Did Flash really become irrelevant in 2010?

Little over a year ago I must have been smoking some weird shit when writing that Flash would become irrelevant in 2010. Because after all, this is 2011 and there’s still plenty of Flash for Adobe aficionados to make a living and the famous html5 video codec issue hasn’t been fully sorted out yet either. So I was wrong, was I? Well, … not really!
Apple still stubbornly refuses Flash on the iPhone and more importantly the iPad, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 joined the HTML5-crowd in full force and even Adobe is going HTML5 with support in Dreamweaver and in Illustrator and with a preview of Edge, “a tool for creating animation and transitions using the capabilities of HTML5”.
But is was only in December 2010 that I knew I was dead on with my prediction, when I overheard this conversation at work between a business colleague and a web development partner:

Business Colleague: I would like a personalized dashboard with some nice-looking charts in my web application.
Web Development Partner: No problem, we’ll do it in Flash!
Business Colleague: No, we want this to work on the iPad too!

The year technology-agnostic decision-making business people started telling suppliers not to use Flash, that was the year Flash became irrelevant and “the open web technology stack” (somewhat incorrectly marketed as HTML5) took over.

4 thoughts on “Did Flash really become irrelevant in 2010?”

  1. Hi Frank,
    So… Is this going to be a yearly recurring blog post now?
    I don’t see how this one conversation you mention proves that Flash became irrelevant. It only proves that business oriented people are thinking about user experience and that is a good thing. If your target audience are heavy iPad users then it only makes sense to think about that.
    I also don’t see how us investing in HTML5 support in our tools proves your point. We’ve always had HTML tooling and I think it’s only normal that we keep updating them with new functionality as it becomes available.
    The fact that Apple is not allowing Flash Player on their devices also does not prove your point. 19 out of the 20 biggest device manufacturers do pre-install Flash Player on their devices. Apple has done a fantastic job with the iPhone and the iPad but the game is changing rapidly. When Apple came to the market with the iPhone there was nothing out there that could even get close to it. That is dramatically different today where Android is now taking the lead in smartphone sales. I predict the same thing will happen with the iPad. When the iPad came out there was nothing else like it on the market but that will change this year. There were some very exciting tablet announcements at CES this year and the announcement of Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chipset is also a huge gamechanger (http://www.webkitchen.be/2011/01/06/lots-of-exciting-announcements-at-ces-here-are-my-favorites/). So is the BlackBerry Playbook and the announcement of AIR for TV by Samsung (http://www.webkitchen.be/2011/01/07/start-building-air-for-tv-apps-today/) and other partners.
    Flash has a bright future ahead (http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/98772/20110107/flash-here-to-stay-on-tablets-and-smartphones.htm) and I’m sure HTML5 will also have a bright future. In fact… I think they greatly complement each other (http://www.webkitchen.be/2010/03/05/the-html5-flash-marriage-geolocation/ http://www.webkitchen.be/2010/12/10/html5-and-flash-play-along-just-fine-in-sours-mirror-music-video/).
    Flash and HTML will continue to evolve and will continue to play a big role on the web. But you know what… It’s not about choosing one technology over the other it’s about creating great and interesting user experiences!
    Serge Jespers

  2. I think irrelevant is too strong, maybe annoying is a better word. I remember the Flash go-go days when all the new fancy sites had super duper flash intros, and we were all wowed. Now when you get to a Flash intro, I just look for the exit button.

  3. @jesse: the use of flash indeed has gotten less annoying for the simple reason web-builders know what it is supposed to be used (and not used) for. although irrelevant certainly is a too strong a word (but hey, blogging is provoking), I do think flash is becoming less relevant as the quickly evolving ‘open web technology stack’ is providing functionality that used to be flash-only.
    @serge: nice to see we still disagree (to some extend) 😉
    you’ve seemed to have missed my main argument though: the target audience of the site that my business colleague wanted to be developed without flash, aren’t heavy iPad-users (that we know of).
    the big change is that pre-iPad, people without Flash were considered weirdo exceptions that could easily be discarded. the iPad changed that perception profoundly: it’s users are a visible group of ‘trend-setters’ that business people simply don’t want to miss out on. it’s all in the mind of the decision-makers.


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