The internet seems to have come to the conclusion that Flash is dying. Which is interesting really, considering that Flash is used by 99% of the internet linked computers on the planet. I don’t use it much, but then again most of what I do involves coding. If you look at Adobe shares on Yahoo! Finance (the only thing I use Yahoo! for) you see that they have grown since 2000 – which is before they owned Macromedia, but have fallen since last year – perhaps suggesting that Flash is no longer as successful as it would like to be.
Adobe has been rolling out Flash since 2005, but it hasn’t been as easy as they might like. At first it was a success when they customised Macromedia’s tools into things that looked more like the other Adobe tools. Designers were thrilled. However, Flash would soon gain itself some enemies that would eventually lead it into the state that it is in today.
In early 2007 two things happened: Microsoft released Vista, no big deal because it turned out to be rubbish. Meanwhile, Apple pulled out all the stops and announced the iPhone. It was a device of beauty, something unlike anything either company had ever produced before. Adobe were keen to get in, but Steve Jobs wouldn’t let them: there would be no Flash on the iPhone. This lead to users wishing for Flash on their iPhones and iPod Touches.
Later the following year Flash had another announcement came to set back Flash: Google would be releasing a browser based on the open-source WebKit project called Chrome. This browser was different because it would be based on giving maximum HTML5 support for all users. Interestingly, it did include the Flash runtime, however it was the HTML5 support that was the main problem.
Adobe didn’t understand that HTML5 is the way forward. They didn’t understand that Flash would soon die thanks to the efforts of their competitors. At this point it is interesting to consider another competitor: Microsoft. Microsoft had not voiced any public opinion on HTML5, and had their own rival to Flash called Silverlight. Silverlight wasn’t particularly successful and has penetrated very little of the web. In early 2010 Microsoft began to drop Silverlight slightly to encourage more HTML5 with previews on their new browser: Internet Explorer 9. You could say that it was only Flash that kept IE users happy enough not to switch to something else.
Something else happened in early 2010 that probably got Adobe’s hopes up: the iPad. Perhaps now that Apple had developed a cross of the desktop and mobile they would be happy to have Flash on the device to continue having a more desktop experience? No. Apple had begun to realise, however, that it need to support HTML5, but perhaps a little to late. They began to develop tools to ship with Dreamweaver and Flash CS5 that would allow Flash projects to be exported, ready for iOS. However, in April 2010 they had their biggest drawback: a neat bit of revenge from Apple’s boss. If you click here you can read through Steve Job’s personal view on Flash: he hates it and there will be a blanket ban on all apps submitted to the App Store that have been created by ‘third party’ applications.. But he is basically right: Adobe has been wrong to continue to develop Flash when they should be looking onto to a more realistic future where Flash is not the market leader for Rich Media presentation on the web.
In the next few months iPad users began to discover something new. The HTML5 web experience. Websites were now building dedicated ‘iPad friendly’ versions of the site with new features that made it more dynamic and all without Flash. People were getting a better experience. After a few months Apple lifted this ban, perhaps because people were keen to use tools like C# (MonoTouch) and Java to develop apps – and they had no problem with that. By this point it was too late for CS5 because the feature to export to iPhone was quickly removed when Apple made the announcement, resulting in the feature being included in Flash Pro CS5.5.
The problem with the future being HTML5 is Dreamweaver. HTML5 could be described as an open mix of Flash and Dreamweaver, but ultimately all design will be in Dreamweaver because it will be the only way that Adobe keep users. Dreamweaver is the world’s most popular web design tool (I handcode in NetBeans) and if it is to stay that way it will be extensively HTML5. There is, however, the possibility that Dreamweaver will be knocked from the podium by an open-project. I agree with this: there ultimately needs to be an open-source web design program that can take on Dreamweaver.