Big couple of months for interactive web development. There have been a few major press releases that have caused a fair amount of ripples. I think it’s safe to say that agencies have been given a lot to think about regarding Flash and HTML5 lately, and it’s something all of us have to think through.
For a lot of people in the industry, this is becoming a bit of a polarizing topic. It doesn’t need to be though. Let’s look at the situation with Adobe and Flash and the onslaught of HTML5 in an objective sense. It affects every agency in the industry, and it’ll ultimately boil down to how everyone is geared up and prepared for the present and the future. This might be a slight behemoth of a post, but if you’re curious about what’s happening in Digital, I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.
"We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations"
Source: Adobe’s Official Blog
Adobe recently came out saying they are ceasing development of the Flash plugin for mobile devices. This is a big deal, and became more so because of the way they broke the news. It was an horrific example of how to do a press release, and the response from the community was a mix of panic, joy and confusion.
What did this mean? Abandoning development on the mobile plug-in for Flash, does that spell the beginning of the end for the Flash platform from Adobe’s point of view? To make matters a bit more complicated, Adobe also revealed that part of the development team for the authoring tool (Flash Professional) had been laid off and/or relocated.
With everything else that’s been happening lately, large parts of the industry almost united in the stance that Flash is now truly dying.
So is it? There’s absolutely no doubt that Flash is on the decline, and throughout the industry everyone can feel it.
The immediate ramifications of the particular announcement Adobe made are small at best. Mobile space was something the Flash plugin never had a focus around. After the minor war between Adobe and Apple, the mobile player always felt like an afterthought. Even for people like myself with devices adept at displaying Flash content on mobile, it was just not a good solution. The nature of touch devices meant you couldn’t just use ‘normal’ Flash content, but you’d have to develop specifically for mobile space, which ultimately goes directly against the ubiquitous platform nature that spawned Flash in the first place.
Adobe realized that Flash would never reach the same kind of ubiquity in the smartphone space that it enjoys on PCs.
Their “mobile space” focus has instead shifted to AIR apps on phones (put simply, packaging up Flash applications into native apps that you download from the Market/App Store). Can they pull it off? Too early to tell. It’s got potential, but they created a massive dark cloud over their own mobile future already.
I think it’s pretty much impossible to not have heard the phrase “HTML5 is the future” at least a handful times now from various authors, and it’s quite hard to argue with from a web point of view. The days of making restaurant websites as a Flash experience with a soundtrack are long gone. Information is the focal point of a lot of web positioning now, not the ‘experience’.
There will always be a place for experience type content however, be it 3D walk-through’s of houses, interactive games and such. HTML5 is simply not geared up for that type of content, and there will be a long period of time before it can be. Comments like “porting” games to HTML5 are as awkward as they are false. Adobe has made it quite clear with Flash Player 11 that they assuming a pretty strong focus around re-positioning Flash towards web gaming. It’s a huge part of the web still, and gaming is most likely where Flash will continue to be the best choice of platform.
But what gets lost is the focus for agency land. I refuse to believe that the centre of your attention should be making a choice of technology. Technology is meant to help drive the ideas. It’s not meant to be something you build an idea around. Ultimately, the work we’re doing should look at providing the best solution for our clients.
"Adapt your technical skills as needed. Be water."
Source: Kirupa Chinnathambi @ Kirupa.com
Getting too caught up in the execution of an idea is a terrible path to go down. It’s impossible to argue that any choice doesn’t have its strengths and weaknesses. For avid readers on community based content, I think long-time tutorial contributor and forum administrator Kirupa Chinnathambi put it best with his “Be Water” post.
Both from an agency point of view, and for interactive developers trying to gauge the future, I think this is spot on. If you ever become too defensive of a technology, or if you’re too quick to judge based on the words on others, you’re most likely wrong.
Digital agencies and developers, collectively, have evolved through so many iterations of web technology. This is just another step along the way, and we are all here to go with what’s best for our clients. Be it HTML5 or Flash Games or Unity solutions, you have to maintain the primary goal of making smart choices around your ideas and demographics.
Final thoughts and conclusions
When Macromedia created Flash, it created something unique in being able to unite browsers and walk straight past the inconsistencies between them. For a long time it’s been the only way to present interactive and animated content for the web.
That exclusivity is over, and mobile delivery of information is now playing a significant role in interactive development. HTML5 and all the new stuff is getting everyone, us included, tremendously excited about the future, but it can’t come at the cost of the solution. Nothing is the “be all, end all” approach to the problems we try to solve for our clients. Making smart choices, evolving and adapting is what this and next year is all about. After that, well.. we’ll just have to see :)
This article was first published on AdNews