My Thoughts on Flash and HTML (as Expressed in an Email to “Tech News Today”)

I’m a big fan of the video and podcast Tech News Today. It’s one of the best technology shows I know of, and I seldom miss an episode. As some of you know, I sent them an email yesterday about our recent announcements around Flash and HTML, and they were kind enough to read some if it on-air. It was way too long for them to read in its entirety, so I figured I’d post the whole thing here.

As someone who has worked on the Flash Platform at Adobe for the last nine years, I just wanted to provide some additional context around yesterday’s announcement. Your coverage was very good, so no complaints, but I feel like it’s worth emphasizing a few things.

Part of Adobe’s story is enabling cross-platform solutions, but since Flash has never been supported on iOS, we weren’t able to deliver on that vision in the context of mobile browsers. With mobile browsers as good as they are now (the ICS browser looks amazing, and mobile Safari has always been awesome), it just makes more sense to use HTML.

In the context of installed applications, however, our story is stronger than ever. We recently released AIR 3 which is an extremely solid option for delivering installed applications through app stores across devices. Installed mobile applications is an area where we have been very successful delivering on our cross-platform vision, so that’s where we’re going to invest. Additionally, I think that model more closely matches the way we use our devices; I think mobile browsers are primarily used for accessing content, and the tendency is to use installed apps for more interactive content like applications and games.

Another point I want to make is in response to Sarah’s comment yesterday about Flash working better on some devices than others. That’s true. Getting Flash to work consistently across all the chipsets that we support (and with all the different drivers out there — some of which are better implemented than others) is a huge amount of work, and requires a lot of engineering resources. At some point, we had to ask ourselves if we wanted to be the kind of company that continues to use resources to pursue something we weren’t convinced made sense just because it’s what we’ve always done, or if we wanted to be more forward thinking. I think we absolutely made the right decision.

It’s also worth pointing out that we’re still investing heavily in Flash in the areas where it makes more sense like installed mobile and desktop applications, and the desktop browser. Specifically, the Stage3D APIs we introduced in AIR 3 are going to provide an in-browser gaming experience like nobody has ever seen (look for videos of Unreal running in the browser), and the new APIs for hardware accelerated video are going to mean higher quality video that uses less CPU and battery. These are areas that HTML5 has not yet fully addressed, so Flash can lead the way. We will continue to use Flash for doing things that HTML can’t, and for the things that HTML can do, we will embrace it.

That brings me to my last point: I think there’s this perception out there that Adobe dislikes HTML, and that yesterday was somehow a bitter concession. As someone inside the company, I can tell you that there are a lot of us who are very excited about what we can do with HTML5. Personally, I’ve been researching and working on HTML projects for quite some time at Adobe, and I’ve been working with a lot of very smart people who are as passionate about it as I am. There are definitely people out there (both inside Adobe and outside) who are passionate just about Flash, but I think it’s more accurate to say that the overwhelming majority of us are simply passionate about the web, and about building awesome experiences. Flash has always been about providing functionality that HTML couldn’t, however now that HTML5 can provide a lot of that functionality, we’re going to have a lot of fun seeing what we can do with it.

So in summary, look for Adobe to continue to push Flash forward in areas that HTML doesn’t yet address, to push HTML forward with contributions to WebKit and tooling, and to provide cross-platform solutions in whatever technology makes the most sense.

If you want to hear it read on-air, it’s at the 45:00 mark in the video below.

9 Responses to My Thoughts on Flash and HTML (as Expressed in an Email to “Tech News Today”)

  1. Shaun says:

    I’m very confused about why Flex is being “donated/open sourced” to the community. That’s just code for “We are not developing it anymore”. It was already open source. The confusing part is, up until yesterday it was positioned as a strategic piece of mobile app platform strategy. How can you guys say on one hand you are focusing on mobile apps, and at the same time jettison the framework built to deliver them. Building mobile apps with pure AS3 has nowhere near as many compelling advantages, (sans game devs).

    It just doesn’t add up if building installed applications (desktop and mobile) is where you guys are focusing. 4.5 and 4.6 had major steps forward for Flex regarding building native mobile experiences, with a huge flurry of activity from you guys both there and with aggressive improvements to Air 2.6 – 3.1. Then all of the sudden, it just stops? Way too sudden given all the momentum behind Burrito, captive runtime etc over the last 1.5 years.

    I have great respect for you guys, but this whole thing does not seem like it was planned at all. Feels like somebody in Adobe made the decision and caught most of you guys off guard as well. If not, then large portions of the content at Max 2011 can be viewed as borderline disingenuous given recent announcements.

    I love Air, but I am too weary to continue while waiting for the other shoe to drop.


  2. Dave Cates says:

    Agree with everything you say Christian…I think this is a great move. Especially if it results in greater investment in Air and cross-platform dev using AS3.

    But, HTML5 relies on browsers to be fully optimised. So far they do lag behind the Flash player quite severely regarding a lot of the interactivity elements – video being just one.

    So, how long will it be before we see an Adobe web browser?? At least they’ll *have* to get involved in optimising existing browsers.

    One of the main advantages of the Flash player is that is fully (or almost) optimised for the platform it sits on (hence binning mobiles). But, browsers are not exactly optimised very well, if at all – except for mobile browsers like Safari.

    Interesting months ahead…

  3. Pingback: Mobile Flash Player: RIP | In Flagrante Delicto!

  4. Rj says:

    I have to agree with Shaun regarding Adobe’s move on Flex. Our company’s technology direction for our UI layer is Flex because of the numerous advantages it provides. But without proper support and commitment, I am not so sure the company will still proceed to invest in Flex and all the tools we need for Flex development (i.e. Flash Builder, CS and LCDS).

    It’s unfortunate since Max 2011 piqued a lot of interest.

  5. Pingback: – dahinter :: behind » Adobe stoppt die Weiterentwicklung des Flash Players Mobile

  6. Joe says:

    Resurrection of flash platform will happen. And will be through the dev community and not from adobes stable.

    • M says:

      With html5 and crazy no of js frameworks now and in the near future, I think the idea of standards based app development getting lost in this frenzy. i think the flash dev must be opened up and a polished version of the same be made available by the time this html5 trumpeting is over.

  7. Rich Holler says:

    I just wanted to point how greedy adobe and apple truly are! It’s been less than 10 years and they have stopped supporting PPC apple machines! These machines sold for over $2000 and are QUAD CORE! The mere fact that adobe and apple treat their clients this way tells the truth about their character: GREEDY! That’s right they are among the greediest corporations on the planet! Soon there will be no Mac Pro (accountants pen) and supporting old machines will probably spread to Apple’s earlier Intel Macs too!
    We are their consumers and this is truly wrong! Sad to say that LINUX hasn’t made that may strides in their software as the hardware is there! I would gladly switch!