Flash isn’t evil, but …

Last week’s prediction about Flash becoming irrelevant was pretty controversial, and some of you Flashheads had interesting remarks and -rhetorical- questions both in the comments and on Twitter (a big shout-out to Clo Willaerts for sharing). So without further ado, here’s my follow-up.

Flash isn’t evil

Some people seemed all too happy to dismiss my post as being plain old Flash-bashing. Sorry to disappoint you, but I”m not saying Flash is evil or that it will (or should) disappear altogether. Next correction: I do have Flash player installed and in general I do know if a application is made in Flash or not. Heck, the web has been my job for more than 10 years now and Flash has been a point of interest for quite some time already. And yes, there indeed are innovative web applications and games that are build in Flash. That being said, I do think (because of accessibility, SEO and some more philosophical reasons) it’s best to avoid using Flash to develop a site’s core functionality if the same can be achieved with non-propriety, standard web technology.

It’s not about Flash vs HTML5

The comments on last week’s blogpost seemed to focus very much on the individual merits (or lack thereof) of HTML5, CSS3 or Canvas, as if these are islands with no history and no connections to the web mainland. This is, off course, wrong; these “new” technologies just happen to be the most recent evolutions of the core components of the rapidly evolving ecosystem that is the “open web”. Moreover, with HTML, CSS and Javascript being the brick and mortar, libraries such as JQuery, Dojo and YUI are the “prefab” building blocks of open web development, offering plug&play components to efficiently build cross-browser rich web interfaces. So the discussion is not about Flash vs HTML5, but about the choice between Flash and the powerful “open web technology stack”.


“The only constant is change” and that’s all the more valid on the web. Flash has an important role to play in this respect, having pushed the boundaries of  web-based UI’s for many years. But as some of the cutting-edge features that once were only available in Flash, can now be created more efficiently using non-propriety technology, there’s a shift towards the use of those open web components (e.g. the Flash carousel on National Geographic website that was shown in the Adobe video from my previous post has been replaced by a JQuery implementation).
I believe (and that’s what the previous post was about) this trend will continue in 2010 because of features of HTML5, CSS3, canvas, … becoming available to a wider audience either natively (in new browsers) or through libraries that provide cross-browser compatible implementations. And yes, I’m afraid that in my book that means Flash will become less relevant (“irrelevant” in my previous post being an obvious hyperbole).

Loose ends & examples

To sum it all up: when Adobe Flash evangelist Serge writes “Flash Player has it’s place on the web today and in the future” I can only agree. But I’ll bet you that place in the future will be less prominent than the one it holds today.

8 thoughts on “Flash isn’t evil, but …”

  1. “But I’ll bet you that place in the future will be less prominent than the one it holds today.”
    It will probably be different, technologies evolve — literally nobody would’ve guessed the significance video would have on the whole web landscape when that first came out with Flash.
    Video support wasn’t even something on the roadmap for Flash but something one of the Macromedia engineers coded during a sabbatical.
    Nobody would’ve thought how important that little hacky XMLHttpRequest thing would become and the role it played in AJAX and the evolution of a lot of web applications.
    I think its fundamentally flawed to try and predict the future importance and relevance of a technology based on its past or current focus.
    Technology is a constantly moving target and the best we can do is infer by current short term trends, even then there are no certainties.
    The future is not ours to predict, its ours to create.

  2. Hi, is this the core of your statement?
    “…some of the cutting-edge features that once were only available in Flash, can now be created more efficiently using non-propriety technology”
    If so, I’d agree that the various clientside runtimes from Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Apple are continuing to increase in common functionality, and there’s no reason to see this decade-old trend change. It’s natural for them to continue to accrete existing popular features.
    I’d urge you to reconsider that “more efficiently” angle, however, particularly in light of practical workflows and deployment/support costs. Engineering a feature is just one step on the path to making it practical…!

  3. I know my comment comes a little late, but HTML5 and Flash both have a welcomed home on the internet. HTML and Flash are both evolving over the years, and this isn’t going to stop. I don’t understand how people think it’s going to be one thing or the other. Two ways of doing the same thing can co-exist so there is no reason to take a fanboy status. We have PC’s and Mac’s, Xbox’s and Playstation’s, IE Firefox and Google Chrome, etc. I’m all for new technology, but I am tired of hearing the “This is what’s going to kill *insert name here*” crap.


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