is more than one solution to a problem and focusing on what is best for your users instead of focusing on the platform used is the only true way for the web to keep moving forward.

  45. Thanks for this article, I absolutely agree — and I love this quote which says it all really,

    “Technologies aren’t inherently bad or good. They’re only appropriate or inappropriate for certain circumstances. They’re a means to an end, not solutions within themselves.”

  46. Like you suggest, it’s easy to sit on the fence and shout rude words at Flash; it’s done the job well so far and lots of ‘people’ enjoy their Treasure Madness & Cafe World games so why bash it.

    I think HTML5 + CSS3 are going to offer a lot more to the Web Designers pallette, allowing them to express their ideas more freely and really try out some devilishly cool apps. But like a little kid it’s still got some learning to do, and especially where javascript is concerned it can learn a lot from Flash’s history.

    I reckon if we all learn to get along and play well with the other kids then the people who actually use our creations won’t mind a bit, they just mind when it goes kaplowey in their face.

    Great work Dan

    🙂

  47. I still feel Apple’s relunctance to put Flash in Mobile Safari may be down to how processor intensive it is, let’s face it the iPhone is no CRAY.

    If this was the case then it’d be good reason for Adobe to nurture their relationship with Apple and give them freedom to build an iPhone version of Flash. Heck, this knowledge share may also improve Flash on the long run.

    Somethings got to give, but I don’t think the answer is taking Flash out back and beating him with an axe.

  48. It’s definitely the problem we’re faced with where I am. So much management focus is on selling the tech we can use, and unfortunately it works. It’s not only about telling people that “we can do your site in Flash” that is bad, it’s that on the recipient side it impresses them and ticks the box they’d set before the meeting.

    Web professionals, to me, should be that…”web” professionals with whatever that entails. Great article.

  49. I also see from the commentator here the same mentality that runs through some articles here on ALA. It’s all well and good IE9 supporting HTML 5 but the reality will be that at least 20-50%(depending on your market) will NOT be HTML5 enabled.

    Like it or not, folks, if you want rich content you either have to ignore a proportion of your market if you’re going to pin your colours only to HTML5, or you have to accept that to reach as many as possible you may have to also/instead use Flash.

    We need, due to the archaic way that PEOPLE use the web with browsers of their own choice that don’t conform necessarily to what we would prefer to work with, to know how to do things in the best way for each situation…

  50. Very eloquently written article. I’ve just started a job that covers only a select group of the areas I’ve learned over many years, and it makes me wonder, is that right? Should I leave skills behind, because of how my job has been labelled, and what it’s remit covers? My last job required me to do new things all the time, which was great, but then you worry about being a jack of all trades, master of none. You’re absolutely right, we shouldn’t get worried about the technology, only about whether people like the experience we create for them.

  51. My idea is just that yes, they need to just get along and make it work. Another is for flash to learn to work within all browsers and platforms. I kind of blame Adobe over Apple. If Adobe can’t find a work around, then they need to. Why get upset with Apply for not going the extra mile, thats Adobe’s problem. If my website doesnt work on the ipad, do i blame Apple for that? No, i’ll just have to redesign my site.

  52. I don’t use Flash and don’t particularly like it or Air as development tools. But the real reason I avoid it? I cringe whenever I have to go to a Flash-based site! Most are slow to load (even over a very fast connection), klunky and awkward to use, many with obnoxious audio. I often feel like I’m stuck in some site designer’s closet, rather than being able to go find what _I_ want to find and see. That’s partially the fault of Flash, but mostly due to the way it’s used, over and over. The “I’m so artsy” sites are especially egregious (less is often really _much_ less, not more). And, by the way, it’s also a huge security risk – there are many exploitable security issues with Flash. So, even if it is a turf war between the “A-s”, I understand Apple’s reluctance.

    I find it interesting that there is so little discussion about use of Silverlight and XAML by this community. The potential for developing actually useful sites, with access to and innovative presentation of business data, seems like its being totally ignored with all the hype about HTML5 and the iPad. (Go look at an HP multi-touch tablet running Windows7 and see how much more it can do than an iPad!) Silverlight apps in and out of a browser will run on PCs, Macs, and soon on phones. As “Web Professionals”, why the concentration on just Apple and Adobe?

  53. Excellent argument here and you make solid points throughout. Two minor things: the way I read Job’s statement that “flash is buggy” is not as a value judgement, but more a statement of what he sees as fact. One glance at Apple tells you they don’t like “buggy.” And I do wish you folks would use a serif font for your articles. I know, I’m old-fashioned, but the little serifs do help move the eyes to the right, thus making it easier to read. For me this one little detail goes a long way in undermining the site’s ethos, and thus your own, in arguments like the one you just made.

  54. Really enjoyed the article and was nodding away to all the points made.

    I wrote “this article”:http://www.kevadamson.com/talking-of-design/article/a-flash-from-the-past recently about how designers and developers should be looking at Flash sites now more than ever.

    _”An article discussing how, as standards designers and developers, and with the emergence of animation and transitions in CSS, we should take off our accessibility hats and invest more time viewing the best examples of animated Flash websites.”_

    Sorry for “pimping”, but I feel it has relevance 🙂

  55. Great article!

    It is really up to the designers and developers to make the web an easier place. People with small experience on the web should be welcomed, and not having to go through a getting started guide in able to understand the web! The technologies used are of secondary importance; we’ve seen Flash lead, when it’s been used appropriately.

  56. Firstly thank you for that good article. When i look to future i see html best way for website architect. Flash make really good visual but at searching engine not good like as design. html is more seo friendly and i think it’s so importand think for websites…

  57. Flash does have it’s place on the web still, especially until HTML5 is more widely supported, but I think apple has done itself a disservice by not allowing flash player on the ipad

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