Kevin Lynch blogged today in response to a number of issues that have cropped up recently and does a great job of laying out both Adobe’s vision for Flash and for web tools. That and a couple of other posts got me thinking a bit. The first is Jeffrey Zeldman’s post. He contrasts Flash with some of the benefits of standards. Most of the time I see “HTML5 is going to kill Flash!!” without any kind of rational conversation on why. Jeffrey does a better job than most. His intro paragraph is a perfect sample:
My Current Problems with Flash
But that leads to the other problem. Flash is horrible when it comes to the semantic web. And this causes some other issues, like deep-linking or search engine optimization that we’ve worked on, but haven’t perfected yet. As Richard says, and Jeffery notes, the current solutions aren’t entirely bad. Flash works very well with a CMS like Drupal so that you can have the semantic web layer and a Flash layer. And largely it depends on your project. In some cases that semantic layer isn’t going to be as important. It’s also important for developers to use Flash inside HTML where appropriate. Another thing I’d like to see is making it easer to create Flex applications that don’t take up the whole page, but work within an HTML context. Think a bit about what I said above combined with some kind of Dreamweaver/Flash Builder integration so that the developer can unify the HTML and Flash experience at a tooling level.
Adobe Is a Web Tools Company
Flash Is Driven By Customers
It’s important to remember that Flash isn’t some isolated plug-in that we maliciously deployed on 98% of web browsers and that consistently hits 80% penetration for new versions in 6 months. Flash is driven by customers. Both developers and end users. Developers still want content that runs the same way across browsers (and now devices). They still want web content that provides innovation around things like video, sockets, animation, data push, web camera, 3D transformations, and works across multiple platforms and 98% of the people on the web. There are some developers who won’t ever use Flash, and that’s fine. There are others who want to do things that HTML5 just doesn’t have an option for now. Flash is there to fill that gap. Part of the reason we can innovate with Flash is because we control the source code. While we’ve worked hard to be more open, ultimately it’s our customers demand for innovation that drives us. And I wouldn’t want Flash to open up and lose that ability to innovate. It wouldn’t be fair to our customers.
I’d love to see Flash do a better job of integrating with the browser and the semantic web. And I hope HTML5 pushes us more in that direction. I disagree that the era of plug-ins is coming to a close because I think there will always be web developers who want to do a little bit more and have the same experience across devices and platforms. Adobe can move at that speed while still offering tools for web developers of all stripes because both HTML and Flash are baked into our DNA. I genuinely wish for a more open dialogue between standards organizations and the Flash community. Unfortunately it seems like a “my way or the highway” attitude when it comes to web standards. I can understand that to some degree, but I think the web would be a much better place of everyone took a deep breath and took another look at Flash’s deficiencies and it’s strengths. With that as a starting point, I think there could be some very valuable conversations about how Flash can do more to support standards while still catering to customers who want new features.