Since Steve Jobs posted his “Thoughts on Flash” in April 2010, a lot has been talked about with regards to the future of Flash. With Adobe’s recent announcement that “Our future work with Flash on mobile devices will be focused on enabling Flash developers to package native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores. We will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser to work with new mobile device configurations (chipset, browser, OS version, etc.) following the upcoming release of Flash Player 11.1 for Android and BlackBerry PlayBook.”, I felt there was one voice we still hadn’t heard from, that of the people in the industry who actually have shaped Flash in the last 10+ years and those who will shape the future. Those who make the work.
I contacted 50 of the top FWA award winning agencies and asked them:
“After Adobe’s announcement of no more Flash player dev on mobile browser and the hysteria it is whipping up, I thought it would be a good idea to get some thoughts from the people that actually make the work.”
Here’s what they had to say…
Joshua Hirsch, Partner & Minister of Technology, Big Spaceship
I think Adobe could have done a better job of mitigating the negative reaction from the community. They should have anticipated that people would be quick to declare a ‘victory’ for HTML5 and Apple, and that they would use this to bolster the ‘Flash is Dead’ sentiment. The announcement could have been paired with a larger positive messaging effort around AIR as a platform for mobile development, maybe a showcase of apps on various platforms, or demos of exceptional Flash gaming experiences. As it stands, I wouldn’t blame people for wanting to stay away from Flash for fear that it is on its way out.
As far as we are concerned at Big Spaceship, Adobe’s announcement doesn’t have any direct effect on our work, or how we approach it. We think Flash is a great technology, and will continue to consider it as an option, and to use it when appropriate for the project at hand.
Petter Westlund, CCO, B-Reel
Strategically this means a lot, it reinforces the HTML5 and App paradigms. Adobe has it’s reasons to do this, but even if Mobile wasn’t sustainable right now, technology and devices evolve fast. Is closing the door to browser based Flash on mobile the right decision, long term? The other big question is what this means for the desktop platform. Overall I think we as creators benefit from having many options for how to create our projects. Each format and technology has its strengths and weaknesses. I hope we don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.
Jared Kroff, Creative Director, RED Interactive Agency
The most exciting and impactful digital experiences are those that transcend the technology they are built on to truly connect with and empower the user. Great, mediocre and bad design will always be the same regardless of the underlying technology.
As creative professionals it is our responsibility to master the most effective technologies to accomplish our clients’ objectives. But because it is ever evolving, no technology is ever perfect or complete. As such, the abandonment of any digital platform might always seem premature.
More surprising than the seemingly eminent extinction of Flash is actually how it managed to gain such wide adoption in the first place. Its longevity as a ubiquitous plugin on the web is unprecedented.
The key to the anomaly that is Flash’s success has not been the player, but rather what the creative community has built with the platform. In the end, any technology is only as relevant as the content created for it.
The relevancy of Flash and potential of HTML5 both lie in the hands of the creative community. More importantly, the future of the Internet remains a vast and exciting canvas so long as we seek to continually provide the most engaging and effective user experiences possible.
François Gillet, Interactive Developer, Soleil Noir
The fact that every announcement about Flash triggers an intense debate shows how this technology is essential. Soleil Noir and I have a long story with Flash and it’s undeniably the same for the Internet as a whole. Without it YouTube and many others wouldn’t yet exist. Internet Advertising would also never have been able to provide all these awesome consumer Experiences shared on FWA everyday.
I sincerely hope that HTML5 will evolve into a real alternative to Flash. Unfortunately this is not the case right now and Flash is still the best option to deliver rich experience to as many people as possible.
Mark McQuillan – Technical Director – Jam3
An end to the mobile Flash player was predictable but to end corporate stewardship of the Flex SDK, this is the big shocker for me. Even if it’s just a transfer to the open source community, Adobe is really waving the white flag on Flash. HTML5, I get it, but this has really pissed off a host of creative professionals and i really don’t get the sense this story has completely played out.
Daniel Isaksson, Technical Director, North Kingdom
If Flash keeps pushing the evolution of experiences on internet, as they currently are doing with gpu accelerated video, 2D and 3D I think Flash will be around for some time still. The competition will do Flash good.
We now have more techniques to choose between but we also have a lot more platforms to reach. That’s really good and I wish people would stop claiming there is one solution that works for all.
The need for developing experiences with different techniques for different platforms will keep growing and I see Flash as one of the strongest for desktop experiences.
David Linderman, Creative Director, Hi-ReS! New York
Too Big To Fail?
The future of flash was jeopardized when the iPhone first came out in 2007. Instead of changing tack and embracing the new iOS software, rethinking flash for touch devices and integration on smaller processors, Adobe took Steve Jobs head on in a public battle for who had a bigger dick. Adobe’s strategy from the beginning seemed to be: Flash is too big to fail. Flash was everywhere and Adobe gambled on what they thought would be eventually a simple matter of scale in economy. Apple, as popular as it was, would never single-handedly take down a proprietary “standard” that permeated the web and the industry.
What Adobe should have understood and embraced instead is that the interface memes behind iOS and the proliferation of tablet and mobile browsing was changing the industry, as well as the way audiences consume information overnight.
The first iPad was released just in 2010 (!) and the love for a new and much more intuitive way to browse content spelled the final death knell for flash as we knew it. Flash is still the best way to deliver video or audio content easily over the web to all browsers and platforms, but the ego-driven battle between two titans that started back in 2007 obscured the really issue for Adobe: adapt to new technologies and markets and never ever think you’re too big to fail.
Steve Jobs. RIP.
Cameron Yule, Head of Tech, Preloaded
I’ve always felt that an emotional investment in technology is counter productive, as choice of technology should always be a rational decision based on the needs of what you’re creating.
Adobe’s decision to discontinue Flash Player on mobile browsers should not have come as a surprise. It was an ill-conceived attempt at ensuring Flash remained relevant on mobile devices when Adobe still believed Flash had standing on the web outside of game and video development. In the meantime, forward-thinking developers have instead chosen to support multiple platforms through Unity, HTML5, PlayN, Adobe’s own AIR and many other alternatives.
Flash Player on desktop browsers remains attractive thanks to it’s ubiquity, but it’s now simply one of many available build targets as opposed to a primary development platform.
Wesley ter Haar, Head of Operations, MediaMonks
If we step back from the horrible timing of Adobe’s press-release we’re left with the same discussion we have every single day. What’s the best tool for the job, and how do we reach as many people as possible. Sometimes the answer is HTML, sometimes it’s Flash but in our business being fundamentally for or against a platform or technology means you fill your days squeezing square plugs in to round holes. You look at the problem and you solve it, this discussion about what happens behind the curtain should be left to fanboys & fanatics
Oscar Trelles, Head of Technology & Rob Rasmussen, CCO, Tribal DDB
We focus on creativity and, for over a decade, Flash has been an invaluable ally in bringing our ideas to life. However, the constraints imposed by today’s generation of mobile devices have been a tremendous challenge. In that context, Adobe’s decision to stop delivering a version of the Flash Player for mobile web browsers comes as no surprise after their announcement to focus Flash on gaming and high-end video, back in October. This will have little impact on what agencies are already doing for clients on the mobile web space, but it drags our attention to the future of Flash on the desktop.
Zeh Fernando, Senior Developer, Firstborn
The more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me. There was never a big reason to have mobile websites with Flash-based content. You could create great experiences with Flash on a mobile website, but it wouldn’t be accessible by everyone, and mobile users are often looking for straight content rather than rich experiences, so the motivation was never there.
AIR was always the strongest market for Flash on mobile, and I’m glad they’ll be focusing on it instead.
On the other hand, in a way, it upsets me that political and economical reasons led to this, rather than technological ones. Considering the amount of innovation Flash has brought to the web over the past 10 years, it’s sad to see it won’t be able to do that on the mobile front.
Joe Corr, Creative Technology Director, CP+B
Our approach to creating work starts with the best way we can communicate our idea and tell our story. We know that our audience connects with us across a variety of devices and channels, and we need to make sure our solutions can meet their needs, wherever they might be, on whatever type of device they might be using at that time. Right now that limits Flash as a viable option, and makes Standards based work attractive. This debate reinforces our position that we need to be fluent in a variety of technologies so that we are never limiting our greater creative vision.
Firdosh Tangri, Director of Technology, Fantasy Interactive
Adobe’s announcement is a strategic move, more than anything else. They have already been supporting HTML5 by releasing HTML publishing tools such as Edge and Muse on labs.adobe.com. It’s likely that Flash will still be used in the interim to create rich media content until HTML5 fully matures and catches up to the functionality currently offered by Flash. Adobe will continue to support the Flash player for desktop and allow developers to create native applications for the Android and iOS platforms.
David Bliss, Founder and Technical Director, Odopod
Adobe’s recent announcements are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the work we do at Odopod. Regardless of technology, experiences created for mobile devices are different than those developed for personal computers. Developing content and interfaces that work well in both contexts requires additional time and effort and without support for iOS, that additional effort is difficult to justify.
Jonathan Hills, Executive Creative Director & Founder, Domani Studios
Over the last few years the types of interactive video experiences enabled by Flash have allowed storytelling to evolve in an increasingly dynamic and collaborative direction. It almost felt like we were on the verge of a new category of entertainment – something in between Film and Gaming where users “leaned forward” to interact with a narrative unlike ever before. Developers could control this experience by building a framework, or a custom video player, molded to tell a story in a unique way – one where the viewer played an active role.
At Domani we’ve built video players that pull viewer profile data from Facebook and use it to augment the story; we’ve built players that served as a live portal into an event at which viewers can directly interact; and we’ve created video players that enabled users to mix audio and video on the fly. All done relatively easily within the browser.
The tablet is an amazing place for these exciting new video based experiences to live, and there is much that can be done there to make that happen. But without the dynamic options for customization and engagement provided by Flash we risk taking a step backwards from much of what’s made this evolution in storytelling so exciting.
To be clear It’s not impossible to create equally unique and collaborative experiences without Flash. However, its loss means a more rigid framework to build from, and fewer developers able to work within it. This makes such customization not only more time consuming, but also more expensive – and so for many clients less feasible. Non-flash versions of all of this will happen in time, but its hard to not to feel like we’ve taken a step backwards when it comes to creating these dynamic video experiences with relative ease.
Are we now asking users to “lean back” again or can we quickly find tools outside of Flash that allow us to create those immersive “forward leaning” video experiences that we have been creating easily (and for less cost) with Flash
Keith Butters, Chief Experience Officer & Co-Founder, The Barbarian Group
The latest announcements regarding the end of Flash on Mobile browsers could potentially be the end of Flash as a viable option for development in general. This sucks for Flash people who have made careers based on the technology. However, the good thing is, many of those people are genuinely very good at designing interactive experiences, and hopefully won’t have too difficult a time switching to HTML / js/ CSS, or something else entirely. I have high hopes for things like Processing js, and webGL. We could be entering a new period of interactive creativity coming out of these platform changes.
Adobe appears to be banking on AIR as the future of Flash on Mobile. They might be able to pull this off. The trick will be avoiding all the pitfalls of Java / Swing / etc. The whole “write once run anywhere” thing never really worked out for them, with the JVM not working exactly as planned across the different platforms. Can Adobe do better?
Pascal Leroy, Creative Director & Founder, group94
Flash is a wonderful tool allowing to create complex and intelligent, yet slick and fluid interfaces… for the desktop. Because frankly: the small touch screens on mobile devices, to be operated with fingers, hardly allow any niftier interface than a straightforward point and click user pattern. And no need to either. Mobile browsing is about quickly allocating data and to be as efficient as possible. Nobody expects an exciting surfing experience. Apple has banned Flash for commercial reasons, and Adobe seems to have lost this particular battle. Whatever.
Todd Purgason, Executive Creative Director, JUXT Interactive
First off I love Flash, hec I wrote a book about it. At JUXT we were passionate about Flash because it allowed us to be creative, innovate, challenge ourselves and get paid in the process. In the last two years however, there has been a massive shift that resulted in two very significant realities. First, innovation opportunities for us shifted to iOS, and other large-scale touch projects, in these projects Flash is not a viable option. Second, we stopped getting RFP’s for Flash projects, it didn’t matter if we liked it or not, there has been few opportunities to do business with it. Weather this is right or wrong is kind of irrelevant.
Martin Hughes, Co-Founder, WEFAIL
The future is here! Clients want their sites on iGadgets. They want that ‘cheesy corn snack’ website to reach as many users as possible via the magical (yet rather limited) powers of HTML5. This leaves Flash in an awkward position, you’re only as credible as your latest client, but if clients no longer demand Flash then Flash itself has zero credibility. It’s become the greatest player on the bench. How do we get it off the bench? I don’t know. Ask Adobe, I’m too busy learning jQuery.
Mike John Otto, Creative Director & Managing Director, Hi-ReS! Hamburg
From my point of view it is in a way sad but the right decision. It was a platform I liked a lot for years as it was first choice for creating great work and
Stefan Thomson, Head of Digital Innovation, Forsman & Bodenfors
For us creatives, Flash has opened up lots of possibilities from the very beginning, and it almost rewrote the whole way we thought about the web.
The mobile flash plugin got a bit of a buzz in the beginning, but the same revolution never took place, mainly because of performance issues.
We never work on an idea based upon any specific technique or platform. Our mission is to use the technique that best brings our ideas to life.
For us,this has almost always meant creating a native application for Android or iOS, or creating a HTML5 website to gain as much reach as possible.
Drew Ungvarsky, Owner & Creative Director, Grow Interactive
While I question the motives of the Flash vs. iOS debate, I’m definitely excited about the types of innovation the change has inspired, not to mention the focus on usability. Like everything else in development, the conversation should be about using the right tool for the right result. Worth noting is that Flash still does things that HTML is incapable of (and not to mention at a substantially higher adoption rate on the desktop). For those things, it’ll be the right tool until something better comes along.
Josh Rhode, Creative Director, Tribal DDB
Flash pushed the limits of experiential digital design and ushered in some of the most impressive and innovative sites ever seen. In adecade of lackluster and often terrifyingly inconsistent HTML browser standards, the universal framework and interactive capabilities that Flash offered were light-years ahead for creatives. HTML5 is still barely catching up, and its pioneers can thank Flash for having given us the ability to set the benchmark for all of these years. As brands head further into web-based products and services, Flash’s toolset still provides designers the best way to prototype ideas and rapidly visualize concepts.
Julien Terraz, Creative Technologist, Digitas France
Flash is always compared to HTML, but most of non-developers can’t really get what differs between them, so to make them understand I often say : “Flash and HTML are like men and women, they are from the same species, they are made to live together but are very different from each other : HTML is a respected man, loyal and elegant wether Flash is a smart and innovative woman but often underestimated.
Jimmy Herdberg, Creative Director & Owner, Kokokaka
The idea is king, then we find the best technique to realize it. And to reach the users. Today you reach about 50% of the users with HTML5 comparing to with Flash where you reach around 99%. These numbers change very rapidly and at the moment we’re going through a transitional phase as HTML5 becomes more popular. It’s important for us to reach all plattforms: desktop, tablets and mobile. But Flash is still the master tool for interactive music!
Melissa Camero Ainslie, VP of Innovation & Platforms, AgencyNet
Remember 5 short years ago? HTML table layouts, spacer gifs and alternate stylesheets? We don’t either. Back then HTML was a pain in our creative side. Flash was the solution — a cross-browser platform that allowed us to build and animate and create anything our designers could dream up. Then the iPhone hit the market and we all know what happened. HTML evolved and now affords us the same kind of freedom Flash used to. Sure Flash still has its place as a cost-effective platform to create simple videos, banners and games, it just doesn’t make sense for today’s socially-connected, multi-platform experiences.
Flavio Ensiki, Interactive developer, Soleil Noir
Even though there’s a lot of “noise” about Flash’s future, I think people are looking at this from the wrong angle. I think this is not about Flash as a plugin, if it’s better / worse than html 5 or whatever, but about Flash as an “innovation” tool.
Because Flash is not a standard, it can evolve much faster (most of the time by trial and error) and make way for other technologies to follow, thus improving the web as a whole. Whether or not we will still be using Flash to play videos on a website, or creating smooth animations, in time we’ll see, but as long as Flash enables us to “push the limits”, I think it will have its place.
Marc Storch, Senior Flash Designer, Scholz & Volkmer
Flash as a plugin will hopefully disappear from the mobile world because its simply not made for it. As a development tool Flash has turned the web into what it is today.
It combines the worlds of design and development, animation and applications and has opened many doors for countless people in the creative industry. It still does. Due to Adobe’s good work on the flash packager for mobile devices, Flash developers don’t have to be afraid. Its a metamorphosis. Like the web is – of a good kind.
Johan Belin, Creative Director, DinahMoe
It is thanks to Flash that we are even talking about “rich content”. It has been a marvelous platform for experiments with interactive storytelling, combining text, stills, animations, 3d, video, sound and interactivity into one uninterrupted experience. But the world has changed, tablets and mobile devices are more and more becoming user’s primary (or only) media device. Flash is not ubiquitous anymore. Adobe gave up on mobile devices, is moving resources from Flash to HTML5, and will eventually let it die altogether. It feels a little sad to be honest, I have had a really good time!
Ian McGregor, Senior Developer, Stinkdigital
Last week’s announcement and the resulting hysteria was embarrassing. Embarrassing, awkward and unsettling. But Flash is not dead yet.
In recent months I’ve witnessed a strong resurgence in excitement and confidence around Flash following some great advances and improvements.
There is however a very serious perception problem. There’s no doubt that the manner in which Adobe communicated their plans has been an unmitigated disaster.
My advice is to keep calm and carry on. Try to stay technology agnostic, selecting the best tool for the job. In many cases that may well still be Flash.
Owen Wallis, Head of Production, Less Rain
At the start of 2011 it wasn’t looking great for Flash, we all thought we’d have to get new day jobs! Then Apple opened up its restrictions on porting Air apps onto iOS. This really changed the game for us. In the past we’d have to create one Flash codebase for online, then create a seperate natively built version for iOS and other mobile devices. Now we can build once in Flash then port to iPad, Playbook, Tablet S – wherever we like. The UK marketing and evangelist teams from Adobe have been really positive in giving us help and support. The fact that there is no more Flash player development on mobile is not really an issue for us, as we can now deliver our content in App form.
Svante Hellberg, Interactive Developer, ACNE Production
Right now, we’re still using Flash as the major technology in most of our productions. This is because right now Flash has a great user penetration, and runs the same on all major platforms, except Apple mobile devices. And it’s still the best and most reliable technology in terms getting a real high-end finish. For example in video, font and sound handling/manipulation.
However, the time has come for Flash to take a step back and let HTML5 (with js, css3 etc.) take a larger place. But I don’t think people should blindly take a stand for either HTML5 or Flash, they should try to get a deeper knowledge in which technologies are best suited for their project.
Vincent J. Higgins, Experience Design Director, Tribal DDB
Personally, I think the discontinued development of Flash is a little premature. Like all first and second generation devices they startwith basic hardware and software that overtime becomes more powerful, effective and robust. With the introduction of quad-core smart phones and tablets it seems that the required technical power to run flash is catching up.
Did Adobe discontinue it’s development too early… Would 1 more year make the difference? This remains to be seen but a Mobile Flash player 12 optimized for a quad-core table/phone sure seems like a good idea – unfortunately I don’t work for Adobe.
Anders Sønderby Jessen, Lead Developer, Hello Monday
Adobe’s announcement to stop developing the flash player on the mobile platform may have surprised the developer community, but it was also to be expected. More important, however, is the overall shift in focus on Adobe’s part from flash/flex to HTML. In their own words: “In the long-term, we believe HTML5 will be the best technology for enterprise application development.” (http://blogs.adobe.com/flex/2011/11/your-questions-about-flex.html).
Flash, as it exists and is being used today, will slowly die out, as it already has for many sites that have a long life expectancy. Because of browser inconsistency Flash is still currently – and will continue to be for quite some time – the best tool for creating engaging, video-rich, experience-driven campaign sites. But HTML is growing up fast and will, within the next few years, become Flash’s successor even in this field.
Jort Schutte, Art Director, Achtung!
As an agency that focuses on developing creative concepts and design we always try to push the techniques forward and not to being pushed back by technical limitations. The beauty of Flash is that almost everything is possible. The alternative: HTML 5 has not (yet) the capabilities that flash has. It would be a shame that in the future we should take technical limitation in to consideration while thinking of new ideas. But to go forward you always need to take a step back and open source is always better than a closed plugging. We go with the flow.
Nobuaki Arikata, Flash Designer, Birdman inc.
Until now, Flash has been used as Rich internet application tools for many great sites, but, the appearance of HTML5 and CSS3 has now taken its place and Flash will end its position of “Rich animation tool”.
However, the appearance of Flash Player11 will change the usage of Flash Player from “what you look” to”what you experience”, by the support of GPU acceleration. With Flash Player 11, you can now develop web content that’s the same quality as PlayStation or Xbox by using GPU.
Not to forget, Action Script is a language that is very easy to use and develop, so it is a very useful tool to develop applications quickly and easily.
Flash experience will be dramatically improved, since Flash is now apart from mobile devices for good, and now can concentrate its target on PC.
Michel Bianco-Levrin, Owner & Creative Director, Diplomatic Cover
Flash is the only platform that has managed to bring together designers and developers, and it’s already a miracle! With these two players together around this techno-creative platform, everything is possible! HTML5 is synonymous with accessibility, readability, but Flash rhymes with entertainment, experience and innovation. The web will have these two aspects as long as quality content will be present. For us to animate a web that could quickly become boring.
The Flash industry is intimately linked to the creatives and to the developers’ ambition. We have to keep this industry in the right place! After each loader, you will have to be surprising!
Henry Chu, Creative Director, pill & pillow
We love Flash, but it must evolve. We are sick of hacking Flash to do what HTML does natively.
Rick Williams, Creative Development Director, AKQA
For AKQA, it’s still about using the right technology for the right purpose and it always has been. What we are seeing is a move towards publishing some of our mobile experiences to different mobile platforms using one solution such as PhoneGap or AIR, rather than building a native app from scratch each time. Flash Builder will continue to play a significant part in the digital creative landscape for us. There are ideas which simply can’t be done with any other technology as easily right now and we feel this is going to be the case for quite some time.
Dimitry Loffe, CEO & Founder, The Visionaire Group
As technology continues to evolve, so do our media consumption habits. Although it won’t happen overnight, Flash could easily find itself in a similar position as CDs and DVDs; the VHS of today, based on the current crescendo toward mobile. At The Visionaire Group, our goals are to provide the best possible solutions for our clients forging into tomorrow be it flash, HTML5 or beyond.
Errol Schwartz, Senior Interactive Developer, Rokkan
Adobe’s announcement was not a shock to us at Rokkan and won’t affect our development strategies in any way. We were never targeting mobile devices as Flash platforms beyond the occasional AIR app. Websites are becoming more about usable presentation of content, and less about the entertainment value that Flash sites were previously providing. People are looking to mobile for everything these days, including fun interactive experiences. Native mobile development was always the clear winner when thinking about performance and using a device to its full potential.
Raul Uranga and Edgar Ortiz, Flash team leaders, GrupoW
We think that Flash is here to stay. It is a great tool to develop creative content and we do not think that has come to an end. Certainly, there have been some disturbing news lately about Flash Player in the mobile environment and we think that it all comes down to interpretation and communication.
Adobe is a leader in multimedia and if HTML5 is a new way to express creative ideas, they want a big piece of the action.
Flash is a great tool, it has shown its potential in many fields, it has a long history behind of proving that it works for any idea we had in mind, and as almost any tool in this business, including HTML, it has flaws too.
No one is pushing no one aside, all of these tools are there for you to use them, use the one that fits your needs and get the most out of it!
Pete Golibersuch, Director of Visual Design, Tribal DDB
Concepting for mobile requires creatives to be cognizant about technical limitations. What percentage of the population is using a given mobile platform? What is the market penetration of current gen handsets? How byte-heavy will the intended experience be? Does the idea line up with mobile use scenerios? In almost all cases, this exercise will shape the creative in a such a way that doesn’t require Flash, even if it were available.
Adobe announcing the end of Flash on mobile really has little or no impact on the work we do in that space.
I’m interested in seeing if Adobe can successfully pivot, perhaps providing better standards-complaint development tools or extendingtheir AIR platform in a way that allowed the creation of platform native apps.
– Announcement from FWA