Flash and Standards: The Cold War of the Web

by Dan Mall

71 Reader Comments

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  1. 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?

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  2. 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?

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  3. 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.

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  4. 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.

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  5. 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,

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  6. 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.

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  7. 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.)

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  8. 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!

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  9. I have to admit… I first balked at Apple’s choice to not support FLASH on the iPad. However, after reading various opinions and reasons for it, and today, seeing that IE9 will support HTML5 (http://gizmodo.com/5494574/internet-explorer-9-a-fresh-start-with-html5… Phew! :) It appears that Apple is gambling on the right side…

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  10. 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

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  11. 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.

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  12. 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.

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  13. 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

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  14. Really great article Dan!
    Well written, well articulated, well done!

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  15. 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..

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  16. 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.

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  17. 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.”

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  18. 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

    :-)

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  19. 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.

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  20. 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.

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  21. 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…

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  22. Great article and one of only a few adult repsonses to this whole Apple v Flash thing.

    Also check Ray Valdes blog:
    http://blogs.gartner.com/ray_valdes/2010/02/10/html5-and-flash/

    We should also be thinking about People as creative individuals and producers of content who want good tools to work with, not only as consumers. So whether those tools are Flash or any other authoring environment it doesn’t matter.

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  23. 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.

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  24. 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.

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  25. 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?

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  26. 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.

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  27. 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 :)

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  28. Nowadays Flash is a tool like chainsaw in the hands of abusing people.

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  29. 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.

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  30. 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…

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  31. 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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