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.