I’m getting pretty tired with all the Adobe vs. Apple talk. A lot of talk about how Apple’s decisions and the advent of HTML 5 are going to KILL FLASH! And yeah, it seems that now even Adobe are admitting defeat in the iFight. And while the mobile Flash Player is coming to Android and a lot of developers have started to look to that side of the fence, it’s becoming more and more obvious that there are a lot of users who simply don’t notice that their device doesn’t support Flash, or even if they do, it’s not that big of a deal. At least not that big of a deal that it would be the dealmaker when they’re choosing a new mobile device.
So, the mobile future of Flash doesn’t seem very bright at the moment.
Besides Canvas, the other threatening technology is HTML5’s <video>-tag. It’s truly great, nowadays video on a web page is just as common as an image, so there really shouldn’t be a need for a 3rd party plugin. Nevertheless, it’s funny to see all the flaming against Flash video, as it pretty much single-handidly made online video as big as it is nowadays. And, while all the browser makers (and especially the developers) know how much crap resulted from pursuing company-specific technologies instead of common standards, it’s really unbelievably, amazingly dumbfounding that even with the video-tag is supported in current browsers, they haven’t been able to select/make a good open-source video codec to use. I’m really hoping that Google’s efforts with VP8 will make it the standard. But then again, when you know how much effort Apple put into bringing Flash into their mobile devices, and how much they like Google, I would be a bit surprised if they made iHandhelds compatible with a codec that’s not their own. Hope I’m wrong.
But eventually, if there isn’t any big changes in the way things seem to be developing, the amount of .swf’s on the web will get smaller. And I’m saying that’s a good thing. People have been making sites and site components with Flash just because you can add explosions, visual effects and all kinds of other stupid stuff with no real reason besides the lack of visual taste.
Here’s a small table about the current and future use cases of Flash, and how I predict they will change in the future.
Use case: Mobile
Doesn’t look too good for Flash. Someday, there will be popular devices that have more than enough battery and power to run embedded & standalone .swf’s nicely, but it will take a while, and if the wait gets too long the need for it will get smaller and smaller.
Use case: Video
When the browser companies manage to settle on a common codec to use with the <video> tag, and YouTube, Vimeo etc really put their weight behind it, Flash video will lose percentage. Not before.
Use case: Full Flash campaign sites
Example: Sites on thefwa.com
These will be made with Flash, but we’ll see them less and less, due to reasons that have nothing to do with technology. It’s a pity ’cause I’ve made good money building them
Use case: Games
Browsers & computers have to get A LOT better & faster before online games can be made as accessible and classy without plugins. Or the majority of online gamers will need to switch to devices that don’t support Flash.
Use case: Banners & ads
The category that has given Flash more haters than any other, Flash ads won’t be going away for a while. Designers don’t want to sacrifice the current possibilities Flash ads give them, no one wants animated gifs back, and if you stop making banners with Flash, all the AdBlock users will have a seizure.
Use case: UI elements
And of course the worst uses for Flash, such as message boards, webstores or large full-Flash sites (without swfAddress) are on the way out, hopefully for good.
So, all in all, the cases where Flash will continue to dominate are getting fewer and it’s hard to think of any new area where Flash would increase its popularity. But it’s not going away, and there will be a demand for it for many years. I’m guessing these current developments can hopefully bring out a balance between Flash and the HTML5/css3/js combo, where each technology is used and embraced where it fits best.