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HTML5 vs Flash – the aftermath

I thought everyone was over the whole Flash vs HTML5 debate, but I was wrong. Instead of accepting new developments and making changes accordingly, a state of inactivity and comfortable denial has set in. Just one tweet is enough to release the torrent of emotions that have been bubbling under the surface for months. Who knew!?

[UPDATE]
This post triggered an incredible discussion – in fact it’s the first reasonable debate I’ve seen on this subject! You’ll find the comment thread summarised in the next blog post: Flash and HTML – the aftermath’s aftermath

I thought everyone was over the whole Flash vs HTML5 debate, but I was wrong. Instead of accepting new developments and making changes accordingly, a state of inactivity and comfortable denial has set in. Just one tweet is enough to release the torrent of emotions that have been bubbling under the surface for months. Who knew!?

Twitter riot incited : ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED

I was at the New Adventures in Web Design on Thursday, an excellent new conference featuring web stars like Elliot Jay Stocks and Dan Rubin. But I was distracted during one of the sessions by a twit-storm that I inadvertently kicked up by tweeting :

Any Flash developers who still think that their work is in any way acceptable to the wider open web community are sadly mistaken. #naconf

Looking back I can see why that caused trouble: the wording is incendiary and a little unclear. It suggests that I think Flash is unacceptable, but read it carefully: I’m merely reporting that the wider web world considers Flash to be unwelcome.

The tweet was in response to Tim Van Damme, who showed a pretentious and unusable Flash site as justification for his statement :

“Whatever you do, don’t use flipping Flash!”*

*words may have been replaced to avoid undue offense 😉

To be fair, Tim is known for his outspoken nature, but still, this is a leading web designer recommending best practice for web professionals at an industry conference. Telling his audience in no uncertain terms that Flash must not be used. The audience laughed, and I interpreted that laugh as : Yay for Flash bashing!

This doesn’t seem to be an isolated occurrence. At these events, I’ll introduce myself as someone best known for Flash, and more often than not get a humorous but derogatory response. At the conference after-party someone amusingly put his fingers in a cross-shape to ward off evil! At the speaker dinner at FullFrontal (Remy‘s excellent JS conference), the first person I met responded with a simple “Flash is dead”.

Flash is dead?

Anyone a little more pragmatic will realise that Flash isn’t dead: it still has excellent and justifiable uses such as casual games and kids’ websites. But we humans like to have distinct winners and losers, success or failure, love or hate. Reality is much greyer and more complex than that.

Taking this natural tendency towards polarisation into account, maybe we can start to understand why web developers mostly hate Flash? Imagine your only experience of Flash was banners, bad restaurant sites with obtrusive music and animation, unusable Flash forms, and when your fan comes on while watching youtube. If you’d only experienced the worst of Flash, wouldn’t you hate it?

“I [nothing] Flash”

I predict a softening of hatred towards Flash, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. As web developers find native browser alternatives, Flash will register less and less on their radar. Only two years ago if you wanted a photo slide show or simple animation you’d use Flash, no question. Now it’s a generally accepted best practice to use JavaScript or CSS3. So rather than a continued hatred, an ambivalence will set in. They’ll forget about it and move on. After all, if you are no longer confronted with something you hate, your feelings will dissipate.

The great Flash squeeze

Previously ubiquitous uses of Flash are disappearing: it’s getting squeezed. But it’s getting squeezed into the things it’s genuinely good at. It’s becoming niche. To quote Brendan Dawes, there’s nothing wrong with niche. We can do a lot with that.

Learn JavaScript

So what should we make of this? It’s pretty straightforward as far as I’m concerned. If you’re a programmer interested in creating online content, learn JavaScript. What harm could it do?

If you can prove your JavaScript skills and demonstrate that you understand its strengths and weaknesses, your colleagues will be more likely to listen to you when a particular task is genuinely better suited to Flash.

Joy of GFX

If your specialism is gaming or rich online experiences, then your Flash skills will continue to be relevant. But also there are many new opportunities for people who have visual programming skills – that’s us! We have a huge-head start over the JS experts who are only just starting to discover the joy of graphical programming.

Just as we have a lot to offer newcomers to visual programming, the wider web community have a lot to teach us; quality user-experience, information design, web typography, and so much more even before we get to the finer points such as JavaScript optimisation and coding standards.

With greater knowledge comes greater understanding, so that’s why I’m straddling both JavaScript and Flash worlds. Thankfully both seem to like me, but I can aggravate both equally when presenting the alternatives. In other words, I don’t quite fit in, but in a good way. 🙂

Step out of your comfort zone

It seems like the wider web development community is getting more like the Flash community. They’re experimenting, playing, and more importantly, they’re enthusiastically sharing what they’ve learned. Just like we did. We’re not so different after all.

So step out of your comfort zone. You’ll find your so-called enemy can teach you a lot.

I examined this and other related subjects in great detail in my “What the Flux!?” presentation, so check that out for a fuller exploration (I’ll let you know when the video goes live).


[UPDATE]

I’ve really enjoyed the lengthy discussions about this here, so thank you all for contributing! One or two things I’d like to clarify:

Firstly this post focusses on the point of view from the rest of the web development community. This is because I assume the bulk of my blog readers are Flash oriented. If I’m not presenting counter arguments defending Flash it’s because I assume you know them all already.

Secondly I’m not saying that you should leave Flash for JS. I’m suggesting that you could expand your horizons into it. Keep doing Flash and learn JavaScript as well. And this advice is primarily to anyone who is producing online content.

And you can ignore it if you like 🙂

Thanks again for the ongoing very reasonable discussion – it’s very enjoyable!


[UPDATE 2]

The comments are coming in thick and fast. Thank you so much for the very reasoned discussion! I’m really pleased that this blog can be a platform for sensible conversation on this subject. I’m turning comments off while I read them all and respond. I’ll be posting a separate summary later.


[UPDATE 3]
TL;DR? I summarised all the comments in a separate post : Flash and HTML – the aftermath’s aftermath


Are you also straddling the divide between Flash and HTML? Are you a Flasher who is enjoying looking at new options? Are you a JavaScripter who can accept the benefits of Flash? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear how you’re getting along.

145 replies on “HTML5 vs Flash – the aftermath”

When I hear a web developer trash talking Flash the thing that bugs me the most about it is that they are essentially devaluing the creativity and work put in by a lot of extremely talented and smart people and there is something patently offensive about that.

Hi Dave,

It’s important that we try not to take these things personally, otherwise we’ll get angry and that will only hold us back. If we shut ourselves off to changes in our industry, we’ll suffer for it. Like I said in my post, try to understand why people may feel that way. Once you can communicate from a position of empathy you have more chance to prove your point.

Seb

This discussion is on its foundation personally. An objective discussion depends on aims. And the aims are imho. not properly laid out – if someone laid them out at all. “Flash is dead” is a wrong statement. How much stuff is made with Flash technology? That does not necessary mean the stuff made is good or that in future there will be a similar amount.

If you are creating things online … JavaScript sure can be fun. But it can also be pain in the ass. (even though i just had a rough month with asdoc …)

Stepping out of comfort zones is sure a nice idea. But JavaScript really is a step backwards in the meaning of performance, and that means effectively in the GFX section. So: If you want to make homepages or even interactive experiences where JavaScript is a =>Requirement<= then you should use it. But when you want to go a little more on the limits of the web maybe flash might be a better idea these days. If you can afford a lower user-base then even chrome features (Aka html5) are okay but if the lower user-base is fine, maybe a trip to Unity might not be a bad idea after all. If you want high-end interactive experiences then a trip to a real 3D engine like Unreal might be fun.

But even having all that said: I think the discussion is meaningless. It is a bit like comparing P***ssizes.

Hi Martin,

These discussions are often personal, but I’m hoping that my post and subsequent discussions remain impartial. And I have generalised at times for the sake of making a point. All programming languages can be a pain in the arse. Anyone who can’t cope with that won’t be a programmer for very long 🙂

Seb

Its interesting that Brendan Dawes won ‘business’ website is also in flash http://mnatwork.com (not just his experimental sites)

I think its fair to say he is also a “leading web designer” who speaks at many conferences.

The point is conferences are people standing up and giving their personal opinions at the end of the day. I don’t think any one of them alone could or would claim to speak for all web designers.

Back to elliot’s talk, its all about appropriate use.

Hi Jamie,

Of course it’s dangerous to generalise and to make a point I have probably unfairly tarred all “open” web devs with the same brush. There are indeed exceptions like Brendan, who closed the New Adventures conference and was on top form. He’s one of the few who embrace both Flash and HTML5 to do the things he wants. In my mind he’s the embodiment of what I’m encouraging.

Seb

I am still surprised how this debate gets so heated, there’s some amazingly creative people doing wonderful work with both technologies and there are a lot of cases that show how HTML(5) and Flash complement each other.

Is it just my impression are is the “open web” crowd a little more fanatical about dismissing the Flash world than the other way round?

I’d love to see everyone focus more on building cool stuff than what particular technologies get used to do it.

Hi Peter!

As with anything, there are fanatics on both sides, but there are 10 times as many HTML/JS devs as there are Flash devs. So therefore there are 10 times as many nutters. 🙂

I wish that we could separate the “cool stuff” from the technology that we use to create it. It’s when the technology stops being transparent that we have a problem. And when Flash is misused, it’s anything but transparent. I’m certain that a few misguided web developers will equally misuse HTML5 and JS. But as the new tech isn’t as easily identifiable as a third party plug-in, more of the blame will be apportioned to the coders than the technology they’ve abused.

Seb

There are many types of development out there but coming up with an all encompassing title for what we do is a little tricky. I don’t like calling myself a flash developer just because that’s not an accurate representation of what I do anymore. The title of visual programmer hits the nail perfectly.

Hi Mannytan!

Yes, it can be difficult to define ourselves! Especially as the Flash community is getting fragmented into so many different areas. I’m glad “visual programmer” is working for you 🙂

cheers!

Seb

If by Flash you mean Flex, yes, Flex is a slow ugly no-productive joke compared to .js or Unity or SliverLight. Adobe has gone far to destroy the Flash player reputation with Flex. Flex is better then Java JSF and similar.

But… there is this thing.. lets call it super ecmascript.
If you write in super ecmascript, the code runs faster, and is cross platform on browsers, devices, tables and TVs. Write once, looks the same everywhere.
So super ecmanscript > .js.
Super ecmascript = pure .as.

So yes, developers should play with .js canvas, never Flex. And then try super ecmascript.

Hi Vic! I’m not a huge fan of Flex and yes pushing Flash into app-like roles has definitely been damaging from a UX point of view. As for “super ecmascript”? I honestly have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about 🙂

Seb

Thanks for asking…

Electric cars are cool, electric cars are the future.

Anyone here driving an electric car as I type this?

OK, OK, less cryptically: Any decent full-blown enterprise webapps out there using HTML5 to the extent that Fidelity, Chase, State Street, etc. are using Flex?

Hi Nick,

I certainly see plenty of non-flash complex web-apps out there that work great – I’m thinking BaseCamp, Gmail, Lanyrd etc. (I also see many bad ones – I’m looking at you HSBC!) If your enterprise Flex apps are giving your client what they want, then everyone’s happy! It’s not going to hurt to look into HTML/JS though. If only so that you have more knowledge to convince your clients of the benefits of your chosen technology. I haven’t seen Fidelity, Chase or State Street, what are they using Flex for? Public facing stuff or internal systems?

cheers
Seb

Great post, and a nice summary of the changing applications of Flash and HTML.

At the moment, I’m primarily a Flash programmer because I’m working on a cross platform game client – Flash is excellent for that. However, I play around with many other technologies and languages. It’s part of being a good programmer (at least, I tell my boss I’m good ;).

I think a big issue with the Flash community is that previously they’ve seen Flash as a solution to everything, rather than choosing the areas it’s best suited for (suffering a bit from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_the_instrument ). I think your comment around Flash becoming niche is spot on – it’s getting used more often in places it excels. And the community is becoming far more inquisitive about alternatives and experimenting with different ways to solve problems, without using Flash.

There are going to be great things ahead with all the best tools are blended well.

Sorry, bit of a long comment 🙂

Thanks Mnem, no worries about the comment length, you make some great points there. A lot of this is all about the right tool for the job. And more having enough knowledge to make the right decisions.

As a Development Manager for a largish company, my web team was required to build a sales presentation. After weighing up the different alternatives (e.g., HTML/JavaScript, Silverlight and Flex/Flash), they decided to use the Flex option… the project was delivered on-time with *all* of the required features implemented. Overall the projects is considered to be an outright success by the business.

Point being, we chose a specific tool for a specific job (in this case, an application to deliver a rich multimedia-oriented experience). This time around, Flex (or Flash) definitely made sense; but like always, the tool you choose depends on the project’s set of requirements. Don’t be a slave to any technology – all technologies have their respective pros and cons. Be pragmatic in your choice of tool and all will be well 😉

Brett

Point 1: Just say what you think. I find it funny that you are trying to justify your comments in the post, and find a way to make it palatable. Instead fo saying: “I hate Flash!” you are are saying “Excuse me sir, but the whole world merely hates Flash, and here is the long winded version of why I think so.” I do appreciate you justifications though, but we don’t need the fluff.

Point 2: Learning other web technologies is essential, however it doesn’t replace Flash just yet (and if a suitable replacement becomes available, I’ll be all over it). By making a comment like what you did – which is incendiary and a sweeping statement – you also imply that it doesn’t have a place in comparison to other technologies. If you really this (http://www.optimum7.com/css3-man/) to be the future of animation, then be my guest, hahahahah. Just don’t use your influence to push crappy “alternatives” on to other people.

Point 3: The are crappy Flash developers, and there are crappy HTML/CSS/Javascript developers. Yeah, you can pull in a pretentious Flash site and say don’t use flash, you could pull in a ton of crappy CSS3/jQuery/Javascript sites too (I found plenty, but I’m not going to perpetuate this cycle). Rather than labeling Flash as toxic and other technologies as the solution, realize that hey all have the potential to be crappy and all can be the solution. Just as much as any sane person does not want Flash for their static content, I dont want CSS3-man for rich content.

Now to be truthful, I haven’t embedded Flash into a website for a long time. I tend to use HTML/CSS/jQuery for what I need. However, I do use Flash technology for internal rich web applications that need portability and consistency in presentation. I use Flash technology via AIR, so that I can rapidly produce applications for Windows/Mac/Linux/Android/iPhone. And I also have a low tolerance for ignorance, and for proclaimed objectivity when it is clearly biased.

Wow that’s quite a rant! Thank you for turning up the heat on this debate a few notches. It’s all been very boringly reasonable up until now 😉

Re point 1 : If you think I hate Flash you’re greatly mistaken and it concerns me that you can interpret what I said to come up with that conclusion.

Re point 2 : I agree with most of what you’re saying here. I never said HTML5 could completely replace Flash. But it is squeezing it. And I’m not even sure that I’m “pushing” HTML5 and JS, I’m merely advocating open minded research. I admit that my original tweet was misleading – but my subsequent tweets and this post hopefully make my position clearer.

Re point 3, as I said in another comment there will definitely be HTML5/JS/CSS abuse and this is just as bad as Flash abuse. My reason for pointing out these Flash abuses was to help Flash devs understand the other side of the argument.

As for your closing paragraph, I spend a lot of time learning and researching to avoid ignorance and bias. I’m sorry that didn’t come across to you.

cheers!

Seb

Hahah yeah, I guess it kicked things up a few notches. No one seemed to take the bait though 😛 I understand your points, your response was clear and objective. Although I have to say, the tone of the article does come across, at least to me, as justifying the tweet and chastising the Flash developer community more than promoting open standards.

🙂 Andrew

Hi Andrew, yeah I think that’s a fair point. I always assume that most of my blog readers are Flash people so feel a need to provide the other side of the argument, and when I’m with web devs I argue the case for Flash. Like I said, I don’t fit in. 🙂 I could have given more of the Flash side of the argument, I just assume you all know that already 🙂 Cheers! Seb

“Anyone a little more pragmatic will realise that Flash isn’t dead: it still has excellent and justifiable uses such as casual games and kids’ websites.”

Have you seen what games are possible with JS allready?
Have a look at: https://gaming.mozillalabs.com/games/

And that’s only a glimpse of what’s really possible.
I don’t see the need of flash for webgames anymore.

Hi Mike,

Have I seen it? I’m one of the judges!

JS gaming is definitely getting better, and there have already been some impressive browser based games. That’s not to say that writing a JS game isn’t without its challenges but it’s getting more and more possible to make half decent games. But just because it’s possible to do this, it doesn’t mean that HTML/JS has “won” and Flash will disappear. As long as Flash penetration rates continue to be high, and in-browser capabilities continue to improve, developers have a genuine choice between the two technologies.

I’ve tried both and in my experience it’s still easier to make a game in Flash. There are many things that browsers simply can’t do reliably yet. Of course that will change over time and if JS is capable of doing what you need now, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to explore this. I certainly am!

The subject of gaming probably requires a blog post by itself: there is much more to discuss! I will also be writing a series of blog posts on this very subject at mozillalabs.com.

cheers!

Seb

Crikey – I’m not sure that link was such a good idea!

Looking at the games on offer i don’t think that people will want to play them en-masse X[

I had high hopes for html5 but the hype machine seems to be running out of steam. In crucial areas like video it’s chances are slipping away with every bit of news that comes out.

Most of the businesses and organizations I’ve worked with lately are waking up the fact that HTML5 is several years away, and always will be.

Hi espa! Aw be kind, they’re just getting started! I haven’t looked at all of those games yet, but I’m sure there’ll be at least one or two gems. Video is a whole different subject that we could discuss at great length! My experience is different from yours: I’m seeing many businesses adapting and using HTML/JS where they can. That’s not necessarily right or wrong, we’re all just seeing small parts of the picture. And we can only base our opinions on what we are seeing, so your view greatly interests me – thanks for the comment. Seb

Seb: the Flash community embraces new technologies, like HTML5, CSS3 and WOFF, and you are the perfect example of what makes it great. But Flash is a great tool and remains relevant in the web space. It’s also a thriving platform that reaches way beyond the browser.

(The following is for the “Flash is dead” community, not you personally Seb.)

I’ll say it again: bashing Flash and the people using it does nothing for the acceptance and advancement of HTML5. Flash has been, is and will remain a niche. We are all fine with that. I think even Adobe will concede that point. The web is not one size fits all. There will be HTML sites and Flash sites. There will be bad sites and good sites regardless of what they run on.

You want to pick on someone? Fight with the browser vendors to bring us a common ground based on the needs of developers and audiences, not their bottom line or hidden agendas.

The truth is that these are cheap, attention grabbing and polarizing non-issues that dismiss over 10 years of collective work. Flash has helped raise the expectations as to what is possible online today.

Use whatever, make cool shit. But don’t tell me my work is not acceptable. Well, at lease if you are going to label this an “Open Community”.

Cheers,

J.

Hi Jerome, some good points there. The only thing I’ll say is try not to take it personally. No one’s telling you your work is unacceptable. Not unless you made that terrible restaurant site that Tim Van Damme was talking about 🙂

There are of course challenges to working with browser based solutions. But there are challenges to working in any technology. Web developers can work with that, so why can’t we?

cheers!
Seb

Thanks for writing this up Seb – definitely some issues to think over.
For me, it comes down to (as always) the right tool for the job, it’s just that other tools are now the best choice for things that were previously best achieved in Flash, like sliding image galleries as you say.
What’s worrying for me, is that the negative connotations for Flash have recently left the relatively insular world of web developers. Now agency clients are avoiding flash, in cases where it would be the best tool for the job, due to a general perception that Flash is a technology on the decline.

JS is definitely something I want to look at more. Seb – any suggestions for books / sites which are good primers for those of us coming from an AS background? Until I can afford a day at the Creative JS Workshops with you of course!

Hi Lawrie, there is absolutely no doubt that bad Flash PR is having a huge impact and that is colouring agency clients’ demands. We can’t ignore this, but equally we probably can’t change it! The decision about using one over the other is easy :

If what you’re doing is simple – then use JS/HTML. Because if you can do it in a way that will work on iOS then you might as well.

If it’s more complex then you genuinely have a choice between Flash and HTML5: rich media performs very badly on iOS mobile Safari. So whether you do it in HTML or Flash it still won’t work. This will probably change over time as new iPads are released, but right now it’s very hard to get performant iOS rich browser content.

Sadly I haven’t checked too many books, I’ve just been teaching myself. I’ll be writing up a “top-tips” post soon.
cheers!
Seb

You struck a very interesting chord here… arguably, and up until recently, not many web technologies enabled art and creative exploration like Flash. That has obviously changed and it might be the greatest risk some Flash developers feel. We’re starting to see both developers and consumers finding more ways to live the web life without Flash.

Bottom line. Apple reports 160 million iOS devices sold. We know none of those devices have Flash, which means consumers are doing just fine without. To me, that sends the ultimate message.

Good post.

Hi Chuck, iOS has clearly made a huge impact: website owners have had to ensure that their sites work without Flash. I have an iPhone and I very rarely find a site that doesn’t work in my day to day browsing.

Carlos, the screen shot is very amusing, but if I were Toshiba I’d be wary of getting cocky – the market for non Apple tablets is far from proven just yet! But I’m interested to see how that changes over the coming months.

Seb

(before I get started, I’m a JavaScript guy 😉 )

Ah, the sweet sounds of people arguing whether this is better than that and if either are outdated and should stop being used.

The thing is, Flash is (wrongly) beginning to get a bad name in the mind of frontend developers these days because up until recently, it has been used to fill in gaps which HTML/CSS couldn’t fill themselves (fonts, animations, etc, etc). Maybe we should be outlawing the various polyfills and shims which let us use HTML5 and CSS3 now… I personally think that Flash is brilliant, it just needs to be used in the correct places for the right reasons.

I agree that there are a lot of sites out there which have been built in Flash ‘just because’ and also that the designers have used it instead of learning the newer technologies; and I agree that this is wrong. I like your suggestion that Flash developers should learn JavaScript, or at least understand what it can do to increase the ‘trustability’ when suggesting that a site needs to be done in Flash. And I mean developer here; someone who knows actionscript, not someone who essentially makes websites out of tweens.

Even as a JavaScript nerd, there are still times when I say to people that ‘this needs to be done in Flash’. I don’t see it as a flaw of JavaScript, I see it as a merit of Flash.

They’re different technologies, and should be treated as such. It shouldn’t be an argument, it should be a mutual agreement between either side as to where the line between them lies – and I’m 100% sure that this line will move almost daily. Once we needed Flash for fonts, now we don’t. Once we needed Flash for complex animation, now we don’t. What we do need flash for, however, is rich interfaces, 3D animations and other complex interactions.

Flash needn’t be dead, Flash developers should be pushing to introduce the next set of milestones for us HTMLers/JavaScripters to accomplish, that’s how it’s worked in the past, and that’s how progression happens. If we kill Flash, JavaScript might get stale, and that’s a sad state of affairs.

So we shouldn’t Flash-bash. Flash is good. It just happens that it is often used for evil.

Back in the early 80s, I had endless arguments with other geeky teenagers over whether the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64 was the better computer. The arguments at times got carried away and personal. For years folk have indulged in massive rows over whether Windows or Unix, then whether the PC or Mac was the better system. There were, and there still are, “haters” on both sides of both arguments. Java vs .NET; dynamic vs static typing and now Flash vs “HTML 5”. There is nothing new about such “religious” arguments.

With HTML adding things like the canvas tag and CSS finally becoming a powerful language itself, HTML can compete with Flash. This has resulted in Flash vs HTML arguments. The argument won’t go away until one or both of the technologies becomes irrelevant. You can join in or you can rise above it. Either way, if you are involved in web development, you’d better get used to it…

David.

Are you kidding!? Commodore64 is king! ZXSpectrum is dead!

Seems silly now doesn’t it? There’s a lesson in that. Like I say in my post, humans make sense of things by polarising. If you can fight this tendency, you’ll see the complexities in all situations and have a better understanding of the big picture. Only good things can come of that.

ah this debate HTML5 vs Flash still going on ?
damn it, there are really narrow-minded stupid little pricks out there

here the generalities
(you must have heard that at least once or you’re not a dev)

* pick the right tools for the job

* there is no silver bullet

so if you’re coming from the Flash camp and saying
everything can be done with Flash

or the opposite, coming from the HTML5 camp
and saying everything can be done with HTML5/CSS3/JS

you’re BOTH wrong

one tech, one platform can not save you and everyone else

what I’m saying here is that you have to play nice with your little friends,
wether they are in another camp, another tech, another platform

why ?
because you fucking need everything that is available out there,
those are tools and as a dev you need to know a big array of those tools
to not only get the job done but try to do it right

pick any subject: web application, video platform, games, etc.

if you are stupid enough to ignore a whole area of other tools
you are bound to failure or bound to produce crap, which is the same as a big fail

Let me try to illustrate

I hate as much the Flash dev who gonna try to show you a direct URL pointing to a *.swf
without even trying to use a proper HTML wrapper

as I hate the HTML5 dev that gonna swear by JQuery but can barely program in JavaScript

oh yeah that’s a big rant baby, so let’s go into the meat of the arguments

about “Flex is a slow ugly no-productive joke compared to .js”

well first, Flex is a framework on top of Flash, so here it’s like you were saying
“Java Swing is a slow ugly no-productive joke compared to C#”,
yeah great comparing apple and orange anyone ?

so sure if you’re using Flex to build a 300KB SWF to slide show 4 images you’re a douche,
but nobody’s doing that, Flex is used for enterprise applications and is pretty good at it,
and if you come with your hand crafted .js to try to accomplish what Flex can do in this
enterprise world you are all in for a big wall of hurts.

If you want to compare something, compare what Flex can do with what Google Web Toolkit can do.

oh and about what you call “super ecmascript”, which is basically AS3
you’re here talking about VM speed, so again if you want to compare,
compare V8 vs SpiderMonkey vs ActionMonkey vs Tamarin.

and by the way you can ditch AS3, write JS style all your code and still compile a SWF
just pick the right compiler option, eg. -ES vs -AS3

about “Have you seen what games are possible with JS already?”
oh yeah I all all those crappy games, seriously if you’re about coding game,
using JS you’ll end up with crap (eg. the wrong tool for the job) and agreed
you can easily produce crap games in Flash too, it is not because you use the right tech
that your project gonna magically become good, but the right tech for the job is in general
a good start.

As it is now, what you can code with Flash (in a game related area) is light years away
of what you can do with JS, how much you like it or not.

oh and I kept the best (eg. most stupid comment) for the end
about “Bottom line. Apple reports 160 million iOS devices sold. We know none of those devices have Flash, which means consumers are doing just fine without.”

go ahead, bow down to some asshole who told you flash was dead because he was trying
to force feed you his own tech (yes, I’m talking about Steve Jobs here).

If you look really close at what’s happening on iOS, sure consumers do just fine without Flash,
but they also do just fine without HTML5, they use APP for everything.

It’s not “oh there is no Flash on iOS, so I gonna do it in HTML5” duh,
it’s “because it’s iOS let’s do everything in Obj-C and ignore the rest”,
here your ultimate message.

“Flash is dead” is wishful thinking, you can go into transe repeating it, singing it or what else
it is not because you wish really hard for something to happen that it gonna happen 🙂

I’m on my iPhone so I can’t really write the length of comment that I’d like to – I’ll try to follow up with a blog post. Anyway, here’s some thoughts.

1. If you are a Flash developer and still have a full roster of work, you have absolutely no reason or obligation to learn JavaScript. Keep doing what you’re doing, raising the bar of innovation and creativity.
2. Of course, it’s not a good idea to abuse Flash and make full flash websites like we did 5 years ago, but this is a complete straw man argument, as this rarely happens anymore. To the guy at the conference saying “don’t flipping use Flash!” well that’s just ignorance. Tell that to Club Penguin or Chat Roulette or hulu.
3. I’m lucky enough to know Seb quite well and I know his heart is in the right place, but I strongly disagree with his view of the way things are going. The entire Internet, including the web, is growing. Even if flash use were to decline relative to other technologies, there will still be the same number, if not more, jobs for Flash developers, due to the increasing size of the entire pie.
4. Many of us love to write code in a statically typed language for a stable platform, and would sooner move to developing iOS or desktop apps than enter the unpredictable hackers delight of JavaScript and cross-browser issues.
5. Overall I think this discussion is worth having, but Seb – none of us our in denial about what’s happening, we’re just getting on with doing our Flash projects, which as far as I can tell are still plentiful.

@Iain – great comment and you really nailed it for #4. I have no interest in spending time dealing with cross-browser compatibility issues. It’s one of the things that attracted me to Flash in the first place (I started as a web dev). My next move will probably be to to either native mobile dev or Unity3d.

Hi Iain!

Some excellent points there, and coming from where you are – an excellent Flash game programmer – of course you have little to worry about for now. Flash is an great casual game platform.

Of course you’re under no obligation to learn JS – it’s just a suggestion, take it or leave it. It can only be positive, even if you don’t end up using it. The entire pie is of course increasing, but for the first time ever I’m seeing a decline in demand for Flash coders, both anecdotally and on indeed : http://www.indeed.com/trendgraph/jobgraph.png?q='flash%20actionscript‘ Although I’m sure the demand for Flash games still remains high.

Also, there are huge opportunities for people like you who can make games. And sure, JS/HTML is pretty primitive for gaming now, but that’s changing all the time. And just because it’s primitive, doesn’t mean you can’t make a fun game with it. We used to make excellent Flash games when it was way less powerful. Just because we have an XBox doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to have fun with a Flash game.

In the rest of the web dev world, clients are demanding non-Flash websites (see Matt Hamm’s comment). I expect clients are also demanding non-Flash games. Right now we can say “no way, it’s much better in Flash. And iPads are too slow to run HTML5 canvas games any more complex than tetris”.

But there will be a threshold. The new iPads will come out. Browser capabilities improve. You can be sure that at some point, there will be someone offering your client an HTML5/JS game. And we know it might run better in Flash. We’ll know the tools and the language are more powerful and more mature. But your competitor won’t care about that. And nor will your client. It will be good enough to make a fun game.

Of course Molehill will have an impact and Flash will continue to get more awesome for gaming. It’ll be interesting to see how that one plays out. You know me – I love new stuff and will enjoy exploring the new hardware accelerated Flash features.

But if you can also make make JS games, your highly specialised skills will be hugely in demand in the coming months and years.

I’ll address point 4 later. Thanks for the great comment though! As you know I always enjoy this debate 🙂

Seb

Good point about Molehill Seb. One this to look out for is the great work in Open GL ES, the Three 3D engine/library built in JavaScript and some fantastic demos Mr Doob pumps out. It’s all alpha beta work at the moment and you need special builds of Chrome to view much of it. But it’s a tantalising glimpse at the future. The 3D gaming turf is going to be a big battleground in the next few years and I personally can’t wait!
I’ll hopefully be using all of them too. Interestingly, it might be the developers who decides who wins there. 3D is a whole different ballgame and easy of use will allow for the quickest innovations (like Flash did with 2D on the web 10 years ago).

I didnt see that one comming from you Seb, i really admire you as a developer, and i dont admire alot of people. I have my own company for fiew years now and i go where the wind blows, be it flash, html or any other technology ,i employ people i need. So i am not biased towards any company or technology.

That sad, i cant belive you promote html as a gaming platform, Mozzila must pay you something to say html is good for games 😉 dont get me wrong, html is great, but gameing? Cmon, from tools, to language, performance, support…it all sucks for company like mine, we have to spend alot more time and money to develop a crapy game that will maybe work for some, and to choose that kind of technology for a client would be a suicide for us and them. Future? I dont see it changing. Why?

There are 2 ways of dooing games in html5, first is using divs as containers for gfx and stuff, thats like dooing a game in php, the other way is canvas. Canvas is cool, but thats all it is. Support for advanced canvas stuff is like light years away and noone knows how different browsers will implement it, so using canvas is also a suicide. In flash you can create a complete game, no frameworks needed, try that in canvas.

And this ipad argument? Is the world spining around ipad? I dont think so. Actualy I am writing this from an ipad, yes its a cool gadget, i love it, it doesent have flash…who cares? Would it be nice to have flash? Shure…but thats up to apple. Xbox, ps3 and other gadgets dont have, or have bad implementation of flash and noone cares…i wonder why?

What i cant beleive is that stupid people will spit on a technology, no metter if its way better then other on the market, and in the end, developers and users suffer because people like me tend to folow trends and listen to community so we can better choose right tools for the right project. In the end, stupid managers, also listening to this, will say fuk flash we go the html path just because…well we dont know why, but some say its good…

Uff, i feel better now…Sory for bad english 😉

Hi Ozren! It’s true, browser based gaming is in its infancy, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to make a decent HTML/JS game. And I can assure you Mozilla aren’t paying me at all! I wish they were… 🙂 I’m just interested in seeing how I can use my skills across all platforms. I’m not an “ActionScript programmer” I’m a “visual programmer” and I enjoy making cool stuff in a variety of coding environments. Seb

It feels like flash has been slowing dying over the last few years, mainly because js can do all the work while keeping the markup with web standards in mind and the content search engine friendly, accessible and easy to plugin to content management systems. Apple has just put a few fairly large nails in the flash coffin by not including flash on iOS devices. All my clients demand that websites function completely on iOS devices and even that the layout/style of the site responds in appropriate ways according to screen size.

Flash seriously needs to change itself massively to complete with the increasing popularity and support of the Html5 canvas with no plugins needed.

Flash certainly has it’s place at the moment, but how long is that going to last?

Just sayin’

VHS or Betamax, Nutscrape or Internet exploder and now Flash or HTML 5, all decisions that’ll be decided by consumers and not developers.

IMHO too much time spent on the medium and too little on the message.

(COBOL’s been in it’s final death throws for well over a decade yet there are still COBOL jobs to be found.)

Hi Matt, thanks for your perspective as a web designer, I think the point that most web clients demand non-Flash sites is an important one.

Hi Chris (abitofcode) you make an excellent point here : consumers decide. The bad Flash PR has trickled down to consumers so this is partly what’s driving these changes, rightly or wrongly. For the first time ever, completely non-technical people ask me “Flash is dead, isn’t it?”. They were never even really aware of Flash before!

cheers!

Seb

Have you read about what Youtube say about HTML5 vs Flash?
Do you know how hard is it to do advanced animating in anything else than Flash?
Do you know how bad the cross-browser functionality for HTML5 is?
Do you know why HTML5 demos looks like Flash for 10 years ago?

A tradition site shouldn’t be done in Flash, but if you want to do some crazy things Flash have more possibilites than standards being finished 10 years later.

Standards are good and a more things can be done without plugins, but its redicilous to think that Flash and other plugins just decrease in popularity.

Hi Tomas, Video is a massive and complex area that requires a whole different post. Suffice it to say that HTML5 video has some serious problems! I’m not sure how that’s gonna play out but I’m watching with interest. Animation and cross-browsers issues can be a pain in the arse, but anyone with experience can solve those problems. As I mention in my post the use of Flash is definitely decreasing and getting squeezed into more specialist areas. Cheers! Seb

@Seb
It’s about using the right tool for the job, regardless technology. If you have worked with advanced stuff in Flash, it’s easy to learn HTML/javascript technologies. But it’s just so boring limited and have 1/10 of Flash functionality. As a lot of people have already said, it’s not about HTML5 vs Flash, it’s about using both technologies where it suits best.

Our team & I are currently building a global site for a well-known luxury brand: some bits are JavaScript/JQuery, some Flash, a lot of HTML5 markup. Just using the best tools for what we want to get out of section, with maximum creativity.

There’s no mutual exclusivity in these technologies, even though some suggest that. We’re finding that using all are necessary if you care about highly interactive content working on both IE and iOS devices.

Btw I thought the original tweet was clearly tongue in cheek, no clarification needed IMO. 🙂

Hi, good discussion. A couple of quick points:

1) My own and my peers experience suggests that there continues to be more than enough Flash projects to keep Flash devs happy. How long this will continue is unknown.

2) Since the iPad, there is now no way to build once and deploy everywhere (for a complex animated site or game). IMO that was the greatest strength of Flash and the main reason for it’s success. Until IE9 becomes the dominant IE version, the canvas tag is not supported by the majority of browsers and therefore cannot be used for mass market sites.

3) The iPad is actually not powerful enough to handle any but the most trivial animations/games anyway, so building a HTML5 game for the iPad is a non-starter (try running ‘pirates versus daisies’ on the ipad).

4) A JS/Canvas block running in a website is no more accessible or ‘semantically correct’ than the same content running in Flash.

5) That said, Flash’s dominance has been challenged. Now is a great time to get into JavaScript dev as many of the most annoying browser inconsistencies have gone away and jQuery adds a great abstraction layer on browser quirks.

The thing is, that when Flash is done right, a lot of times you wouldn’t necessarily even be able to tell that it is Flash. Yet, when it is done wrong, you get browser crashes, pop-up warnings/errors and other various annoyances. If Flash has a bad reputation, we only have ourselves and Adobe to blame.

As someone who has ventured out of ActionScript and explored the wonderful world of web standards, jQuery/javascript, html5, app building, MySQL/php, etc., let me say that if you are a seasoned Flash dev, you have nothing to fear. Your knowledge will serve you well as you broaden your skillset.

The beauty of being a flash dev, is that you must know about pretty much everything. From video to audio manipulation. From motion design to byte manipulation. From DB architecting from software optimization techniques. From physics to 3D and usability standards.

It’s well known that a good flash developer should learn all those things from the core, taking aside the language we use, to use them in any scenario. Take Mr. Doob for instance… he was not a Flash Dev who migrated to “what used to be called HTML5″, instead, he’s a developer who knows his business and can apply his skills in any given scenario. From C, to AS, to JS, he’s the living proof that learning things aside an umbrella like FLASH, or JS is the right thing to do.

There’s no real “comfort zone” if you really know what you’re doing.

Is flash “on the web” dead? Sortof. The boring/simple stuff should all now be done without flash, and in 2-3 years when HTML5 browser penetration actually gets decent this will happen. It should.

But Flash itself, on devices, on tv’s, ubiquitous across all screens is just getting going.

And Flash on the web is not really dead at all. HTML5 has very real limits, all the “coolest shit” will still be done in Flash, all the really amazing (read: new, innovative, never before seen) experiences will be Flash. It has much better penetration than HTML5, far more advanced feature set, and is much much cheaper than HTML5 development. As HTML5 starts pushing really cool 2D sprite-based games, Flash will be moving on to fullscreen 3D experiences.

Not to mention flash is now the only real way to push h264 video. So long html5 video tag, it was good knowing you :p

I’ve never been more excited about the future of Flash as a runtime, and honestly “web development” itself is dead, it’s old, it’s boring. It’s all about applications, pure focused experiences that fit on a small screen.

So, the web crowd who so wrongly(imo) derides/hates flash, they can have their HTML5 based advertising which can no longer be ad-blocked, they can enjoy re-creating everything that was done in flash 5+ years ago (I’m not saying that kind of stuff isn’t fun, it is), but I’m moving on man… screw the web!

Devices are where it’s at, and I beg you to show me something better than AS3, packaging to iOS, Android and Blackberry with a single project.

In my humble opinion, the moment the web design community – if you can call it that – , decided they wanted in on the in-browser not-browser bullshit playpen that Flash had been making, and decided they wanted to do so with decade old technology, was the moment my personal faith that the web as an advertisement platform can fuck right off to the MOON became fundamentalist and rather difficult to stomach.

I don’t really give a hoot about this discussion, because it’s a discussion driven by nonsense. What i do give a hoot about is the notion that JavaScript isn’t a bad thing, which it absolutely is, and I believe that with every fibre of my being.

OOP-enabled languages offer a linguistic that is human. JavaScript and prototype-driven languages offer a linguistic for fucking nerds. I don’t care if it’s Flash; I’ll write my C#, ActionScript and Java happily; They’re all dialects of a language that doesn’t bother me. Hell, I’ll even write C++. But make me write spaghetti bullshit and tell me it’s the cutting edge, and I’ll tell you to relax your drinking habits.

JavaScript is shit. It’s just not good. It offers a dismal set of linguistics driven by a faith in its own superiority that has no foundation in reality. For all its weaknesses, Flash at least offers developers a platform that doesn’t represent a huge dong slapping their humanity wetly in the face at every junction. And that’s as nice a thing as I can say about it.

“HTML5”, a joke term if anything, offers a mire on which to build an empire. You can choose to build the SHIT out of that empire if you will, but I’ll wait until the mire has matured enough to offer a foothold. And even then, if it’s based on the rancid mess that is JavaScript, I’ll give it another pass.

Woohooo hyperbole! 😀

“Hi John, it’s not necessarily a question of “changing sides”, more exploring all possibilities to make you a better developer. Seb”

Yeah you’re right there. I’ve already started to use JS in web projects where previously I would’ve made small chunks of flash, but for complex game engines JavaScript + Canvas just don’t cut the mustard.

Haha you make a good point Andreas, and one I hear a lot. Tim Knip addressed it well and GWT may help with that. But if it doesn’t… We can be snooty about JavaScript not having all those things we’re used to. My (tongue in cheek) response : suck it up! 🙂 But – if there’s a good reason to do something in JavaScript then we can work around its limitations. The fact that there were better languages around didn’t stop us using AS1 or AS2. We used it because we wanted to deploy to swfs. I can’t say I love ObjectiveC but I like building things for iOS. If there’s a good reason to make stuff with JS, then we can do it. We’re very experienced programmers. We’ve done harder things than this!

Of course, having said this, if you really don’t want to use JS you don’t have to. There are plenty of opportunities in plenty of other technologies that an accomplished coder like yourself can explore.

cheers! Seb

I guess my biggest objection to that tweet is that the developers who hate Flash like that are a majority. To my view, they seem to be a vocal minority, who get too hung up over the fact that Flash is proprietary. The way I see things is that the majority of developers just see Flash as another tool. Flash haters have been around for a very long time, this is nothing new. The only thing that is changed is browsers are now getting more powerful with HTML5, so now some of these haters are pushing that Flash is dying. Also some of the more devote Apple fans have jumped on the Flash hater bangwagon because Steve Jobs has spoken out against it.

However, in the end does it really matter what the open web community thinks and if they accept Flash or not? Example should iOS developers care that many Android developers find iOS wrong? That tweet could be re-worded to be: “Any iOS developer who thinks their work is acceptable to the wider open mobile community are sadly mistaken.” The tech world is full of so divisions with many developers for and against certain technologies and we’re never going to get everyone on the same page.

Also I agree with Iain, that Flash developers don’t necessary need to pick up JavaScript, beyond the basics to say get SWFObject & SWFAddress working. It’s certainly good to understand the different strengths and weaknesses of different front-end technologies for web developers (not just JavaScript but what Silverlight can do). However, I do believe there is a place for developers to specialize and know their piece of tech inside out and do a better and quicker job than the more generalist developer who is more of a jack of all trades but a master of none. Not that these specialists should be pushing their technology into places it doesn’t belong. However, specialization is how a lot of companies break up development having a Flash team, or a mobile web team or a Flex team, etc. There’s no harm in learning more JavaScript, but you could be spending that time to pick up more from the Flash world. Learning more Flash frameworks, or play around with some 3D or see what Robert Penner’s AS3 Signals is all about or learn how to better apply various design patterns to your ActionScript, etc.

Hi Matthew, you make a good point, my original tweet was a sweeping generalisation. All I can say is that it doesn’t seem to be a minority, in my experience that is the generally accepted opinion of the web design community. There will always be new features of Flash to discover and that will more than keep you busy. All I can say is that I’ve learned many new technologies outside of Flash last year, and it has only made me a better coder. In some cases it’s made me more appreciative of Flash’s better qualities. Seb

See in my experience, I only see the Flash hate online and the only time I meet anyone in person out of meeting many hundreds of developers over the years is from some mobile developers. Of course, the only conference I go to is FITC and most of my connections with other devs is through FITC or the Flash, Flex and mobile user groups I’ve gone to. However, I still know people outside of the Flash community, people who work at ad agencies, small shops or web department in major companies and there’s no Flash hate there that I’ve seen.

That said, even if it is the majority as I said in my response, there’s always been hate among different technologies. I don’t see this hate among users, who don’t care about which technology is being used, they just want to access the content. The only time I find it annoying is when disinformation is being spread about Flash, often based what Flash was doing in say Flash Player 6 rather than it’s capabilities now.

Hi Matthew, I’m very heartened that you don’t encounter the hatred so much in real life. I think people do tend to be more civil in person! I’m interested to hear more about the disinformation you experience. What are the main misconceptions you see?

I really am getting tired of all the hatred and whining in this debate. I’m a Flash developer, it’s what I do. And if Flash lets me get paid building cool shit, to hell with open standards. If I was a JavaScript or an Obj-C or a freakin Haskell programmer, I’d feel the same way. I’m coming to a very black and white opinion about whole the topic myself: anyone who believes that deciding web technologies should be an exercise in religious devotion to a platform, you’re a looser and don’t deserve to call yourself a programmer, plain and simple. Just shut up, step aside and let the grownups play. Sorry if I offended anyone, but that’s where I’m at.

Hi Joe, I find it ironic that one of the most polarised comments (and your tweet “f*** open standards. Flash is king.”) is also criticising religious devotion to a platform! I’m confused. Seb

LOL, I can see how my comment would be perceived that way. And in a followup tweet I remarked, “Oops, I forgot netiquette lesson #1: don’t feed the trolls, lest you become one. Sorry for the outburst folks.” http://bit.ly/ieg0LI

I guess I was just trying to communicate (with some frustration) the utter unimportance of web standards in the grand scheme of things, as compared to appropriate technology use. JS is good at some things, Flash at others. Neither is dead.

I think where the disconnect happens is that JavaScript has evolved in capabilities by leaps and bounds in the last ten years, with libraries, rendering engines and browsers. But the perception of Flash, by and large, is that it has only evolved marginally, if at all, which of course, is completely untrue. Many JS developers are unaware that as JavaScript has captured market once exclusively held by Flash such as interactivity and animation, Flash is forging onto new markets previously untapped, such as dynamic bitstreaming, DRM video, P2P communication, hardware acceleration, and is being used more and more in an enterprise capacity with Flex and related server products.

The gross misconception is that, as JS & HTML captures “utility share” from Flash, that Flash is being pushed into becoming more “niche”, which I believe is completely false. The truth single most glaring truth about Flash which seems to have escaped the majority of the non-Flash web community, is that Flash has moved beyond the web.

Flash has become a cross-device platform, deployable to desktop, smartphones, slate devices, embedded devices like vehicle dashboards, set top boxes, net TVs, and even console games. Javascript and HTML, on the other hand have their greatest utility (for the moment) as web technologies (although that too is changing).

Blanket statements like your tweet, Seb — or my frustrated rebuttal for that matter — do not help clarify the issue, but only serve to further entrench developers in their particular technological partisanship.

Hi Joe, thanks for the clarification. Of course Flash is also improving too into the areas you mention. My point is that where once Flash proliferated, it is now squeezed. These improvements to Flash are very cool and will be used well. They’re much more specialist compared to the previously ubiquitous use of Flash for micro-sites, slide shows etc. Seb

flash builder is the best tool for developper
possibility of flash next gen are juste amazing
yes java is great and strong but for future 3d website
flash is the best more simple more speed

juste one thing kill your ipad

The initial Steve Jobs Flash-bashing blog rant is from April 2010. Still, I didn’t see my activity as a Flash game developer decline, in any sense. Same for my employer, an average European digital agency.

I’m fluent in HTML 5/JS, I’ve been more like a “front-end developer” (as+js), before being a game-only developer. This HTML5 is definitely in my comfort zone, I’ve been working quite a lot with it. But…

Flash-bashers, self-claimed Web experts and standards zealots should face reality :
– since April 2010, things didn’t evolve at all regarding HTML5/JS support in browsers,
– even “modern browsers”. And this “modern browser” thing means going back to the dark ages of teh Interweb, in terms of compatibility
– Javascript is NOT a first-class citizen in programming languages world. With its dynamic typing, prototype-based inheritance, I see way more bad JS code than bad AS3 code in the future.
– I’ve played most of the Mozilla Gaming entries too. How many are just “click’n’point” based on Google Maps. People wants FarmVille.
– the latest WebM/H.264 war is exactly what DON’T benefit to the users…

So I’ve been out of comfort zone, devoted a large amount of free time learning HTML5/JS. Bottom-line ? A year later, I use my JS knowledge to produce extremely sophisticated Node.js code. But I cannot lose more time with HTML5/js, this platform, for now, is just an expression of Wirth’s Law : “Software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware becomes faster”. I don’t think that, for game developement, going back to JS (aka. AS1) will benefit to the user.

I must insist on the fact that this comment is NOT about general Web development with JS, but purely games.

Regarding my comfort zone, it does include C++ & Android, as many Flash game developers. Most of the literature/publications/sources are in C++, so if you want to evolve dramatically your knowledge as an aspiring Flash game developer, go C++, but leave JS behind.

When I started to work as a web developer (may 2004), I used PHP/MySQL as server side technologies and HTML/CSS/JS for in browser contents. When I saw most of Flash websites, I already said I can do the same with CSS/JS. Then came the discussions about the time needed with CSS/JS to build the contents, the accessibility, the evolutivity of the content… I didn’t know a lot about flash and I was a kind of accessibility extremist.

Then the enterprise which employ me got some Flash contracts but no Flash developer. I was obliged to use this satanic technology !
My point of view changed rapidly. I didn’t know about all the possibilities and that it was a so easy and productive solution. I engage those who don’t know exactly what you can (easily) do with Flash to watch some articles before barking at the caravan.

About HTML5, the noise came with Apple’s new products. They choosed to avoid this technology presenting boring arguments. They also choosed to avoid Java and USB. This only means it were commercial reasons. Because their iOS users are completely confined and no one seems to be sad about that fact. That was Adobe’s fault if a lot of Flash contents could not be used on iOS…

HTML5 is a working draft, which means you can wait before all the functionalities work on all browsers. Flash give the same result on all platform that support it.
Flash is all the time evolving. I have read about games development. Of course you can do more better games with HTML5 than in 2000 years. But just watch what you can do with Flash. Watch what is coming with the next release of Flash : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KcKvS983K8c&hd=1 Can you run this with WebGL ? When HTML5 will become a standard, where will be Flash ?

HTML is always a changing standard, but it doesn’t stop anyone using it. WebGL should in theory be comparable to Molehill, but of course there are cross browser issues with WebGL. Molehill should in theory be the widest supported method to get hardware accelerated graphics in your browser. Let’s see how that one plays out! Seb

I’m unsure why this ongoing discussion even exists and it seems like it’s become a bit of an obsession. HTML5 supports the ‘plugin’ tag meaning it will run a plugin. Flash is a plugin therefore HTML5 is designed so that Flash and itself will co-exist happily.

Should we build websites in Flash?
You often want to build a website that is a combination of expressiveness and usability, if you feel you can express yourself using Flash, then its the same as a sculpter wishing to use marble and an oil painter to use canvas. The trade off is usability sometimes. i.e. it’s a little harder to move around that marble sculture but man… it looks nice and I’m sure he’s proud of his work.

Should we build games in Flash?
Of course… look at the new GPU accellerated stuff. It’s looks great and anyone who tells me that speed isn’t important when it comes to games is crazy but again it comes around to a usability thing. Building a game in Flash is nice to do for the developer. The tools already exists that can facilitate faster builds and that means happy developers and happy businesses.

I point those things out to describe why Flash isn’t dead and wont be for the forseeable future and at the underlaying heart of this is the quick ‘time to user’ nature that plugins provide, this means that Flash will be developing HTML6 from the moment that the first finalized HTML5 APIs are done with. That’s why HTML5 is basically a native version of Flash albeit with the horribly slow JavaScript with its syntactical obfuscation at the heart of it.

Anyone saying yeah, but it doesn’t run on the iPhone, then go and tell Steve Jobs that his speil about open technologies and only supporting them is nonesence since by not allowing the Flash plugin, he’s disregarded the HTML5 ‘plugin’ tag and therefore only has a part implementation meaning he has a bug. (Although i’m sure its a bug that keeps his iStore bank manager happy and the iPhone owners pockets empty).

Hi Gary, it seems that these “expressive” full Flash websites seem a little dated to me. But that’s just my opinion. JavaScript performance is leaps and bounds ahead of what it used to be and is actually comparable to AS now. It’s anything but “horribly slow” these days. It’s all very well being angry at Steve but that’s not going to stop your clients asking you why their site doesn’t work on the iPhone. 🙂 cheers! Seb

Hey Seb,

I’m not saying that full websites in flash are a particulalry good idea, what I’m saying is that it can facilitate a different form of expression based on the power of your medium in certain areas. Since pretty much anything you can do in HTML5 can already be acheived in Flash and has so for along time, I’m unsure how you can say they are dated when the fact that HTML5 is a newer medium and therefore of course the sites are going to look less dated than dated sites 🙂

I’m yet to see anything in HTML5 that shows the speed and complexity of more advanced Flash applications and that is about to raise up vastly with the new GPU support.

As for clients asking why their site doesn’t work on the iPhone, it’s because they commisioned a flash website and the iPhone doesn’t support flash (you tell them this before the start of a project not retrospectivly) but the huge number of people who haven’t updated their browsers to HTML5 but do have the flash plugin can see it. I think you are identifying a different issue, if you want to hit the largest demographic with your new website, use neither HTML5 or Flash.

Just a note on the non-typed nature of JavaScript / cross-browser issues being used as an argument against JS.
With Google’s GWT http://code.google.com/webtoolkit/ you can code in Java (typed) and compile it to JavaScript. Cross browser issues can be solved very elegantly with so called “deferred binding”: the compiled JS “chooses” the correct code for different browsers.
Flash of course will be around for years to come, but will increasingly move towards niches: stuff which *does not need Flash* will be done in JS (as JS is more ubiquitous now if you include IDevices).
Its quite easy really: Flash is *still* much faster / easier for *some* applications. Just use what’s most suitable for the job.
Any mud slinging towards JS, Flash, Apple etc. is moronic. Fan boys of any kind are pathetic (not meaning you Seb 🙂

GWT’s an interesting one. It’s one of a number of attempts out there to help people build JavaScript based web applications without actually having to build JavaScript based web applications (if you see what I mean).

These projects tend to be driven by developers coming to the web and being terribly upset about a number of things. Firstly, that they have to learn a ‘toy’ language like JavaScript (a perspective I completely understand, although don’t agree with). Secondly, that their wonderful dev tools don’t work very well (that, I completely agree with – most web devs don’t know how bad they have it). And lastly, that they have to develop for and test in multiple, different, and constantly changing environments. They attempt to solve all these problems in one go by inventing one *massive* abstraction on top of web technology. And I don’t buy it.

I’ve seen it first hand at Microsoft, where I worked on a *big* JS application (Bing Maps) using ScriptSharp. As you might imagine this is a tool that allows you to write C# and compile to JavaScript. It works extremely well for most of the devs there. They can reuse existing tools, processes, and skill-sets; avoid learning the complexities of a dynamic and functional programming language; and worry *slightly* less about browser support issues.

What they miss is a grounding in web technology. They find it hard to fix performance problems, accessibility problems, and don’t understand things that other web developers take for granted like feature detection and progressive enhancement. That’s rather sweeping, but in general I’ve certainly found people building with these tools to be less enlightened about the environment they’re working in.

Interestingly, I guess a lot of the issues that drive Java and C# programmers to create things like GWT, and ScriptSharp, are the same as what Flash devs see when they look at standards based web technologies.

Yes, implementations of JavaScript are messy within web browsers. But over the years we’ve learnt what the good programming patterns in JavaScript look like, how to work with prototypal inheritance, deal with lack of built in namespacing, etc. We’ve developed libraries like jQuery, which have then gone on to inform the design of standards and browsers themselves.

Yes, maintainability of CSS is an unsolved problem. But again, we’re getting there through the brilliant work that people like Nicole Sullivan and Natalie Downe are doing. We’re starting to learn our ‘Gang of Four’ stuff for the web. The momentum behind it is huge, which is why I doubt there’s ever going to be a GWT style project that ever really dominates.

Yes, our IDEs compared to the wonderful strongly typed world of Java, C# and I guess AcionScript are pretty poor. Sadly, this is an area where progress seems to be in its infancy both on the development and the design side. I’m presuming Textmate and Fireworks aren’t the final say in web tools. 🙂

Web development is a young industry. The technology we’ve got and our understanding of how to work with it is advancing everyday. We forget, but we’ve overcome huge difficulties in building web products with these open technologies. If you were around building table-based layouts and writing JavaScript for Netscape 4, you’ll know what I mean. It’s almost difficult to comprehend how far we’ve come. And we’re continuing to move forward little by little, day by day.

It’s far from perfect. But if you work on the web you get used to it, you learn to embrace it, and actually I think you grow to love it.

Hi Seb,

As I said in my my initial response to your tweet, the “wider open web community” have never found Flash acceptable. Nothing is new there at all. If you’re a Flash developer and you haven’t got a thick enough skin to protect you from the constant bile hurled at you from other web devs then you’re probably better off in another career.

Ever since the days of Jakob Nielsen’s “Flash 99% bad” article (which was written over 10 years ago..!), the web standards brigade have been out for Flash with their pitchforks and burning torches. It’s my belief, though, that these people have always completely missed the point of Flash. Of course it’s a resource-hogging, seo-unfriendly, accessibility nightmare, but really, it’s not bloody meant to be otherwise.

Good Flash has always been about throwaway entertainment that puts a smile on people’s faces or gives them some kind of other worthwhile immersive experience that takes them out of the norm and brightens up their day for five minutes. So your Macbook fan revs up a little when you’re watching kitten videos… so your browser crashed when you were planting aubergines in Farmville… who bloody cares really? World’s smallest violin. Nobody got hurt and the world continues to orbit on it’s graceful ellipse through the cosmos. If it bothers you that much then turn off your computer, go outside and climb a tree or something.

Of course there are a million cases where the use of Flash is a downright stupid idea, and the responsibility of the Flash developer to inform their clients where that line of suitability lies is one that gets ignored too often. If I had a penny for every time I’ve turned Flash jobs away because it’s something that just shouldn’t be done in Flash, I’d be loaded by now.

I think the advent of all the HTML5 etc etc stuff is fantastic and really exciting. It’s brilliant that more and more stuff can be done without needing Flash but wake me up in about five years’ time when everyone’s got the right browsers. Good luck to you all you wider open web devs though – I can’t wait to see all the non-resource-hogging, completely stable, semantic, usable interactive experiences and games you’re gonna be treating us to over the next couple of years with your new toys. I can’t wait for the day when Flash banners have been replaced by zippy html/js/canvas shit that isn’t contained to a rectangle and can’t be disabled if the user wants.
Am I interested in learning an Actionscript 1-style language so I can join in on all the fun ironing out cross-browser issues in my latest 3D immersive extravaganza? Not really. I expect I’ll have a play around with it when the mood takes me, but I’m far more interested in learning things like Unity (which I’m having a lot fun with at the moment), or native mobile development. Flash developers are well used to the constant learning – it’s been an intrinsic part of our careers since day one. If Flash really is going to die then so what? The skills we’ve learnt over the years don’t die with it, we just keep on learning.

I’ve loved being a Flash developer over the last ten years. Whilst many of my peers have wound up churning out wordpress sites for plumbers and accountants, I still get paid to make cartoon fish whizz around a screen. What’s not to be happy about? It’s a niche area which I love working in because I hate swimming with the crowd. I think I’m okay at what I do, but I remain in awe of much of the brilliant Flash work I see on a continuing daily basis. We should all be incredibly proud of the creative work we’ve done and the fun and inspiration we’ve given to your average Joe over the years. Flash work is all about not conforming to the norm. I couldn’t give a monkeys if some lardy web developer with stickers all over his Dell thinks my all of my work is “unacceptable”. When I get emails from people telling me how much fun they had playing a game I made, that’s a kick that you can’t put a price on.

So Seb, I do agree with your stance, and I’ve enjoyed reading this dicussion. But really I think the constant bitching about Flash from the wider web community largely stems from misunderstanding, ignorance, and (dare I say it?), a certain amount of jealousy. The web has an intense period of experimentation and reinvention ahead of it that we should all be excited about, but for the foreseeable future, Flash is still going to be a part of it.

Hi Mark! Excellent comment, thank you! Some excellent points there, although I doubt that web devs are jealous of us 🙂 Experimentation is an essential part of progress, although it seems to me now that the web has matured: in many ways it’s got more boring! But it’s much more informational and transactional than it used to be. The bulk of my browsing requirements are to find the stuff I want quickly. That’s not to say there isn’t room for fun experiences and games where this is appropriate! And I’m sure Flash will continue in this capacity to a greater or lesser degree. Seb

I can’t agree more with Mark. His words are what I was thinking exactly.
Especially the part about learning.

As a flash dev there is a constant learning path in front of me, which I happily take. There is no comfort zone in Flash. For me first it was AS2 for a bit, then quickly switch to AS3, then Flex 2.01 + 3, then Flex 4, all the AS3 libraries (PV3D -I attended your first course Seb-, Away3D ect) and the list goes on. So yeah I am used to learning but I do try to learn enjoyable stuff. Unless my survival depends on it, I can’t see myself deeping into Javascript (sure I am reading a bit but I lose my interest when I explore some code examples). I’d rather spend my time learn C# (which I can then use it to Unity which is fun), obj-c or even Java for Android dev. If the web world wants to go down the Javascipt road for everything then so be it.

Flash is supposed to be fun. So what’s the problem being a plugin. I seriously can’t see the argument. Why suddenly people don’t like plugins? Most fo the people don’t evn know what a plugin is. Just because a certain CEO said plugins are bad, we don’t do them!! You aren’t supposed to do built a government website in Flash OBVIOUSLY!!! There are Flash devs stupid enough to do it, the same way there are stupid JS devs to try and re-invent the wheel.

And what’s wrong with Full on Flash sites? What’s wrong with the 99.99% percent of FWA? NOTHING! They are fun to visit most of them and a great inspiration not in terms of copying them but in terms of seeing what’s possible. I always start my day browsing it, seeing how other people visualize their concept. Seriously I can’t even imagine a web without sites like this. And you know what? I own an iPad and I do miss Flash there. The experience would be much better with it. Same goes for many people I bet.

If flash wasn’t around we will still be in the mid-90’s. Flash IS the innovation.
Just remind yourself what you could do with Flash in 1996 and what now. Flash’s language, Actionscript, is evolving, some say not rapidly but I say super-rapidly, compared with other languages. I won’t attempt to compare JS and AS3 as it’s pointless. The latter is an OO language (with many faults yes but still a complete language) while the other one… Well I won’t go there. Using Flash is all about pushing the envelope and to boldly build what no developer has built before. ☺

I’d say people who bash Flash, probably are intimidated by it, never tried it and don’t have a clue about what you can do with. They possibly think you can only build intros and banners when you can almost do anything with it. From web to desktop and mobile, from a plain portfolio site to an enterprise desktop solution. Sure in some areas it’s not advised (yet) but that doesn’t make it bad.

I personally LOVE it, I use it, I learn it since it’s constantly evolving but I am also learning new stuff, as it is my nature to seek challenges and I am sure most Flash devs do the same. At the same time I laugh at the ignorance and the manipulation I see everyday. If all this energy was directed on learning new skills and evolving their tools some developers would be far better now.

And I am closing with a question… Why shouldn’t we build a portfolio site e.g for a photographer, since we can do all those fancy stuff (3D or not) we used to do (up until the moment that Jobs decided he dislikes Flash and not a second before but that’s another story) and many more. Just because Jobs said no?

I apologize for the long post…

Smile, code and learn!

Hi Giorgos, I like your positive attitude 🙂 I agree with most of what you say. I do believe nowadays there are genuine reasons not to use Flash for photography portfolios. The obvious one is mobile, and it’s not just because there’s no FlashPlayer on iOS, although we have to accept that that is a concern. It’s also because good HTML can accomodate many different targets. And web forms can be rendered as native components on mobile phones. As for FWA sites, well my personal opinion is that may of these Flash creative sites are a little tasteless and overblown. But that’s just what I think. There’s nothing wrong with them per se. For my web usage I prefer to get the information I need as quickly as possible. Call me boring. Cheers! Seb

I’ve a nice easy solution to all this.

If you stop using apple kit then you will find that you’re not nearly so attached to the lost cause that is html5. That’s what at the heart of this.

You’ll have the bonus of saving yourself a great deal of money, and you won’t be stabbing your fellow human beings in the back (the only people not disgusted by the behavior of Apple are Apple users.)

Try it – computers are fun!

Hi Josh, if only it were so simple! Sadly, you and I have little power over what people buy, and Apple are clearly doing something very very right, at least in the eyes of consumers. You can’t ignore that iOS devices are hugely popular, and clients naturally want their websites to work on them. Try and change it if you like, but I’ll be surprised if you make much of a difference. But good luck in your continuing campaign. 🙂 Seb

your enthusiasm for html5 and apple is pretty clear but not particularly well supported by the facts.

you’re making the mistake of conflating yourself with consumers. assuming that what you want is what they want. you see however much you adore apple kit, they are still minority players (except when it comes mp3 jukeboxes of course)

you see the truth is that 98% of the web will just continue using flash without even realizing it!

this is a common problem with those that attach themselves to lost causes, but it almost always ends up the same way, with disappointment and failure.

apple has made a mistake over flash; it takes an apple fanboy to deny it.

they are replaying the Mac/PC battle all over again on cell phones, and they don’t seem to have learned their lesson.

Hi Josh, we get it, you hate Apple 🙂 Luckily for you, it’s possible to build a completely successful programming career whilst completely avoiding anything remotely Apple related.

But if you’re making websites, you can be sure your the vast majority of your clients will want their sites to work on iOS.

In my “What the Flux” survey of 300 (mostly) Flash developers, 60% have been asked to make iPhone apps, and 60% agree that the iPhone has the best UX. Like it or hate it, they’re doing something right. You can avoid it but, if you’re in this field, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least study what they’re doing and understand why it’s popular.

Seb

I’m always surprised that this debate is still going on so passionately, too. But it always brings up some good points.

Personally, I think that any Flash Dev making content for the web should be better versed in HTML/JS than just knowing how to get SWFObject to work. (Sorry Matt, not picking on you, really!)

There is a lot potential for using Flash and HTML/JS together. And that point seems to get lost when we get stuck in this “one vs the other” mentality.

Some of the best “experience” web sites done in Flash recently are more than just a black box of interactivity wrapped in the object tag. And, the non flash version of Flash content can be way more than just a message saying “download Flash”.

Like some people have mentioned above, the Flash bashing comes from ignorance. But so does the web standards bashing. Both sides have a lot to offer the other. And isn’t it silly sometimes that there are sides at all?

Learning JS or whatever else isn’t necessarily advice to prepare for the death of Flash. (because, honestly it’s not going to die) Being open to whichever new things might apply to us is only going to be a good thing.

Making awesome things is more important than what we choose to build it in. (but I think that was part of Seb’s original point anyways…)

“Learning JS or whatever else isn’t necessarily advice to prepare for the death of Flash. (because, honestly it’s not going to die) Being open to whichever new things might apply to us is only going to be a good thing.”

Thanks Val, perhaps it’s important to point out that I’m not saying “change sides!”. I’m merely encouraging people to expand their horizons. So thank you for the comment. Seb

Not that I trust in the scientific nature of indeed.com graphs, but my searches on flash, flashdeveloper and as3 all showed growth. “actionscript” did show a slight decline, but I think people tend to say “as3” more these days anyway.

Hi Iain, good point, of course this isn’t scientific, the truth is that there’s no definitive proof one way or another, but it’s one of the few indications based on actual evidence. If you look at the term “AS3” there is a rise, but I would personally attribute that to an increase in the use of that term. Check “AS3 OR ActionScript” and we’re still seeing a definite flattening at the very least. http://www.indeed.com/trendgraph/jobgraph.png?q='actionscript'%20or%20'as3‘. I’m also hearing anecdotal evidence that suggests this is a trend, particularly in the wider web world, but nothing is definitive. I only draw conclusions from the information available to me, and if I see evidence that suggests otherwise, I’ll review my conclusions.

cheers!

Seb

Also, if there’s a decline in Postings with “actionscript” I would guess thats far more likely to be due to the fact that Actionscript has become far too vague of a term to be useful for a job description.

Actionscript =
– Flash AS2 / AS3
– Flash Lite
– Flex
– AIR
– AIR for Mobile
– AIR for TV

I have a hard time believing isn’t from a decline in jobs requiring Actionscript, because everywhere I look the opportunities are booming.

The anti-Flash rhetoric and its effect on both content consumers and producers has been regressive, making the web more boring. With time there may be only one site left in an all app world: Facebook.

There’s no doubt that the web is more boring now that experimental Flash sites are out of fashion. But I for one appreciate the focus on user experience and accessibility of information on most common websites. Seb

What a great discussion Seb, though I thought we had moved past this too 🙂

My own opinion here is quite simple, we’ve seen countless religious wars against Flash, pdf and each time we move on.

I personally can only distill one thing from this, and that is the web is changing, and so is Flash.

There are very few people at Adobe that “hate” any technology. Flash itself is a collection of technologies, and a multi-billion dollar global industry driven by creative talent and some of the worlds largest businesses.

There are really no grounds for a religious war, unless you the reader, or those from whom you derive your opinions have something invested in the destruction of that industry.

Never confuse power and money with religion – its just business.

Now, as someone who grew up in a real religious war, I will offer this advice..

Keep an open mind, and move past those who demonstrate the will to stop you forming your own opinions.

Mark Doherty
Adobe

Hi Debabrata, JS capabilities are at least close to achieving most of what the Morgan Stanley Matrix accomplishes. But I would say that this is a classic example of style over content. I would be frustrated if I wanted to find out what Morgan Stanley was all about and was instead confronted with this “entertainment experience”. I want to be informed. I would be equally critical if this site were done in JS. Cheers Seb.

This is an excellent article, and one that seems to resonate with me as it conveys precisely my feelings about the HTML5 vs Flash debate.

I was also at the New Adventures conference and received exactly the same indifference when chatting to people and mentioning that I was, and still am involved with and associated with Flash development, including a jovial @maxvoltar who gave me a bit of friendly banter.

Interestingly though, once I started to convey the direct parallels with JS and graphics programming overall, and explaining that I was enthusiastically supporting and advising my clients to use the right tool for the job, most of the web developers I spoke to were really receptive to this reasoning and tended to be fairly surprised to see a flash developer with a more rounded view of things.

This got me wondering if actually flash developers in general give out a vibe of being hermetically detached from the technologies that our peers in the wider web community are using.

It seems clear to me that in order to keep up the momentum with the amazing pace of advancement on the web we have maintained over the years, we all need to put down our weapons and learn to love one another, embracing the lessons we can learn from one another.

We all want the web to be the best place possible, and I would love to see more Flash developers like Seb and I attending events like New Adventures to talk to the wider web community about how the skills of “both sides” are all transferable. If we become one side, one community I think we will see some really rapid advancements in the non flash graphics programming on the web, which I for one would be delighted to see.

Maybe we could get to this point more quickly if the flash community started embedding themselves in the wider web more fervently, and doing more to convey the fact that we are indeed “graphics programmers” and not just “flash developers”?

I was a full time Flash Developer for 8 years until mid-year 2010. Then Steve Jobs changed that. He unleashed a rather impressive campaign against Flash and won.

I quickly responded by learning Javascript / jQuery / CSS / html / mobile dev. It was an easy transition coming from AS1 / AS2 / AS3. It really only took a couple of months to get up to speed.

Now I’m excelling as a full-time front end developer and part-time Flash developer.

Do I care that I’m not working in AS3 as much as I’d like? Yes, a little. But now I find that I can a lot of “Flash” things with CSS, Javascript and Typekit (font embedding was a HUGE plus for Flash). So I’m still having a good time in my career – I still get to explore and try new things. I still get to make things look pretty.

For the record, ex-Flash developers make MEAN html developers. I encourage you all to jump in the arena and give the regular html guys a run for their money.

For the record, ex-Flash developers make MEAN html developers. I encourage you all to jump in the arena and give the regular html guys a run for their money.

Love this quote, thanks Craig.

Flash isn’t perfect but it was an escape from the fragmentation of browser capabilities years ago. Now the same thing is happening again. It’s very difficult to get people to upgrade their browsers. We’ll be stuck with various implementations of HTML5 for years. With Flash you can keep your browser and update Flash capabilities easily.

Hi Jay, excellent point! We have to accept that we’re not necessarily experts at these cross browser issues, and web devs have solved most of these problems to a greater or lesser extent. I’m certainly seeing far fewer problems than I used to back in the early 00s. cheers Seb

There is no doubt that flash has helped. Love it or hate it the web would be a very diffent place without it, everything we do evolves through exploration and competition.

The web as we know it living in it’s small confines of a web browser on your computer is dying, the evolution of delivering digital content through a plethora of devices is the new generation. There are many technologies jockeying for a piece of this new world and flash is right in there making it all very interesting, with tablet devices mobile phones Internet tv’s as just the start, flash is dead long live flash.

One other point I would like to make is nothing ever dies on the web and also most of the general public are way behind us industry pros and our bubble of cutting edge tech, something worth remembering.

For the record, ex-Flash developers make mean developers. As others have mentioned, the advantages of starting out as a Flash developer is that you work with so many different aspects of programming.

I do wish the language and compiler was a little more like haXe though. Think I’ll be heading in that direction next!

Hi script kitty, I find it amusing that you find the idea of learning JavaScript so horrific that you’re equating it with abuse. You must have led a very comfortable life so far! Seriously though, it’s just a suggestion. Ignore it if you like. 🙂 cheers Seb

Turn off Javascript and browse the web, turn off Flash and browse the web. Then come back and re-read your own statements, people.

“Usability” should be your first imperative? If a visually impaired person can ‘experience’ your website (we used to say ‘read your website’, remember?), then you can build upon that your fancy plugin-only elements.

But most people know only “one” – blame it on the customer – thing and steal the rest. Especially Javascript is beyond the grasp of many web developers, because it is so powerful and a great security risk.

HTML5 “or” Flash is not the issue.
And Steve Jobs is not the web.

– End of Message –

[…] wrote the below as a response to a post on Seb Lee-Delisle’s blog about a controversial tweet he made from the recent New Adventures In Web Design conference in […]

I am more pessimistic unfortunately – I think it is a matter of time before Javascript can do most of what Flash can do, and Flash’s niche area just gets narrower and less relevant. But perhaps we need to differentiate what we consider the Flash Player, the Flash DisplayList API, and the Flash IDE. The latter 2 things I believe will eventually be port to Javascript, and the browsers will do all the engine work, since Flash Player and anything that ends in .swf is evil. But if it ends in .js or is rendered by the browser is suddenly acceptable.

A bit of a tl;dr on the comments here, though I picked up most of it. TBH this all feels like more of the same argument that’s been going around for almost a decade now. The only difference at this point in time is that legitimately those who don’t/can’t use Flash are finally able to justify their claim that “you don’t need Flash” in many circumstances.

I’m a Flash developer, but I also code JS/HTML sites with CSS3/HTML5 style interaction/animation, and I am frequently needing to back it all up with a decent amount of PHP+MySQL stuff. I totally agree with Seb that if you can, broaden. The languages really aren’t all that far apart, it makes no sense as a professional to not branch out and pick up these simple languages as additional strings to your bow, let alone more complicated languages like C++ that we all know in our heart of hearts isn’t an insurmountable leap from Actionscript 3 either 😉

But while I agree that Flash is slowing down it’s pace, in terms of what it’s used for, I don’t agree that the volume nor type of work is really decreasing. I’m primarily an agency worker, and margins are king. The single executable view is something that is hard to argue with for speed and ubiquity, especially for sites that don’t need (or care) about pretty and comparable mobile versions. I will still be asked to build flash micro-sites for clients because coding the interactions required for transitions and animation is simply quicker and more true to the original creative intention than getting it to work in HTML/CSS across all browsers from IE6 all the way up to Chrome.

And when taking in to account the actual business side of what we do, cost and profit is arguably more important than principles.

I guess I feel “the wider web community” believes what it wants. Just like hardcore nerds will always say that Windows 7 is awful compared to their beloved Ubuntu (I have no opinions, not getting in to that fight), the reality is that Windows 7 isn’t a shower as it’s portrayed by those that value open-source, cheap to free, unrestricted technology. I personally feel a lot of Flash hatred comes from people that have talked very little to Flash developers other than in direct confrontation, have witnessed poor Flash, and baulked at the cost of the tools needed and pigeonholed it as “needless” or “pretentious” because of that.

It seems natural in the technological world that as soon as a price is introduced on a product, especially a high one, a whole section of our community gets more than just annoyed and instead becomes almost evangelical against what they see as an affront to their ability to grow and expand their toolset.

Ultimately, while the “wide flash hating web community” is hating on those like me that use Flash, I’m using it to do things that simply aren’t available to them yet and, in the process, impressing my clients that little bit more. I think we can take the blind abuse while our advantage, still, is that increased scope for creativity.

most of flash haters has not made a deep dive into language and what it offers. You can write slow javascript and you can write slow actionscript it does not matter what language you choose. If using right, then actionscript provides better visual look/performance pay ratio. The future of flash is not nearly over. Technologies are developing in high speed. What is good and required today does not mean it will be good and required after 1 year. Imagine new technology, requirement or trend shows up. It will take awhile while new specification is made, and then implemented through out all browsers. But with flash it is easy. New feature or requirement shows up, it is added to the new player and everybody can enjoy it real quicker. New html5 feature will be implemented dozens of times, because each browser has to implement it. With flash it is implemented only once, thus again – it develops and evaluates faster. Flash is changing and upgrading all the time. Don’t think of it as an old technology.

What I find amazing is that we’re having this argument at all.

Right now is the most exciting period in this new medium since the very start – a wealth of new platforms and opportunities, the lessons of past bad practice learnt, accessible, useable technologies and tools that are actually fun to use, browser standards that actually enable creativity rather than stifling it.

In the early days, we had this fresh new thing that *nobody* really knew anything about. You learnt ALL the technology because the chances are you would have to beg and borrow from different bits of it to achieve what you wanted. It was all just a massive creative opportunity. Hell, Flash was really just an animation package, until praystation et al came along and redefined it as having the potential to be a rich technology platform.

Right now, we’re facing the same landscape and people really need to embrace the potential of ALL creative technologies as tools of expression and communication, instead of bitching about their particular expertise and it’s goddamn percentage.

Agreed. Both technologies has it’s benefits and drawbacks. It should be left to developers and users what technology to use. I never hear flash developers complaining about traditional web developers, but how come that it is not the true vice versa.

Hi Nick, sadly I also see hate coming from the Flash side. You only need to see some of these comments! But I’m also heartened by the fact that there are indeed many open-minded individuals on both sides. Seb

Well said, Andrew. I’m also surprised that there are still such deep emotions around this topic. But I’m also heartened to see many commenters like you that seem to be happy to learn as much as they can! So it’s all good 🙂 Seb

A few years back I decided to stop doing any ‘flash websites’ type work after I concluded that there was a pretty direct correlation with egotistical clients who are a nightmare to work with.

These were the (major corp) companies who actually said things like: “Yeah – accessibility? We don’t need to worry about that – this is a business to business site. … oh, uh, yeah, of course disabled people have jobs – just not in our industry, it’s all about image, yeah?”

Anyway – my point is that great flash developers aren’t using flash to build websites and haven’t been for a long time. We’re building tools that cannot be built in HTML/JS. These days I’m mostly building AIR products, and it’s the ideal platform for our clients.

We’re also building games that are far, far beyond the scope of what can be done in HTML/JS.

If you think flash == ‘flash website’ then you’re miles behind, and doing the flash community a disservice by assuming we’d disagree. Personally I’m no more likely to use flash to build a website than you are to use Comic Sans ‘because it’s friendly’.

The argument is hollow because it speaks to the past. There are still Web Devs out there who use tables, or blink tags, but they don’t represent the intelligent dev community any more than people who build crappy flash websites represent the flash community.

The most obvious output of this argument is a realisation that the flash-haters have their heads so far up their .jsses that they haven’t noticed how much the platform has shifted over the last few years.

Hi Stray, some interesting points there, thank you. I’m glad we’re seeing fewer full Flash sites, like I said, the suitability of Flash for games is without question. My reason for pointing out these misuses of Flash is to better understand the wider web devs attitude to Flash. Once we know where their preconceptions come from we can persuade them otherwise. And if we can kick-ass in JS they’re even more likely to listen to us! Seb

Well said! Each platform we have today will find it’s best suited space in the web industry. People should embrace the new ones, experiment, have fun, then draw your own conclusion to what you think and understand behind it. Not jump on the bandwagon and choose a side. There shouldn’t even be sides, I put it like this: People that ‘bad-mouth’ Flash, doesn’t understand Flash – simple as that. Unfortunately there are a lot of bad content made in Flash on the web, no-one can deny that. Looking forward everyone should strive to make the web a better place for all, using whatever technology suits the scenario best.

Thanks for the great article. 🙂

(I will caveat this comment by saying I currently work for Adobe though I have been involved with the Flash/Flex/AS community for a while prior to joining. The views though are my own and not Adobe’s).

Here’s what I don’t get about your post. I don’t find it attacking Flash developers and the tone is fine. However, given that Flash developers have lately been under constant attack from the wider web community (and pretty unfairly as many comments point out), I wonder how necessary this post really was. A Flash developer would have to be living in a cave not to have heard much of this already.

My question though is, how much time did you spend educating people at this conference about the reality of the Flash community? On pointing out that very few sites are built as the one shown by Tim Van Damme. Noting that there are plenty of example of horrible HTML/JS sites out there so picking and choosing your samples in such a manner is at best disingenuous. Showing all the amazing projects built by really amazing and talented Flash/AS developers that don’t fall into the cliches the Flash-hating community like to dwell on.

The point to me is, while there is nothing “wrong” with your sentiment, your energies might be better spent on helping to clarify the many misconceptions the attendees at this conference had or were led into by such speakers. My sense is, given the constant barrage on sites like Techcrunch and elsewhere, that the Flash community really didn’t need another reminder.

Hi Brian, thanks for your comment! As to whether this post was necessary, that’s a great question! I’m very pleased to see here that many Flash developers who are branching out, so perhaps this post isn’t for them. But it is clearly a sensitive subject, and I’m hoping that by talking about it, people won’t be so scared of learning new things.

As to whether I spend time educating people at conferences about Flash – of course I do! I’ve been arguing more of the case for JS in these discussions and that’s because most people here are on the Flash side. But when an early commenter said he didn’t see the point of Flash, I defended it. By understanding as much as I can about JS I can intelligently argue the case for Flash when it’s genuinely the best solution. Like I said, I don’t fit in in either community. 🙂

I hope that this blog post is nothing like the kind of horrible ignorant Flash-bashing that happens at Techcrunch. If you feel the Flash community is so sensitive that they can’t handle a reasonable, informed and intelligent discussion of the benefits of JavaScript, then you’re massively underestimating them! 🙂

cheers Seb

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