Tag Archives: open web

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”.

about:evolution

“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(e.g. the Flash carousel on National Geographic website that was shown in the Adobe video from my previous post has been replaced by a JQuery implementation).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.

2010: the year Flash became irrelevant

My 2nd prediction for 2010 (the first one being ‘offline is the new online‘): the glory days of Flash are over. The reason for this is twofold; the mobile web and the strong advances “open web” technology is making.

Open web moving in, fast

Remember the days when everybody wanted to spice up otherwise dull websites with “a flash splash page” and “flash menu’s”? Now menu’s are built in accessible, SEO-friendly HTML once again, using CSS to add style and even behavior, adding some Javascript if magic dust is required . And splash pages, well, those were pretty useless to begin with. Adobe Flash’s stronghold now is video playback and animation, but they’re bound to eventually lose that battle as well.

For starters; video (and audio) on the web doesn’t have to be based on a plugin any more. Firefox, Safari and Chrome have built-in html5 audio- and video-playback capabilities and several video-sites are already experimenting with those native browser multimedia-features. True, there’s still that darn codec-problem, but I bet you that’ll get solved in 2010 (clue; Google is negotiating the acquisition of video codec specialists On2 Technologies).

On the animation-front things are moving at such a fast pace, I even need a bulleted list;

Mobile; the Flash-less revolution

There’s no Flash on the iPhone. It wasn’t there at launch, back in 2007 and –despite me thinking it would arrive in 2009– it’s still not there. This decision is said to be Steve Jobs’, who in 2008 stated that a full-fledged version of Flash “performs too slow to be useful“. And it seems as though the turtlenecked CEO was right all along; on one hand the mobile web boomed thanks to the iPhone browser and on the other hand Adobe is still struggling to provide a decent mobile Flash experience, despite huge efforts in 2009. The fact is there’s no Flash on the booming mobile web, no-one seems to miss it much and it doesn’t look like that will change any time soon.

Adobe’s answer; mobile banners & deploy to Appstore

So with a Flash-less mobile web and with strong browser-native competition for both multimedia and graphics on the “normal” web, how does Adobe see it’s future? Well, they plan to roll out “iPhone packager for Flash” in CS5, allowing any Flash developer to publish to the AppStore, but there’s still no news about in-browser Flash on the iPhone.

For non-Apple devices, Adobe is boasting a preview version of Flash 10.1 in a mobile browser (the Android 2.0 browser on Google Nexus One in this case) with this promo video;

Flash Player 10.1 on Google's Nexus One Phone

Watch this video on YouTube.

I don’t know about you, but somehow a sub-par game, web video and banners don’t convince that Flash has a bright future ahead. Not on mobile and maybe even not on the open web as it’s shaping up to be.

But maybe you think Flash will remain in the spotlights despite all of this? Why? Let us know in the comments!

Helping Mozilla to define “the open web”

Over at Mozilla Hacks Christopher Blizzard is asking readers to explain what “the open web” means to them.

My answer went something like this (it was slightly less elaborated and not as structured, guess I have a problem with character-limits):

The open web is an ecosystem based on free and open standards, allowing anyone to:

  • participate in evolving the standards
  • using the standards to build and use
    • server- or client-side infrastructure-type applications (e.g. Apache or Firefox)
    • websites and -applications, relying on the standards-compliant infra-type apps

without being limited by commercial or patent restrictions (per se).

It is my conviction that it were exactly these principles which allowed the WWW, as it was invented by Tim Berners-Lee (and Robert Cailliau off course), to become the success it is today. Sir Tim announced and published the first specs (specifically http/html) and asked people for feedback and encouraged them to put up servers and pages and to develop their own WWW-applications in 1991. In 1993, as a reaction to the University of Minnesota wanting to charge  license fees for Gopher,  CERN officially released the project into the public domain in 1993 with the aim:

“to further compatibility, common practices and standards in networking and in computer supported collaboration”

A few years later Gopher (which didn’t only suffer from the license-issue, but was less flexible as well) had disappeared completely, and the open WWW boomed and revolutionized the way information was published and consumed.

So the next time anyone asks you why “the open web” is that big a deal, you might want to ask them if they would rather Gopher instead.