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design education and visual communication
authored by chris m hughes

One Final Flash in the Pan?

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Flash CS4

My HND New Media students are currently working on a project where they are developing a web design for both screen and handheld media. They create a single layout, but employ two different stylesheets, and the css has to take into consideration the limitations of the handheld environment. One of these limitations turns out to be a bit of a surprise - the iPhone does not support Flash.

It seems perverse that one of the gadgets of the moment doesn't use the standard plug-in for web animation and streaming video, but this is Apple we are talking about, so there must be some method in their madness.

And recent developments support the rumour that the future is looking a little less bright for Flash.

During the launch of Apple's olastest offering, the iPad, Steve Jobs argued that the reason Flash wasn't supported on either the iPad or the iPhone was because "no one will be using Flash in five years time".

Its a big statement, and one not to be taken lightly. Jobs has a talent for calling it right when it comes to interactive technologies. For example, when Apple launched the iMac in 1998, much to the astonishment of just about everyone, it didn't include a floppy drive. And look what happened. So Adobe must surely be worried.

Furthermore, Jobs argues that HTML5, the forthcoming upgrade to Web standards, will render Flash obsolete.

HTML5 will allow browsers to replicate much of what Flash does without having to use any plug-ins at all. What's more, HTML5 is backed by the big guns (including Apple, Google, and Adobe), and is the summation of everything we have learned about web interaction during the past 10 years. Couple that with the brilliance of CSS3, and Jobs' case looks decidedly strong.

And the early adopters know it. YouTube has just launched a beta project to play its videos using HTML5, and if you are using a new version of Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari, you won't need Flash to watch streaming video. HTML5 video will also run fine on both iPad and iPhone.

Adobe counters that creatives who want to do cutting-edge web-based animation will continue to use Flash. After all, there are still plenty of things Flash can do that HTML5 doesn't support, and hundreds of the world's best websites are Flash-heavy.

The worst-case scenario for Adobe is that Flash will become a sought-after retro phenomenon; their best-case that the iPad will be a flop. Either way, Flash will still be shipping with the next few versions of the Creative Suite.

Even if the iPad does fail, there's still the iPhone to worry about, and it is a huge, Flash-free customer base. As of now, web design for handheld devices is an important feature of the newest wave of development trends.

From a designer's point of view, using HTML5 and CSS3 as the basis for all web content would be a welcome consolidation. Not only would it ensure that web standards were attainable design goals, but for many there would be a sigh of relief.

Firstly, relief at not having to learn Flash and ActionScripting. And then not having to relearn it for the next upgrade. And finally, relief at the death of 'skip intro' and 'site loading' prompts.

from The Guardian - The Day iPad Launched.
from the Washington Post - The Death of Adobe Flash?