January 26, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil

In the last couple of years, it has become trendy to bash the Adobe Flash Player. I need to say a few things on that subject.

First, let’s be very clear: I’m not on the Flash team. I don’t speak for them. (I don’t speak for anyone but myself.) This post is just my personal take on things. Caveat lector.

I came to Adobe ten years ago to build an open standards (SVG)-based Web animation tool. I like standards, and I have some experience here. Both authoring for & competing with the Flash Player gave me some good perspective. Here’s a quick summary of my long piece below:

  • Flash is flawed, but it has moved the world forward.
  • Open standards are great, but they can be achingly slow to arrive.
  • Talk of “what’s good for standards is bad for Adobe” is misinformed nonsense.
  • Flash will innovate or die. I’m betting on innovation.

Let’s be clear: It’s fine to say that Flash is flawed; it is. (You know who’d agree? The Flash team.) It’s fine to hope for alternatives to take root. (Competition makes everyone better.) But let’s also be honest and say that Flash is the reason we all have fast, reliable, ubiquitous online video today. It’s the reason that YouTube took off & video consumption exploded four years ago. It’s the reason we have Hulu, Vimeo, and all the rest–and the reason that people now watch billions of videos per day (and nearly 10 hours apiece per month) online. Without it, we’d all still be bumbling along.

Macromedia was the only company that delivered truly ubiquitous (99% penetration) video playback. Apple didn’t*. Microsoft didn’t. Real didn’t. (Remember how you used to see sites offering multiple streams, making the user pick a player, because the content creator couldn’t rely on everyone being able to view one format? Good riddance to that crappy customer experience.) Content creators, whose income is proportional to their ability to reach customer eyeballs easily and reliably, have voted with their feet, moving to Flash. As a result, more than three quarters of online video now streams in Flash formats (up from 25% three years ago).

All these years later, we still don’t have a standard, browser-native alternative, much less one that’s achieved widespread viewership. (WebKit-based browsers remain in the single digits on the desktop. Firefox, which uses a different video format, is at 25%. Microsoft is off doing its own thing.) That sucks.

I don’t doubt that some video standard will eventually emerge & make its way into most if not all browsers. In the meantime, Adobe spends millions of dollars a year building & giving away software–for which content viewers & even content creators don’t have to pay a dime–to compensate for the rest of the world’s failure to get the job done.

Maybe that sounds harsh, but I find the Flash-bashing tedious and hollow. Flash has all kinds of shortcomings; helping address them is why I joined Adobe, for God’s sake! But Flash, as Winston Churchill might say, is “the worst except for all the others ever tried.” It will improve, as will competing implementations. In the meantime, how about we give the devil (if that’s how you see it) his due, giving Flash credit for helping the world get this far?

– On Standards –

Stepping a bit beyond video, I’m personally delighted to see Web standards like HTML5 emerge. Adobe makes nearly all its money selling authoring tools that target great runtimes. (Conversely, as I’ve mentioned, Adobe loses money building runtimes (Flash Player, Adobe Reader) that it gives away in order to sell authoring tools.) More great runtimes to target means more opportunities to build content for them. Adobe will naturally follow the money, building authoring tools that produce what customers demand, and that includes HTML5-based work. Don’t believe me? Check out a demo of Illustrator, Flash, and Dreamweaver targeting the HTML Canvas tag.

Guess what, though? When I posted that story, almost no one paid attention. People want a certain “killer” narrative: Good guys vs. bad guys, open vs. proprietary, blah blah. That’s simpleminded and lame.

I keep seeing the video standards discussion phrased as “H.264 vs. Flash video**” (e.g. John Gruber writing about Apple “replacing” Flash video with H.264). Apparently people are unaware that Flash has been playing H.264 for years. It’s easily the most popular H.264 player in the world.

Adobe’s choice to embrace H.264 in Flash is what allows sites like Vimeo and YouTube to create HTML5/AVC (i.e., non-Flash) versions of their sites without gobbling up petabytes of storage and loads of CPU cycles creating and storing alternate versions of their videos. Instead of locking people into some proprietary solution it created, Adobe has spent millions of dollars to enable use of a more standard format.

The obvious problem with open standards, of course, is that they often take eons to implement, and developing for different implementations sucks up time and money. Does anyone else remember seeing really sexy “DHTML” demos that featured full-screen animation and more? I do. You know when that was? 1998. And today, more than 15 years after Netscape debuted, Flash remains the only way to, say, display a vector chart across browsers (i.e., such that you can count on every viewer seeing it). That’s sad–especially given that Adobe plowed a hell of a lot of time & money into trying to get the open SVG standardized & adopted.

SVG taught me some painful lessons: While we sat waiting on months (at least) of committee meetings, review periods, etc., Macromedia was free to innovate & iterate quickly with Flash. Their implementation was lean & ran circles around the Adobe player that dutifully tried to support a cumbersome spec. (Again, remember that all this is just my personal opinion.) Openness and standards and kumbayah don’t matter if someone is pantsing your big, ponderous committee.

And this gets to two key, interrelated questions: Why will Flash live on (i.e. what are its competitive advantages?), and Why isn’t Flash open-source/an open standard? Again, I do not speak for the Flash team, but my take is that Flash’s advantages are predictability & agility:

  • It doesn’t require you to target multiple runtimes (browsers, etc.) from multiple vendors. Instead, there’s effectively one Flash Player with a predictable set of capabilities. Fonts, pixels, etc. render consistently across OSes, browsers, and devices. You don’t need something like BrowserLab (a free Adobe service, by the way) for Flash.
  • If Adobe develops a new technology (e.g. the Text Layout Framework, leveraging InDesign tech and enabling beautiful Web typography), it can be deployed quickly & reliably to all systems. That is, we don’t have to say, “Yeah, we’d love to see better type on the Web, but first we have to convince these groups to add support, and then wait several years for updates to achieve broad adoption, and then hope it all works the same…” We can just do it, and support will hit critical mass quickly.

In a sense it’s a more Apple-like approach: Control things yourself, so design-by-committee doesn’t compromise your product. Open-sourcing Flash would lead to a fragmentation of the format & Flash runtimes, and that would destroy the predictability and agility that differentiate Flash from other standards.

If the Flash team continues to innovate–that is, if they deliver better features more quickly, more predictably, and with better authoring tools than other technologies–then Flash will endure. If they don’t, it won’t–nor should it. But I’m betting they will.

– On Mac vs. Windows performance –

Finally, let’s turn to a touchy subject.

If Flash runs faster on Windows than on Mac, that must be proof of Adobe’s incompetence and/or anti-Mac malice, right? Of course, if Flash ran faster on Mac than on Windows, that would be taken as proof of OS X’s modern awesomeness. Heads they win, tails we lose. (Come on, tell me I’m wrong.)

Despite the Flash Player team investing disproportionate resources in the Mac player (where the Mac has ~5% market share to 90+% for Windows), and despite them making big strides on the Mac, it’s true that Flash performance on OS X has lagged behind Flash on Windows. That needs to change.

My understanding is that there’s work that both Adobe & Apple could do to improve matters. Mac users*** complain about high CPU usage when playing video. The latest Flash Player uses many fewer CPU cycles for video, but the needed hardware decoding support isn’t available on the Mac right now. I don’t have any inside info here, but I’ve heard that the Safari team is a great group of folks, and I hope they’re able to work with the Flash Player team to added the desired support.

– In Conclusion –

I’m very optimistic about Flash, Web standards, and what Adobe can to help customers. In particular:

  • The Flash Player team has been very hard at work leveraging the GPU to deliver great performance on mobile devices. I expect those optimizations to make their way into the desktop Flash Player.
  • Developers are pushing standards like CSS 3D, WebGL, and Canvas to deliver interesting results. It’s about time Web browsers got good at this stuff, for everyone’s sake, and those enhancements roll right into Adobe AIR and the Creative Suite (both of which use WebKit).
  • Adobe sells tools that can adapt to fit customers’ needs. As new technologies open new possibilities, Adobe will deliver great authoring apps.

J.

* I just checked, and the download for QuickTime is more than ten times the size that of Flash Player. If you want ubiquity, size still matters.

** Incidentally, FLV (Flash Video) is a publicly documented format, as are RTMP and SWF.

*** I’ve been a fervent one since 1984.

Posted by John Nack at 3:59 PM on January 26, 2010

Comments

  • Joseph Labrecque — 5:26 PM on January 26, 2010

    This is the most sane and balanced article I’ve read on the subject. Great perspective.

  • Marc — 5:39 PM on January 26, 2010

    I’m a huge fan of Flash, but PLEASE ADOBE, PLEASE – work on the ACCESSIBILITY! As an a11y consultant – and a big fan of Flash – I am constantly left in a position of defending Flash/Flex when it comes to a11y. More often than not I’m on the losing end of the argument. As widespread as Flash is, it’s just not right that a standard such as IA2 has not been implemented so that it would be easier to write Flash apps that are accessible to PwD.
    Great post though!

  • Jeff Schiller — 5:45 PM on January 26, 2010

    “an open standards (SVG)-based Web animation tool”
    oooo! me want!
    What ever came of that project?
    [Not a whole lot, frankly. Adobe shipped two versions of LiveMotion (only the latter of which involved me), and we never turned on SVG export in the shipping version--because, frankly, playback in the Adobe SVG plug-in was unacceptable. Thus the app was regarded as just another SWF-authoring tool, when SWF was just supposed to tide people over & ease the transition to SVG. --J.]
    Since Adobe is not interested in SVG anymore, would Adobe consider open sourcing it? Someone once told me that “Competition makes everyone better”
    [Honestly, at this point one would do far better just to start from scratch. That would even apply within Adobe. --J.]

  • Daniel Sofer — 5:48 PM on January 26, 2010

    Thank you John. Very nice.

  • John Mitas — 6:12 PM on January 26, 2010

    Refreshing read, thankyou!

  • ValkyrieStudio — 6:23 PM on January 26, 2010

    Articles like this are always a more interesting read when the writer is clearly as passionate about the topic as you are, John. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

  • Ken — 6:55 PM on January 26, 2010

    Jack,
    Bravo! I have flashCS4, do not know a thing how to use it, came with suite….so what’s my point…I just love the candor and openness. This tells me, Adobe knows how to hire quality people.
    I cannot understand anything geek speak, but I get the spirit of your writing….
    For a guy who is 63, been in corporate America, gives me hope of honest men and women in this fragmented world
    Ken in KY

  • Rod Richardson — 7:48 PM on January 26, 2010

    Excellent opinion piece.
    I have often been irked by the gratuitous Flash-bashing that I’ve seen elsewhere; it usually leaves me wondering why Flash-detractors are so angry (as well as what the heck would they recommend as a Flash replacement?).
    To me, the virtues of Flash have been self-evident since I started using the program years ago as a means of overcoming the all too many limitations of HTML when it comes to font usage and precise positioning of visual elements within a web site as well as achieving a consistent appearance on multiple platforms and browsers. Its added capabilities have only made it even more useful over the years.
    It really is an amazing technology and it has transformed the whole online experience for the better. Thank you for standing up for it so eloquently.

  • Charles — 8:27 PM on January 26, 2010

    This article of Flash is representative of why everyone hates it, and hates what Adobe says about it.
    It’s always someone else’s fault. It’s Apple’s fault that Flash sucks. It’s the standards bodies that haven’t created something better, so Flash sucks. It’s Apple’s/Microsoft’s/Real’s fault because their products suck so bad, ours don’t suck in comparison. It’s the bandwidth’s fault, it’s the slow processor’s fault, it’s the iPhone’s fault that Flash sucks so bad that Apple banned it from the iPhone.
    Well everyone has had QUITE enough of this sort of BS from Adobe. There are standards-based methods to do every single thing that Flash does. And the standards bodies are taking their sweet time, because they have to do this RIGHT, because the goal is TOTAL ELIMINATION of Flash from the web.
    I don’t think you guys quite get how hot the hate for Flash is, in most web design circles. And when you come up with this latest grab-bag of excuses, it just makes us work all the harder to replace Flash and eliminate it forever.

  • David Blatner — 8:42 PM on January 26, 2010

    John, this is extremely helpful. Thank you. A couple of points:
    First, the “flash bashers” usually have some reason to bash. As you said, improvements need to be made. So, for example, I find myself frustrated in Mac Safari when I hit a site and everything suddenly comes to a stop… and it certainly seems like Flash is slowly gearing up in the background, like a water wheel getting going. Okay, it needs Apple’s help, but there are more forums to complain to Adobe than to Apple. ;)
    The other thing that really always bothered me about SWF was its binary nature. As you may remember, I was a early advocate of SVG and wrote excited about it in Adobe Mag. There is no doubt that it was slow death by committee, but the ideas were really good.
    The idea that HTML could take over some of the vector/text/layout stuff and let Flash handle the video (which it’s better suited to do) seems compelling.

  • Eric Peacock — 8:45 PM on January 26, 2010

    You go, girl. Someone should defend Flash for what’s it done and you have, admirably.
    Admittedly I’m grown weary of it – authoring in Flash drives me nuts and no matter how fast a connection or computer I have I achieve really touchy playback with Flash video; lots of shoddy players out there when it comes to buffering.
    As a user and a web designer I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Flash and the love has been diminishing of late. I can only be honest.
    Flash did open the gate and it has carried us to the crossroads we stand at now. It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

  • Rui Silva — 8:47 PM on January 26, 2010

    Charles,
    Happily for you pro-standards, plugin based technology haters, you have a few new kids on the block to target. Silverlight, JavaFX, Curl, Unity3D, Pivot, etc. Happy shooting! Hope you get to them all before you’re bitten by these devil workers. Between that and the code you have to develop to support all your “standards” supporting browsers, you’ll certainly keep busy.
    Rui

  • leef — 8:52 PM on January 26, 2010

    Well said. The common complaints about Flash, are ones that would exist no matter which medium was delivering Rich Apps. Bugginess, which is often the fault of the app developer, and can often be the browser’s fault (flash player crashes far more often in Safari than in Firefox). Annoying ads, which again are independent of Adobe & the flash medium. Memory/CPU usage, again often the fault of the developer, and in the case of Mac, it sounds like Flash doesn’t have access to certain acceleration API’s that it does on Windows. I don’t quite understand the issue with Flash Player being proprietary, when Quicktime, WMV, Silverlight, H.264, and Wave are also proprietary.a

  • Matthew Fabb — 9:03 PM on January 26, 2010

    Great article John, thanks.
    Charles, to me it seems a small but vocal minority that really hates Flash. Many just see it as another of the many tools for the web and don’t care about the idealogical battles.
    Meanwhile, there isn’t a standard way of doing everything in the Flash Player. Just look at the features that came out in Flash 10.0 and many of the new features standard organizations haven’t even begun talking about let alone creating some sort of spec or implementation. Features like peer-to-peer video or high-end text on the level of desktop publishing software.

  • tripleman — 9:15 PM on January 26, 2010

    The absolute no. 1 reason I have flash disabled in my browser: brutal, flash-based advertising.
    As long as it’s used to create annoying, blinking ads, it’ll stay disabled.
    [Well, someday you'll be able to enjoy brutal, open-standards-based advertising. ;-) --J.]
    Not Adobe’s fault – I know – but that’s the way it is.

  • fredo — 9:18 PM on January 26, 2010

    in charles’ perfect world every website is grey and looks like shazbot.

  • jimpbh — 10:24 PM on January 26, 2010

    “There are standards-based methods to do every single thing that Flash does”.
    Well I have to say, I’m quite jealous of Charles! I only wish our company also had both the development time & budget to implement/support these standards and get them working across multiple browsers in a consistent manor – some people are so lucky :)

  • Phillip Kerman — 10:32 PM on January 26, 2010

    Very excellent. However, the bit about Adobe losing money makes me want to point out that either you’re “losing” money in order to make it back–and make it back big (therefore not “losing” any money)…. or you’re not being fair to your shareholders. I’d say 95% of what you said is right on… just making Flash sound altruistic is silly.
    [Oh, I didn't mean at all to say that it's altruistic. Obviously Adobe makes these investments in order to sell authoring tools. I'm just pointing out that the company puts real skin in the game, largely to compensate for there being no other reliable, widespread way to run such content. In contrast, Adobe sees no need to make its own HTML runtime (browser) as several good ones are widespread. Thus the company can invest in building tools (Dreamweaver & soon others) that target these runtimes, without having to pay to build and maintain the runtimes. --J.]
    I have no doubt that the folks @Charles hangs with really do want to “total elimination of Flash”… good luck. When we’re finally free of that burden called Flash I’ll be sure to thank you for your tireless work making the world better. Geeze… I mean, I hate photos that are rendered down to 256 colors in a gif… but do I have malice for that format? I hate it when my printer jams… sledge hammer time? I don’t like most Republicans’ points of view but it doesn’t stop me from being friendly with them.
    I think MOST flash-haters hate the bad implementations that some people have created using Flash. I hate that if I’m being paranoid I always copy a web-posted message before pressing “submit” because I fear it’ll get lost. I can’t stand it when, say on CBS’s web video player, the cursor doesn’t disappear… or when I have to lean forward to re-maximize the full screen… but I just think some hacks built it and I move on.
    Anyway, good article. I’ll point to your post because it really sums things up well.

  • George Penston — 10:48 PM on January 26, 2010

    I’m guessing here but I think that open source, SVG product was LiveMotion 2 with a mix of Illustrator. Think of a simple After Effects with automatic, smart symbol management and easy building of actions. That would be LiveMotion.
    [Bingo. Pour one out for the dead homie. --J.]

  • George Penston — 10:54 PM on January 26, 2010

    It’s hard to find faults in John’s points of Flash and what it has delivered to us — although I’m certain people will. I was there trying to find support for SVG on the other side when it was first introduced. Here we are a decade plus later and some browsers have native support for it. That really hits home John’s point of Flash pantsing the open source option.
    Being a longtime Mac user, I’m conflicted about Flash. I mainly have issues with the Flash producer rather than the player itself. Even still, it does seem that it’s very much in fashion to bash Flash these days.
    I agree with John, having these new emerging options is great. Just because there’s HTML5 options, doesn’t mean we have to kill off Flash. Again, it got us to where we are. And I doubt Internet Explorer will ever give us any real HTML5/CSS3 support. If we want to bash something worth bashing, why not direct our energies towards Internet Explorer? Seriously, if Flash got us to where we are today then IE has kept us back in years.
    [I don't want to pick a fight with Microsoft, but it's hard not to see IE as a big disservice to the world. That wasn't always the case: when they were going neck-and-neck with Netscape, the browser was damn good. But then it's like they did a murder-suicide with Netscape, bailing for years on meaningful development. Even if they now turn a corner and make IE.next amazing, can even Microsoft rip IE6 out of the world? Until that happens, use of many standards will remain largely stalled. --J.]

  • Armand — 11:10 PM on January 26, 2010

    Excellent piece!
    Yes, a coworker of mine created in 1998 a javascript breakout game. Development sucked. When Flash 4 came out later, programming with it was pure joy compared to the browser mess.
    Flash also allowed me to make a pretty popular chess AI with an interface I couldn’t dream building with javascript (see http://www.flashchess3.com).
    For all its flaws, Flash remains an incredibly versatile tool and I’m betting on some innovative apps once Adobe Stratus comes out of beta…

  • Dustin Wilson — 12:11 AM on January 27, 2010

    I’m one of those “Flash bashers”, and I guess I’ll be “hollow” and continue to bash Flash until the plugin is stable. I absolutely despise Flash not because it’s non-standard like some people do. It’s because it causes my machine to crawl to a grinding halt when viewing Flash content. We as Mac users have waited for a stable plugin long before Adobe acquired it. Hell, I thought when Adobe acquired it we’d finally receive a stable Flash plugin. Here we go; Four years later and no stable and efficient release. Four years of requesting basic fundamentals of application development has made Mac users rather angry. This isn’t a bandwagon we Mac users have jumped on because someone initially complained. It’s a near decade long problem you inherited and have yet solved. Yet you berate us by saying if it performed better we’d be lauding the Mac’s superiority. Sure, I’ll go along with that as idiots would be doing that for sure. Today idiots on the other side use the Flash plugin as an example for Windows’ superiority, so your logic by bringing up that silly excuse is moot. Every single time this issue is brought up typically three things are thrown at us from anyone at Adobe:
    1. The Mac’s 5% or whatever market share.
    2. It’s Safari’s fault.
    3. No access to APIs allowing for H.264 hardware decoding, and it’s Apple’s fault.
    The answer to number one is don’t develop it for any platform but Windows if you’re not going to treat a platform’s users with the respect they deserve by developing an application which performs admirably. The answer to number two is that as I am an Opera user who is complaining about the stability and the efficiency of the Flash plugin so that argument’s just been thrown completely out the window. The answer to number three is that the Flash plugin for the Mac was long devoid of efficiency in displaying video long before hardware decoding of any video format was a glint in anyone’s eye on desktops. Yes we get it’s Apple’s fault we don’t have hardware decoding, and that is incredibly unfortunate. Hopefully you can eventually remedy that problem with Apple. Hardware decoding, however, has absolutely nothing to do with it as many applications on both the Mac and Linux can display H.264 video just fine without hardware acceleration and without disabling multi gigahertz and multi core machines in the process. Yes QuickTime uses hardware acceleration, but it’s not the only video player for the Mac. The problem’s two-fold. The Flash plugin requires too many resources to function while causing numerous crashes likely mostly due to the first problem. Now let’s stop pointing fingers here; insulting your users usually isn’t a good way to handle the issue anyway especially since we’ve already read and heard all possible excuses before. It’s just time for Adobe to accept the problem and assess it.
    I have a Quad 3Ghz Xeon with 4GB of RAM. I’ve had instances where the Flash plugin could easily use 100% of one of the cores and a sizable percentage of another while eating over a gigabyte of memory. In contrast to that — and for the sake of fairness I’ll use an Adobe application as the example — I can be painting feverishly in Photoshop on a 10000 x 9000 pixel image and the combined memory and CPU usage of both the Wacom driver and Photoshop would be less than Flash displaying some annoying ad, silly website animation, or even video. You cannot tell me that the Flash plugin is a more complicated application than Photoshop (as very few programs are), especially with Photoshop’s having to register pressure sensitivity of nanosecond pen strokes in real time? I’m unsure if the Flash plugin crashes more for Safari users as I don’t use the browser except to test websites in, but I’d probably guess it does. Safari’s the only widely-used browser on the Macintosh platform which doesn’t have an accessible mechanism for blocking ads. Ads are inherently problematic to begin with, and throwing Flash into the mix only makes it worse. Because of its tendency to use excessive amounts of resources along with an excessive amount of Flash-based ads on a website can be almost guaranteed to cause a crash. If I were to turn off URL filtering in Opera I would begin to experience Flash crashes rather often, and if on a new install I start experiencing crashes when viewing Flash content it usually reminds me that I forgot to apply my URL filtering settings. This is from my personal testing on the matter, however. Flash still crashes despite this, and actually quite a lot compared to other programs on my system.
    QuickTime might take up more space (and space is very important like you say), but it sure as hell performs a lot better. I’ll be the first to stand up and applaud you guys for being the only one to bring video to the web thus far, but I’m not going to give you any academy awards for performance. There’s a part of me that wishes the old days of “pick your poison” were still here. At least I didn’t have to experience performance issues and crashes to view video back then unless I chose to use the Real video plugin (but that’s another can of worms).
    What is it that we precisely have to do as users? All we’re asking for is stability and efficiency. That’s it. I’ll be more than happy to send video of my experiences, bug reports, and crash reports to you guys. I’m more than willing to do my part as a user to ensure the improvement of this widely-used program. Just point me to the location of a place to end my reports as there’s no automated crash report system for the plugin, and I’ll be happy to oblige. Heck, I’ll advertise and push anyone I know with similar problems to do the same. What I won’t do is sit here and be insulted while as a company you all deny a venerable problem that’s plagued an ever-growing population of users of your software.

  • Super Dude — 12:37 AM on January 27, 2010

    >> ** Incidentally, FLV (Flash Video) is a
    >> publicly documented format, as are RTMP and SWF
    Bah. Care to explain why Adobe used the DMCA to kill an open source implementation of FLV and RTMP:
    http://linuxcentre.net/rtmpdump-can-be-used-to-download-copyrighted-works-like-a-web-browser
    I really wish more people would see the so-called “Open Screen Project” for the sham that it is. Meanwhile, it continues to be paraded by Adobe at every PR opportunity to give the impression that they care about open standards, open source etc.

  • Stephen Walker — 12:56 AM on January 27, 2010

    Great article. With some good feedback too. Thank you.

  • John Persson — 1:27 AM on January 27, 2010

    Great article, really puts a good perspective on this debate.
    In the end it always comes down to using the right tool for the job. Flash is a great tool and so is traditional web standards.

  • Paul — 2:11 AM on January 27, 2010

    Flash is not going away any time soon. Charles, you sound like a web standards fundamentalist, demanding the irradication of the Flash Religion. It’s not like that. Adobe isn’t in this game to bend the web to its own whims (unlike, perhaps, Microsoft). It’s out to improve it and to push technology forward.
    Give it another 5 years and HTML5 might finally have taken hold in most browsers. But you know what? Flash will have moved on by another 5 years also. What will we have then – 3D, multi-touch, scalable video, all cross-browser and a whole host of things that will make HTML5 the poor man’s choice when it comes to making fantastic web (and desktop) experiences.
    Flash is not your enemy. Your enemy is your myopic approach to the what is possible.

  • Average Joe — 2:19 AM on January 27, 2010

    I don’t really understand what is so hate-inspiring about Flash. Average Joe’s like me don’t really give a monkeys how we get video, or play games. We just like the fact that we can do it quickly, painlessly and without having to spend 10 minutes downloading stuff first. Does Flash enable that? Yes it does. Deal with it.
    Charles old boy – you need to get out more.

  • Herman — 2:44 AM on January 27, 2010

    Refreshing read! Thanks!

  • Jonathan Hardie — 3:02 AM on January 27, 2010

    I maintain that the slower performance of the OS X player is a feature, not a bug: since most flash developers I know develop under OS X, this encourages them to optimise their work more agressively, and then there’s the added bonus that it’ll run even faster under windows! The additional slowness from running the debug player compounds this effect, so perhaps the only people making really inefficient swfs are those developing under windows? ;-)
    Half-serious about this, I think if performance improves a lot in the mac player in the near future, my code will inevitably get sloppier as a result of the extra over-head.
    Also, I encourage people to download handbrake sometime and look at the myriad options available for encoding h264. Not all h264 is created equally. It’s quite possible to encode super efficient (compression-wise) videos using all the fancy high-profile features of AVC, which older versions of quicktime won’t even play. Add AAC-HE, and you shouldn’t be surprised when it sucks your CPU to the benefit of reduced bandwidth. Is smoothing turned on in your player? Most do, for quality reasons. This is *software antialiasing* people! Try that in a PC game sometime and see what happens.
    Finally, what happens when you do real-time compositing of animation over the top of said video? With alpha transparency, ie. for video player UI?
    I don’t think many people hating on flash appreciate exactly what the flash player does that other tech doesn’t. That’s not even going into the whole frame-based runloop that flash has to slice up additional pieces of time for scripting and user events.

  • Nick Hodge — 4:34 AM on January 27, 2010

    LiveMotion 2.0
    A product ahead of it’s time.
    Release it (or re-release it) today, and the world would absolutely love Adobe.
    Strange how SVG was persona-non-grata 10 years ago … now, its the beez neez :-)

  • Yert — 4:37 AM on January 27, 2010

    No 64 bit Flash for Windows or OS X. That’s my biggest gripe.
    Don’t wait for Microsoft to get Silverlight up to 64 bit (although they seem to be waiting for you to jump first, whereas that’s what Adobe seems to be doing too)!

  • Klaus Nordby — 5:44 AM on January 27, 2010

    A very thoughtful, interesting piece, John, so many thanks! Now please go back to your dayjob on PS CS5. :-)

  • Terje R — 6:50 AM on January 27, 2010

    Splendid article! :-)

  • Ethan — 7:20 AM on January 27, 2010

    “In a sense it’s a more Apple-like approach: Control things yourself, so design-by-committee doesn’t compromise your product. ” Amen. A horse designed by committee is a camel. I help in Letsi and I see how slow the preocess can be when we deal with standards we want to use in our work. Glaciers are formula 1 cars in comparison. The reality is that Flash puts the pressure on guys like @Charles to step up their game to fix their html/browser stuff.
    Flash and the authoring tools lets me get my elearning done for multiple browsers and OS’s in a timeframe that makes it financially viable. For that i have deep respect for Adobe-you help pay my mortgage. HTML5 has not done that once.
    Also recently my boss came to talk about how to deal with mpeg videos and it told him as we shift our codebse to AS3 the newer players will simply stream those in directly. The flash video format would only be needed if we wanted the extra info. I had a happy boss who knew he didn’t need to buy extra server space.
    @Charles “There are standards-based methods to do every single thing that Flash does. And the standards bodies are taking their sweet time, because they have to do this RIGHT, because the goal is TOTAL ELIMINATION of Flash from the web.”
    But your methods to build my elearning simulations an interactions of car part assembelies would push the cost to 4 times as much (lack of good IDE for animation). I’d never support something that hits my bottom line in that way. The standards bodies take their sweet time because they follow behind Flash and codify it’s abilities into standards once there is a market for that feature. They are using Flash as the test bed to figure out what to standardize! They need flash to show them the path.
    Stop acting like a dark ages warrior – prince whose going to destroy Flash. It’s pathetic and just underlines your lack of emotional maturity.
    @Dustin Wilson http://www.floppymoose.com/ has a css that blocks most ads for safari.

  • Bertrand Riché — 7:21 AM on January 27, 2010

    Very nice and wise article. There are not so many today.
    But why people always have to bash and criticize widely-spread technologies ?
    None of any technology is perfect (Flash, Mac OS, Windows, none of them !), and flash, as all the others, has its flaws and its benefits.
    Just work to use the seconds and fight the first ones on the technology that YOU prefer and YOU have to use, and stop spitting on anyone else work !
    They all had a hard time working to reach where they actually are, so just be grateful and support them ! (I’m not only talking about Macromedia/Adobe’s workers, but about everybody working out there since many years to bring us the web we actually know : fast, nice or/and reliable…)

  • Chris Vickery — 7:21 AM on January 27, 2010

    Adobe keeping control over Flash is the same struggle as Sun had maintaining control over Java. The only difference is that Sun gave away the development kit too. (No, I’m not suggesting that Oracle should take over Adobe! Just thinking online…)

  • AlphabUX — 7:49 AM on January 27, 2010

    Hi John,
    You made some very good points, but also some not so good ones.
    Standard bodies move slower than death (sometime because some actors are purposely delaying them), and having a sure fire way to deliver video with flash is great.
    Sadly, Flash consistency across platform is a sad myth. Often it doesn’t even produces consistent results across browsers in the same platforms. Text might look different, Localconnection calls will or will not work etc…
    Flash video performance is plain unacceptable. You do not need hardware acceleration to make a youtube video play without hiccup, as you can test by playing the same file with other software. Flash rendering does a lot of other things, which are completely unnecessary in 99.99% of the occurrences of video online.
    Finally regarding hardware acceleration on the mac, the point is that the Safari team doesn’t have access to it either. They have access to the Quicktime API, who then handle the decoding.
    Some other reasons I professionally advice against using flash: accessibility, support for the back button, printing, being able to open links in new tabs etc are all things that are possible to do well in flash but that require a lot of extra work compared to HTML/CSS/JS.

  • Dragos — 7:52 AM on January 27, 2010

    In the meantime, Adobe spends millions of dollars [...] to compensate for the rest of the world’s failure to get the job done.
    Truly heartbreaking.

  • Gregory Wostrel — 8:29 AM on January 27, 2010

    Dustin,
    Dude, are you a Programmer? Do you have any idea what you are talking about other than your opinion of what is going on? You make a lot of comments about hardware decoding and how stuff works and so on – but do you really have solid knowledge of all that is going on between software applications, plugins, runtimes, OSes and hardware? Because most people don’t and lots of people enjoy throwing around lots of geeky terms and pseudo tech talk to make it sound like they do and its really just a lot of BS posturing and talk. I am thinking that might be you since you don’t offer and sort of information about your qualifications. On the other hand, J Nack has major cred in this respect. Sure, he’s a company man, but I think he is shooting pretty straight here.

  • Acts7 — 9:12 AM on January 27, 2010

    “””
    Some other reasons I professionally advice against using flash: accessibility, support for the back button, printing, being able to open links in new tabs etc are all things that are possible to do well in flash but that require a lot of extra work compared to HTML/CSS/JS.”””
    You are making a mountain out of a mole hill. All of those issues can be addressed once with proper coding using Buzzword coming… OOP.
    Code a unique class for each of those pieces and reuse it everytime. Whats so hard about that?
    If you refer to PURE FLASH SITES yes those are dead. Okay lets just call it. Year of death 2010. But flash has been and always will be the piece of software to turn to when you need deepest market penetration. And because of that more and more sites are emerging that USE flash but you will begin to see less and less sites that ARE flash.
    I will say I contiue to develop my AS3 skills on a cautious basis. Only time will tell if its an investment well spent.

  • Acts7 — 9:17 AM on January 27, 2010

    Oh yeah, one disclaimer. When I said PURE FLASH SITES are dead. I mean “my website” types of sites.
    I don’t think you will ever see an end to “promo” sites in pure flash.
    Example: gettheglass.com, hf3.coca-cola.com etc. Flash will continue to be the best method of delivery on these types of sites.

  • john_s — 9:31 AM on January 27, 2010

    Hi John,
    Thanks for the writing this piece. I have a couple of comments.
    We use Ubuntu Linux running LTSP to serve 50 or so thin clients at our school district. We have found flash performance on Linux to be “sub par”, no surprise there given the fact that Linux is a marginal player in the desktop world.
    However, our greatest gripe (which I suspect would affect anyone trying to manage VM regardless of platform or OS) is the fact that Flash isn’t built to share the CPU nicely with competing flash instances. 50 users running 50 concurrent firefox sessions is no problem on our quad-core system. Add Flash into the mix and the system can become nearly unusable at a third of that amount. It seems flash is built with single users with dedicated cycles, CPU or GPU in mind, so it doesn’t work well for us. I have high hopes for HTML5/h264. In fact, even at this early stage youtube via HTML 5 use .5 the network bandwidth that flash does in our tests.
    I suspect VM’s and Cloud based computing will really start to highlight the current weakness’s in Flash in the coming year. In my opinion Adobe will have to take this seriously in order to remain dominant.

  • felix — 10:08 AM on January 27, 2010

    One thing to note regarding Flash’s system resource hogging: When Flash is executing expensive code, such as scaled, smoothed video with alpha composition (e.g. youtube), it will take up as much *free* CPU and RAM as possible. Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean your machine is about to burst into flames! If the system requires resources for other apps, Flash will hand them back over.

  • Nick — 11:25 AM on January 27, 2010

    My feelings exactly. Very well done.
    “Good guys vs. bad guys, open vs. proprietary, blah blah. That’s simpleminded and lame.”
    Very true.

  • Flash Developer — 11:41 AM on January 27, 2010

    Try firewalling the ad companies instead. Just block the ad companies web sites, then you don’t get their ads, and you get all the content you actually want.

  • James Darknell — 11:45 AM on January 27, 2010

    Nice piece John, wonderful bit of perspective. Sadly, the people who should most read this likely wont, and the haters that do, it wont change their minds. Economics proves that if people don’t want flash, they simply don’t have to use it. I’ve been recently learning the ins and outs of CSS and have been so happy at the terrific support Dreamweaver offers in this area. Prior to that I was a staunch GoLive supporter, but times change, and Adobe has too, thanks a lot for all your efforts providing me with a livelihood that I thoroughly enjoy!!

  • Rezmason — 12:10 PM on January 27, 2010

    (In a nutshell, I think the Flash Platform PR material needs to focus more on Tamarin.)
    I think one of the largest hurdles that Flash has to gain acceptance in the groups where it’s hated is to bridge the space between the (extremely active) Flash community and open source developers at large. A lot of the dissatisfaction in the Flash platform is attributed to the people who produce Flash content. I think a big reason why Tamarin isn’t a frenzy of activity is that most developers who would work on it aren’t motivated to facilitate people who in their opinion are subpar programmers.
    Personally, I find that sentiment very ironic. I’m a Flash programmer and I can confidently state that I am good at what I do. And in my eyes, most open source projects cannot compete with proprietary alternatives because their programming is subpar. So my perception of the typical open source dev is the polar opposite of their perception of the typical Flash dev.
    Both perceptions may be skewed. And the two groups aren’t even exclusive! Our opinions of one another blind us to the real possibility that Flash devs and potential Tamarin contributors have a lot to gain from one another.
    Make a bigger deal out of Tamarin. Show that Adobe’s really serious about it. Maybe look at the gnash community for some inspiration. Because if Tamarin gains enough momentum, the haters will recede.

  • thedavidmo — 12:14 PM on January 27, 2010

    The absolute no. 1 reason I have flash disabled in my browser: brutal, flash-based advertising.
    As long as it’s used to create annoying, blinking ads, it’ll stay disabled.
    This seems to me to be an argument against open standards. If all ads were implemented in HTML5, there would be no way to disable them without also disabling everything else on the page. A plugin like Flash makes it so there’s an advertising bottleneck that you can turn off without affecting the rest of the web experience too much.
    So really, Flash is what enables this free-rider situation to occur, that lets a small minority of relatively tech-savvy web users get all the content without any of the advertising (it’s like TiVo users complaining about the commercials they skip–those commercials are subsidizing the content!).

  • Jonh — 12:45 PM on January 27, 2010

    and if adobe dont develope software for apple plataform?

  • Kevin Newman — 1:00 PM on January 27, 2010

    This is simple. Innovation is the domain of in-house, private, proprietary development. That’s why Flash is so far ahead of the standards, and always will be. Open source and standards are important for long term industry health (see the case of IE6 and the web’s stalled progress for why you need open source and standards) – so HTML5 and ecmascript are vastly important.
    I don’t know why we have to choose between one or the other. I respect the work Adobe (and Macromedia before it) have done with Flash. And I always appreciate it when a standard emerges to cover some of what Flash does (and am ecstatic when I can actually USE the standard, which can’t be said of HTML5 any time soon).
    On Tamarin (because someone brought it up) – I think it wasn’t used because of two reasons – one there was no easy way to build and see it run. That could be solved by releasing more of the shell of the Flash Player, in a buildable state (if not all of it – keep your proprietary type engine for example, and the codecs you don’t own private if you want), along with a support structure – something much more like the Flex Framework. The other reason was the mood around the release of it. It was covered in so much fear, hesitation and then anger, that no one wanted to use touch it (except Mozilla, but they had reason to deal with it, being tasked to some extent with getting it out there). No one wants to contribute to a project that can’t be used easily, and is surrounded by an uneasy atmosphere.

  • John Dowdell — 1:00 PM on January 27, 2010

    Apples and oranges… the transfer methods are documented for anyone to use, but specific encryption implementations are not. (Any locksmith has general key-making tools, even though they may not know a specific lock.)
    Meanwhile, why are you trying to change the subject, to seek an attack point? And why do you choose to do so anonymously? You’re not exactly alleviating the suspicion of an EllieLight/marketingIntern type of deal with that choice.
    jd/adobe

  • J-Man — 1:48 PM on January 27, 2010

    Charles hates Flash because he never learned it and he now sees how well-employed and happy his peers are that did learn Flash. They are busy on projects, getting paid well, and making cool stuff while Charles is in a holding pattern waiting for…
    …embedded fonts in the browser. I am sorry, but I can’t help but laugh at these things!

  • Jimmy — 3:32 PM on January 27, 2010

    Thanks John
    Enjoyed this. Unlike some of the commentators I like flash – yes it has issues and as a Mac user I wish to seem them resolved. I also hope to see flash implemented on the Jesus phone and the ipad soon (with a way to turn it on / off). And while Macs make up 5% of the market, the iPhone has a large presence in the smart phone market and optimizing it for the Mac may make Apple more open to including it on the phone?

  • radu — 3:43 PM on January 27, 2010

    Adobe is not losing any money by giving the customes the runtime for free.
    [You think the licensing costs for video playback are free, or that the bandwidth to distribute millions of copies per day costs nothing, or that we don't pay the engineers? --J.]
    Still, I agree the flash player shouldn’t be open source.

  • Fabio Paes Pedro — 3:56 PM on January 27, 2010

    Well, open source and standards are here to elevate all the web levels and this allways will be a boost to proprietary or private – and so on – development. You’re right, as a Flash Developer i can’t see other way than keep innovating.

  • Peter Santangeli — 6:12 PM on January 27, 2010

    Great article.
    It’s so very interesting that 8 years after I stopped running the Flash product at Macromedia these same inane arguments still go on.
    Makes me chuckle. Some things never change – mostly people don’t.
    It’s really very simple. You don’t like Flash? Come up with a replacement. Make it usable by artists, programmers, and those special people that can do both. Get those artists and about a billion consumers to adopt it. Compete.
    The rest is whining.
    (PS: I no longer work at Adobe and have no relationship to them).

  • Eric — 7:52 PM on January 27, 2010

    I use Flash at work. I wish it was on my iPHone.
    But I understand the frustration over performance. Hardware acceleration isn’t supported on Macs, and the reason is Apple doesn’t allow access directly to the hardware.
    Can’t someone figure out a solution to that?

  • Asa Dotzler — 8:57 PM on January 27, 2010

    Flash didn’t get its ubiquity through a small download size. It got it from distribution on the most popular OS of all time, Windows XP. To suggest otherwise with your comment about QT’s download size, is disingenuous.
    [I'm annoyed by your suggestion that I'm disingenuous. You could say "inaccurate," but please don't question my integrity.
    In any case, small footprint & ubiquity are absolutely correlated. Back when I was developing Web pages full time, viewers were a hell of a lot more likely to download something (especially over dial-up) that would be ready in a couple of minutes. Vendors are more willing to bundle small components than large one. And--this is important in arguments about Flash's agility--a small footprint makes it easier to keep installations up to date. --J.]

  • Aleks Ivic — 9:11 PM on January 27, 2010

    Greg,
    I read John’s blog regularly and I believe he is being honest in all his posts and in most cases I agree with his opinions. With Flash though, I am parting ways and siding with Dustin since I have faith he is not misleading us with his experiences and providing his honest feedback.
    Why are you so quick to point out to discredit Dustin with comments like “Are you a programmer!?!?”
    He IS a user of the flash player on the mac platform and is stating his experience and willing to HELP the Flash team making it more stable and efficient!
    Fanboys like you drive me insane and not helping the conversation move in a positive direction.
    If you are now wondering what my motivation for this reply… yes I’m a Mac user but I have had nothing but good experiences with various Adobe products over the years.
    Regarding Dustin’s hardware acceleration comments…. I haven’t had any experience coding with Cocoa but one could just google (or Bing) and find out that utilizing the Core Video API will enable hardware acceleration on the Mac.

  • Jan Kabili — 9:35 PM on January 27, 2010

    Thoughtful. Informative. Balanced. Thanks John

  • Robert Hammen — 9:50 PM on January 27, 2010

    Nack, any comments to John Welch’s rant on bynkii.com?
    [Yes: I have neither the time nor the inclination to read a bunch of profane ad-hominem ranting. I also know that if Flash crashed browsers even one tenth as often as it has become popular to assert (in a completely un-falsifiable way, mind you), no one would use it. I run with dozens of tabs open in Safari all day every day, most of which contain one or more SWFs. I can't tell you the last time it crashed. The beauty part for Flash haters is that unlike discussions of CPU usage, relative frame rate, etc., this one can't be measured (because I promise you Apple isn't sharing their crash logs with you). Therefore you can just assert it over and over forever, regardless of what's actually happening. --J.]
    I think the point he’s trying to get across to you, is that Mac users are sick and tired of the Flash player crashing their browser.
    I will personally attest to significantly-improved stability since using ClickToFlash to block Flash ads and crap unless it’s something I specifically want to see.
    Making Flash run efficiently (not taking up tons of RAM/CPU) and crashproof on the Mac (it’s not just Safari, it can take down Chrome and Firefox as well) would go a long way to earning the gratitude of, rather than the ire of, Mac users.
    Don’t use the tired old 5% excuse, without the Mac there would be no Adobe.
    [Don't start conflating issues. I was talking about overall content browsing/consumption, not about content creation or the history thereof. It's reasonable to optimize for the 95% case. If the market share numbers were reversed, and if I told you that the Flash team put 50+% of its efforts into optimizing for Windows (which represented just 5% of users), you'd probably get all sore-assed about how the Mac was being disadvantaged in that equation. (But of course, being sore-assed is a big part of the fun in being a Mac user. "The discontent is the reward." I know: I've been a Mac user for a very long time.) --J.]
    A LOT of the professional content creation is done on Macs, far more than that market share (or else you guys wouldn’t do CS for the Mac), not to mention all of the alpha geeks (many of whom are frustrated with the inefficiency and bloatware that many Adobe products have become)…

  • judah — 10:32 PM on January 27, 2010

    hi acts 7,
    you are talking about an issue that as a flash developers i am very aware of. the solution i think is to do two things.
    one – use flex. flex is a free sdk that contains controls, layouts and access to all the api’s of the flash player. you can create sites and applications with it with the free compiler and a text editor or you can use flash builder 4 ide. imho it is one of the most powerful tools on the web. trust me. it is that cool.
    two – use the flex capacitor project. (side note: i don’t like self promotion but without any announcement it will go unnoticed.) once u add this library u will gain a lot of the features missing in a flash site that the same site would have if built in html. things like back and forward buttons, open in a new window, save image as, copy image location, image slide show and more. it also includes a slew of developer features like href, state aware links, synchronous behaviors and auto deep linking. listen, if the user is happy they won’t care that it’s a flash site. user don’t give a shit about the technology. what they care about is the content and how easy it is to do something with it. so if you add features they like and expect they will be satisfied. why then would u build your site using html? u can use tools like flash builder and illustrator, photoshop and fireworks (exports to flash builder) to build the same sites rapidly without u having to know thousands of quirks of browsers). i should know! i’ve been in web design and development in numerous jobs and design firms for 15yrs and even still.
    if u like this project or don’t like it at least give feedback or join in the development. if u don’t use it i don’t care. it’s your time ur throwing away. i want to say it again. i don’t like self promotion but u need to know what flex is before u have another flash bash. also, some videos of a “flash site” created with flash builder and only 50 lines of code http://www.youtube.com/flexcapacitor1

  • judah — 1:16 AM on January 28, 2010

    am i supposed to bash apple here because i can’t do it. i agree with apple and i’m saying that even though i make my living off of flash.
    apple is about creating the highest quality experience in the world, even if it is in their own mind or for their own customers. they won’t let flash on their device until flash also cares about creating the highest quality experience in the world.
    want proof? if a bug appears on apples iphone they would take action immediately and a fix would be in the next update. mac os pops up a dialog when a bug occurs and u press one button to send the report to apple. if a bug appears in the flash player a user has to find the page on adobes site to file a bug, create an account, fill out a complex form and then on top of that 90% of the time their bug is ignored until it gets enough votes. features and bugs in the flash player are added and fixed as needed or only when needed.
    the difference in one sentence – apple cares about it’s image and of having the highest quality experience all they way down to its core decisions. their image is their highest priority in their strategy (genuine or not) and stockholders come second. in adobe’s world they choose their direction to make the most money for their stockholders and then quality and experience for the customer comes second. with that guiding them they can be blown around by trends and fads.
    if adobe were to focus on improving their product instead of their bottom line they would improve their bottom line and their product at the same time. again, if adobe was as focused on quality as much as apple then apple would grant them access and even be glad to invite them onto their devices…

  • pedro — 3:23 AM on January 28, 2010

    “If the Flash team continues to innovate–that is, if they deliver better features more quickly, more predictably, and with better authoring tools than other technologies–then Flash will endure.”
    Unless, that is, a certain popular family of hardware locks flash out, and imposes its own ialternative to flash — then flash may be doomed, no matter how innovative it is.
    [Well, I agree that Apple has motivations that have nothing to do with the innovativeness or quality of Flash. For better or for worse, they want to control everything, and they don't want to depend on developers of any size (i.e. those which might want to deliver apps across platforms). --J.]

  • "illustrators agency-India — 5:03 AM on January 28, 2010

    Nice article! keep it up. I have my experiences with Flash and I’m thankful for it. It adds a lot in showcasing technical illustration I have made.

  • Daemon — 5:19 AM on January 28, 2010

    Hm, this is an awesome article. However, this article is giving explanations to problems that are, in my mind – non existent.
    Who the hell issue with Flash? 0.1% Turbo-super-powerusers, Developers because Flash as a tool is a bit buggy (not to be related to Flash Player).
    For the rest of the world, you know, the people that use Flash based applications, or that view websites that have parts made in Flash (image gallery, or carousels, etc..), but use then in a USER MANNER, not in SUPERMAN OF THE INTERNET manner – Flash rules.
    (small note: Flash acting silly in new iMacs is a bug that will be fixed, not a “meant to be feature”.)

  • Gregory Wostrel — 6:33 AM on January 28, 2010

    Aleks, what exactly is it that I am a “fanboy” of and how is that comment helpful or constructive (pot > black)?
    John is laying out reality for everyone, not banging on a Standards drum, not talking about utopian computer ideals, just telling us the way that it is as a person who has front line, inside, perspective on it. He is not the Flash PM, nor a Marketing person. This is his blog where he states his personal opinion. Dustin, on the other hand, makes statements like:
    “Hardware decoding, however, has absolutely nothing to do with it as many applications on both the Mac and Linux can display H.264 video just fine without hardware acceleration and without disabling multi gigahertz and multi core machines in the process. Yes QuickTime uses hardware acceleration, but it’s not the only video player for the Mac. The problem’s two-fold. The Flash plugin requires too many resources to function while causing numerous crashes likely mostly due to the first problem.”
    He is making a statement that implies he has programming and engineering knowledge. I maintain that he, like many people who comment on blogs, who write blogs and even many “analysts”, make those comments based on what they experience and then make assumptions.
    “Hardware decoding has nothing to do with it”?
    “Four years of requesting basic fundamentals of application development”?
    “The Flash plugin requires too many resources to function while causing numerous crashes likely mostly due to the first problem”?
    Seriously, based on what expertise? Has he worked on Adobe software? For Apple perhaps? As an independent Software Developer? A degree in Computer Science? No evidence of any of that in his comments or on his site.
    John lays it out and Dustin uses over 1,000 words to say what that is useful? Nothing. 1,000 words of sounding like he knows something. I imagine Dustin is a fine fellow but I bet he has no idea what really makes the Flash Player tick vs Quicktime vs Real Player vs WMP, etc and what is required to make it “better”.
    Just my opinion.

  • eyuzwa — 7:47 AM on January 28, 2010

    Excellent post and some great discussion points in the comments to go through!
    All I can really add to the conversation is that Macromedia developing the Flash player saved the entire human race from the fiery pits of the crappy Real player hell.

  • Ed — 8:35 AM on January 28, 2010

    How do you argue with someone with an irrational belief and conviction to the cult of mac? You can’t…

  • Rahmat Hidayat — 9:30 AM on January 28, 2010

    Just want to remind you guys, this is the absolute GOLDEN MOMENT if you want to raise flash again to the internet pedestal, please use this momentum wisely.

  • Steven — 9:31 AM on January 28, 2010

    Until the Flash plugin stops being the cause of BROWSER CRASHES, regardless of browser or OS (It’s crashed all browser on any OS I’ve tried at one point or another), it will be bashed, and for good reason.
    How come only Flash has this problem? Java doesn’t crash the browser!

  • Rahmat Hidayat — 9:36 AM on January 28, 2010

    Just want to remind you guys, this is the absolute GOLDEN MOMENT if you want to raise flash again (thank you iPad), please use this momentum wisely.

  • John Dowdell — 10:13 AM on January 28, 2010

    Asa, I think we’ve discussed this before… Macromedia Flash Player was installed by well over 90% of consumers, well before Microsoft used it as part of Win XP:
    http://web.archive.org/web/*/www.macromedia.com/software/player_census/flashplayer/version_penetration.html
    (Related, Macromedia used to do backports of security changes to Player 6 specifically for Microsoft’s continuing use, yet few consumers over the past few years have had only Player 6 on their system, as they would if WinXP were the major contributor.)
    jd/adobe

  • Loweded Wookie — 11:02 AM on January 28, 2010

    I like this post and it’s great that you can quash some of the misconceptions around Flash but as you said Adobe make a crap runtime environment and hey guess what, it’s the runtime that provides the viewer the experience.
    As someone who is knee deep in computing my experience shows that when people don’t know why a problem is occurring they will always blame the problem on the thing they were doing at the time.
    If Flash is causing the fans to spin stupid quick and it only happens when viewing Flash based sites people are only ever going to complain about Flash when in reality it’s the Flash Player that’s at fault.
    Adobe doesn’t want to give control over the development of the Flash Player over to 3rd parties and yet it’s 3rd parties that will make the better player.
    Look at Preview compared to Adobe Acrobat Reader. Preview screams reading PDFs and Acrobat Reader (and Acrobat Pro for that matter) runs like a snail through treacle.
    All Adobe needs to do is open up the Flash Player development. Apple would roll this into QuickTime (the reason QuickTime is 10 times the size is because it is doing 10 times more than Flash is doing) meaning every Mac will have a great lightweight, quick, and resource friendly player which will show up the Windows player for what it is as well.

  • Alex — 12:01 PM on January 28, 2010

    Printed, framed, will show to everyone who comes! Excelent!

  • Jeff Johnson — 12:09 PM on January 28, 2010

    Excellet write up – reference std quality.
    to you flash bashers – show me this http://www.lookbookhd.com in html 5 and i will hire you and you will be set for life.

  • Ryu — 12:53 PM on January 28, 2010

    Face it, Adobe made a bad bet buying Macromedia for Flash years ago and now you are regretting. Embrace open standards and kill Flash.

  • Ksy — 1:22 PM on January 28, 2010

    Great article and explanation.
    My main concern about Flash is not because it’s proprietary or anything. I don’t care about that. I use a Mac and I love Apple stuff, so I’m not exactly the “open” kind of guy (am I the furthest thing from that? Nah).
    Anyway, I love how easy is Flash to use, especially compared to the other competitive technologies. I don’t like how by default you cannot right click in all Flash websites, but that’s ok.
    My problem is performance. Performance. PERFORMANCE.
    Seriously. I couldn’t care less about Windows, but on Macs, Flash runs really horribly. Yesterday, I was using some live streaming for the Apple event, and they weren’t even on, but used about 40% of my CPU. I’m on a Core 2 Duo alright, but still…! And what about YouTube? How many times has Safari crashed while watching a HD video (That is, after waiting ages for the video to load completely).
    And that for me is simply unacceptable.
    Why has the Mac development gone so badly? First the lack of 64 bit, then the Flash performance. Yeah, I know about the Carbon issue, but still, waiting so much to release a damn 64 bit version?
    I don’t know how much Adobe makes, but considering that most of the professionals who use Adobe software use Macs, and considering that professionals are the ones who pay for their software 98% of the time, I’ll say you’ve been pissing off the wrong people.
    I hope the situation gets better in the future. I don’t want to wait for the whole web to change in order to enjoy watching videos, as I know it would take ages (as has taken and not yet finished for websites not to be IE-only).
    Bottom line: Flash is what’s left of unprofessional in Adobe’s software. Either kill it or fix it. Live or Die. The choice is yours.

  • Dale J Williams — 3:39 PM on January 28, 2010

    You said it. Dude needs to skill up or shut up.
    Great article. Often it is hard to debate these points with the flash-hating portion of open standards supporters without sounding cocky about the advantages you have as a Flash Developer.

  • Dale J Williams — 3:56 PM on January 28, 2010

    Serious? The article you linked, despite its bias, says it in the first sentence…
    “This is the reason adobe have issued the DMCA removal request for rtmpdump – the tool which allows saving of downloaded rtmp streams from sites that use the rtmp streaming protocol. ”
    The article seems to forget that a whole lot more of the pressure has come from studios and content providers. This technology exists to protect the copyrights of studios and content providers. You could bet your bottom dollar that if the stream could not be saved, the implementation would be fine.

  • Dale J Williams — 4:03 PM on January 28, 2010

    Edit: was reply to @SuperDude

  • FlashDead — 4:51 PM on January 28, 2010

    Flash will die and it’s dead already.
    Steve Jobs and Apple don’t want it on the iPhone, iPod Touch & iPad and there’s nothing Adobe can do about it.

  • someone — 2:09 AM on January 29, 2010

    Your arguments why Adobe cannot publish source code of Flashplayer is ridiculous.
    Maybe the frequency of detected ugly backdoors are the result of very ugly code??

  • HTML5 — 3:15 AM on January 29, 2010

    Youtube is switching away from Flash to HTML5 also, it’s only the end of Flash.
    So nice to play videos without the browser crashing due to incompetent Adobe monkeys writing bad, inefficient code.
    http://www.youtube.com/html5

  • rds — 6:51 AM on January 29, 2010

    Apple would use some of its 50 billion cash reserve to buy Adobe. Problem solved.

  • Paul — 6:55 AM on January 29, 2010

    Flash will continue to exist, but will be relegated to “toy” status – used for whiz-bang promotional websites and games. With all the advanced JS frameworks out there these days that offer decent cross-browser compatibility, graceful degradation, use of native UI controls, and mobile browsability, there’s just no reason to use a proprietary solution like Flash to get anything serious done. The adoption of the HTML5 video element, once the codec kerfuffle is sorted out, will cement this new status for the former king of Web video playback.

  • Robert Hammen — 8:08 AM on January 29, 2010

    Welch’s Flash Rant #2, less profanity, hopefully you’ll read it and maybe act on it/respond to it:
    http://www.bynkii.com/archives/2010/01/stop_crashing_my_browser.html
    I use Safari all day every day, many, many tabs, also use Chrome. ClickToFlash stopped my browser quits entirely. Chrome (yes, beta) crashed regularly until I added a Flash blocker.
    Flash stability AND performance on the Mac SUCKS. As an IT manager responsible for hundreds of systems, across multiple companies, this is the truth – you may not want to believe it, but don’t pee on my shoes and tell me it’s raining, because I am NOT the ONLY IT manager who has this experience.
    I have not even brought up the issue of Flash security issues – that’s a huge concern as well, but secondary to the stability and performance issues that Adobe seems either blind to, or stubbornly unwilling to admit, much less address…

  • Scott — 8:38 AM on January 29, 2010

    Flash sucks……..and Apple should buy Adobe and put Flash and other sad Adobe softwware out of its misery.

  • Jason — 9:15 AM on January 29, 2010

    Amen! Dear developers, you are not the end user. Until you realize that, you will never be a good developer, no matter how many other developers back you up.

  • Phillip Kerman — 9:48 AM on January 29, 2010

    My favorite part of the comments here are all the predictions. Some will be come true many others won’t. But, what world do you all live in? The one of today where there are real opportunities (including Flash and other technologies) or tomorrow’s world? It’s fun to predict Apple buying Flash or even state in the present tense that “youtube is switching to HTML5″ but that’s all great if you have a gig as a future technology prophet. I’ll be stuck in the past as I keep doing the jobs clients ask for today.

  • Andy — 11:01 AM on January 29, 2010

    All of this talk about video, and no one mentions the 800lb gorilla sitting over there in the corner: live content.
    How does HTML5 address live/streaming/adaptive video needs?

  • J-Man — 11:35 AM on January 29, 2010

    “Skill up or shut up.”
    Awesomely put, Dale! I want to use this quote to start trolling Open Sourcerers forums and Mac “Apple can do no wrong” Fanboy sites right now!

  • Fuggay — 1:04 PM on January 29, 2010

    I can’t say I’d miss Flash if it died over the next few years, I certainly won’t miss the messages in Google Chrome alerting me to Flash crashing every so often a day.
    The thing about Flash is it’s an animation package that has been bent and forced into all kinds of different things it was never intended to be. Flash is not the internet, it is not the future, it only plugs holes until better solutions are found… oh and it gives you the ability to create eye candy junk effects that clients love.
    I stopped all Flash development about 5 years ago to focus on frontend design and development with HTML/CSS/JS… best decision ever.

  • thickslab — 1:30 PM on January 29, 2010

    I have neither the time nor the inclination to read a bunch of profane ad-hominem ranting.
    (1) Profane? What are you, afraid of a few four letter words?
    (2) Nothing in his rant is ad hominem.

  • Darren Woolley — 1:56 PM on January 29, 2010

    Greg, I have to agree with other people here – you’re asking whether the guy has a right to comment, whether he’s a programmer, whether he understands what hardware decoding means.
    In the washup, this means nothing. I too have installed a plugin for Safari that removes Flash content, simply because it is a resource hog. I don’t have to be a programmer to understand that my machine slows to a crawl on my local Newspaper’s website, which has half a dozen flash boxes on the front page.
    I don’t have to be a programmer to open Activity Monitor and see the evidence of this myself.
    I’m a designer, with 20 years mac experience, and certainly lots of Adobe experience, but none of that is necessary to realise that when I installed the plugin to remove flash content, my machine has been free and FAST ever since.
    The point is that whether this is the fault of the Flash team, or the fault of poor utilisation of Flash programming by those people creating stuff with the product – the outcome is more important. The evidence is simply too overwhelming no matter which angle you come from, that the product performs incredibly poorly on the Mac – to the point of actually stopping your machine working with any efficiency.
    If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it’s probably a duck.
    This duck is deep fried, which is why Apple simply can’t allow it on their portable devices. And I will no longer allow it in my browser, unless I absolutely have to. I use “clicktoflash” plugin, so I can click on the box if I feel there’s content I need to see.

  • Andrew E — 2:11 PM on January 29, 2010

    I thought the original comment was pretty well phrased, but since you seem to be having trouble, I’ll try and elucidate it further – apologizes to the original poster if I’ve got this wrong: Flash has had performance problems on the Mac for far longer than hardware accelerated video has been available, therefore hardware accelerated video – while certainly something that should be explored – is not the sole cause of the problem.
    An anecode: several years ago, I was working on a flash widget, which was performing incredibly slowly in either Safari or Firefox on my Mac. I opened up Parallels, fired up IE6, and loaded the SAME page, and the same flash widget animated without any jerkiness in its display whatsoever. This was in a virtual machine, on the SAME BOX! Make of that what you will.

  • Charles Miller — 2:16 PM on January 29, 2010

    “And today, more than 15 years after Netscape debuted, Flash remains the only way to, say, display a vector chart across browsers (i.e., such that you can count on every viewer seeing it).”
    There are other ways.
    http://raphaeljs.com/pie.html

  • Bryan — 2:19 PM on January 29, 2010

    “[Well, I agree that Apple has motivations that have nothing to do with the innovativeness or quality of Flash. For better or for worse, they want to control everything, and they don't want to depend on developers of any size (i.e. those which might want to deliver apps across platforms). --J.]”
    You complained early about somebody calling you disingenuous. Sorry, but why should we refrain when rather than addressing the question the commenter above brought up, you tried to two-step over to the “closed eco-system” issue to hopefully raise the ire of the community there as a distraction?
    In this case, Apple is supporting OPEN STANDARDS to replace Flash. That’s not them “controlling everything”. Stop being disingenuous.
    Appreciate the article and insight, even though everyone’s point of view on these issues may be slightly skewed. Cheers.

  • gaz — 2:35 PM on January 29, 2010

    I hadn’t really noticed a performance difference between Flash on OS X 10.6 (on my 2009 Mini) vs Flash on Windows 7 (same machine). It seems to work fine for Hulu on either OS (I stay away from YouTube) when playing 480p content. Both slow to a crawl if I’ve got several pages open with multiple flash ads per – no surprise there. I don’t usually have more than 8 or 9 pages open at once, though, which might contribute to my reasonable experiences on both platforms.
    Really, the only disappointment I’ve experienced with Flash regarding performance has been related to running it on desktop Linux.
    It seems to me that Flash is just about a web standard in and of itself – it’s a rare person indeed who doesn’t want Flash on their computer, regardless of OS. It might not be “free as in feel free to steal copyrighted materials using our software”, but the plugin costs nothing to acquire or use. Who cares if Adobe makes money on content authoring tools for it? I don’t remember needing to pay Adobe a license fee to wrap video in Flash, or generate some sort of ‘active’ content using MTASC or Adobe Flash Pro.
    Flash’s ubiquity doesn’t seem to need a steering committee and months of arguing to make it desirable to end-users. It may end up being replaced, but I wouldn’t bet against it for the forseeable future. It’s too easy to acquire and use, and it’s just about the only mulitmedia standard you can count on to be available on Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.

  • Amber — 2:53 PM on January 29, 2010

    You’ve made some very inflammatory statements in your opening claims of your article here. Your arguments stand on a foundation of flagrant disregard for animators and content creators. The reason we all have fast, reliable, ubiquitous online video today is because nobody has to pay to view it – end story. We are not better off because of this.

  • Joe Stevens — 3:03 PM on January 29, 2010

    You’ve made some good arguments Jack. We do have Flash to thank for the popularity of online video among other things. However, its time for us to move on and leave Flash behind like we did all of those other crazy plugins from the 90′s.

  • steveg — 3:08 PM on January 29, 2010

    lovely to see the panic rising. bye flash.

  • Kendall Gelner — 3:26 PM on January 29, 2010

    I like to support online advertising, so I have never sought to use an ad blocker. But the web over the past year or two has got so obnoxious with computer-hogging flash ads, that I found myself compelled to install ClickToFlash in Safari which only enables Flash when I chose to click on a box stating there is flash content. In around a year, I have only ever clicked on video feeds and one game…
    Yes Flash helped bring us all together on video – to h.264, as you point out (and Gruber has pointed out too although you accuse him of not knowing that). But just like scaffolding helps get a building up, when the building is done the scaffolding needs to be removed – and it’s time to remove the Flash scaffolding that helped lead us to the standards we have today. You note Mozilla doesn’t support h.264 yet, but practical reality will force them too before long and they certainly have the money to pay the licensing fee from the Google payments they receive.

  • Bob Jones — 3:30 PM on January 29, 2010

    Stop crashing my browser.
    http://www.bynkii.com/archives/2010/01/stop_crashing_my_browser.html

  • Hamranhansenhansen — 3:40 PM on January 29, 2010

    Flash is not the problem. The problem is FlashPlayer. The problem is ISO MPEG-4 H.264/AAC media being hidden from users with devices that can play it. Devices which have hardware ISO MPEG-4 players but for which no FlashPlayer is available because FlashPlayer runs only on Mac and PC. The problem is the Flash video publishing workflow being years behind and not including the whole Web anymore, leading Adobe’s customers astray, causing them to hide their content from their readers.
    Flash does not need FlashPlayer, and in fact, FlashPlayer is killing Flash. Flash can create Mac apps, Windows apps, AIR apps, and iPhone apps. Adobe should add HTML5 apps, Blackberry apps, and Android app targets.
    Then Web publishers who are currently showing their video only to FlashPlayer on Mac and PC and hiding it from everyone else should be able to get a Flash upgrade and re-Publish their video player and Flash would create a video player that runs in FlashPlayer where HTML5 is not available (i.e. IE) or where MPEG-4 is not available (Firefox) and in HTML5 where FlashPlayer is not available (everything other than Mac and PC). Is Flash a Web publishing tool, or a FlashPlayer publishing tool? Does Flash serve the needs of its users, or the needs of Adobe’s executives and their FlashPlayer fiefdom?
    Adobe should be embracing the technical challenges of making video and multimedia just work on the Web, not pushing those technical challenges downstream to publishers and consumers who should not have to know anything about video players, they only care about video.
    There is just no excuse now that somebody created a FlashPlayer in HTML5. That means content is going Flash to FlashPlayer to HTML5, when it should be going Flash to HTML5. The computation for that should be happening once on the developer’s machine, not again and again on millions of client devices that are running on batteries.
    BTW, I’ve been using Flash since 1997. I’m disappointed that Adobe is killing it.

  • Geoff — 3:46 PM on January 29, 2010

    Thanks for a clear-minded post on a touchy subject. I think you make a lot of good points. But in the end, I think you just reinforce the most cogent opposing argument:

    Despite the Flash Player team investing disproportionate resources in the Mac player (where the Mac has ~5% market share to 90+% for Windows), and despite them making big strides on the Mac, it’s true that Flash performance on OS X has lagged behind Flash on Windows. That needs to change.

    This is exactly the problem that drives me crazy. Adobe shouldn’t be expected to care more than 5% about a 5% player. But *apple* cares 100% about Mac and iPhone users. And apple can invest in world-class technologies that work great with the systems I prefer to use.
    Flash is a proprietary platform over which apple has no control. And it accounts for a big part of the web. This means apple is *powerless* to really improve the situation with flash for their customers in any direct way.
    When IE5 was an unbelievable turd, Apple fixed the problem by building a great browser. They have the skill, resources, and motivation to make their platform excellent at just about anything. But pervasive proprietary technologies like flash hold them back.
    End result? My lap catches fire every time I watch a Youtube video on my mac. If I watch the H264 stream through quicktime, it is perfect. And so, as a mac user I’m frustrated with a very popular site, and adobe (rightfully) thinks, “Well, they’re only 5%.” (And I especially shed a tear for my linux-using friends, where flash support is even worse.)
    Nobody rational is saying that Adobe can’t make a good flash for Mac, or that they don’t because they just hate mac users. Obviously adobe is chock-full of talent and motivation to build great products. The fact is they shouldn’t have to build the viewer for content on a platform they don’t care much about.
    Web content is held hostage to a technology that has to be maintained in a competition-less world by one player. If that weren’t the case, you’d see great support for these sites on Linux, mac, phones, and more.
    And so many of us (especially long-time mac users like you and I) feel strongly that content has no place in proprietary wrappers.
    And you have articulated exactly why this is true. And also why apple is, in the end, *right* to resist flash support on their popular new platform. They’re just protecting the quality of their own offering long run by ensuring they can support the content that matters tomorrow and ten years down the road.
    Geoff

  • Jamie Nazaroff — 3:54 PM on January 29, 2010

    To be fair, J, Apple’s resistance to reliance on other developers is well founded.
    IE for Mac (default shipping browser for Mac OS 9)? MS stopped developing it.
    Outlook Express for Mac? Same fate.
    Adobe Premiere? Adobe stopped developing it (and a half dozen other apps)
    Avid? Leave the mac platform entirely.
    MS threatening to drop the mac version of Word was probably the last straw.
    And look what it did. It forced Apple to come up with or buy it’s own alternatives in Safari, Mail.app, Final Cut Pro. When you’re a small market share getting constantly ignored or rejected by everyone, eventually you learn to do things for yourself.
    This then allowed them to venture into other apps like the iLife and iWork suites and pro apps like Aperture, Soundtrack and others, which have been extremely successful for them.
    So they’ve learned that doing things for themselves and not relying on others makes them really successful. Why stop now?

  • Flash Sucks — 4:14 PM on January 29, 2010

    http://daringfireball.net/2010/01/apple_adobe_flash
    “But during the week at WWDC, I confirmed with several sources at Apple who are familiar with the aggregate Crash Reporter data, and they confirmed that “plugins” was a euphemism for “Flash”.”
    Flash, most unstable piece of crap ever. Apple agrees, don’t bother them about it.

  • Dale — 4:20 PM on January 29, 2010

    Flash’s performance has nothing to do with why Apple blocks it. Apple blocks Flash for the same reason they block Java, Blu-ray, and other technologies from their ecosystem — control and money
    If you aren’t getting everything through an Apple store Apple isn’t making as much money.
    And it’s so damn hypocritical for everyone to bash Flash for being proprietary when if Apple had its way there’d be no web at all, just a whole bunch of apps from the Apple App store, with having complete control over what is allowed and making 30% off everything.
    Apple is more or less evil. They just happen to be extremely competent and make great products.

  • Max Howell — 4:21 PM on January 29, 2010

    Great post. You are clearly a very capable and rational man working for the wrong company. I hope that doesn’t ring offensive.

  • Marcos El Malo — 4:35 PM on January 29, 2010

    I’m not a programmer, which should soon be obvious.
    I don’t get a lot of browser crashes (on Safari and occasional Chrome and FF use on OS X), but when I do, it seems to me to be attributable to flash. The other troubling phenomena I see is how much memory simple internet browsing takes up, memory that is not always recovered when I quit my browser.
    It seems to me that this is due to really crappy programming by unskilled flash developers. So, while great things are possible with Flash, and I have benefitted from it as a user, why hasn’t Adobe fixed the runtime to disallow bad practices?
    Another thing I’d like to see is some sort of control panel or pref pane that would allow me to flush flash files out of memory and kill flash processes. Sure, I could use Activity Monitor to kill flash processes, if I knew what was Flash and what wasn’t. I want something that would allow me to kill or stop some flash files from running, but allow others. And I don’t want another freaking plug-in for my browser to do it.
    This might be asking a lot, but I think a lot of people would appreciate more user control over Flash content.

  • Faildobe — 4:37 PM on January 29, 2010

    Adobe is a in death spiral. One that billions of people are excited about.
    To your points:
    Flash was progressive ten years ago. Today it is a cancer.
    Flash wasn’t being kind in giving Flash Player software away. This ensured sales of the Flash application. It was the only way they could survive.
    Flash has been beaten by Javascript libraries such as jQuery. You just don;t know it yet. Once the support for old browsers die the need for Flash is entirely gone.
    Flash will innovate or die. I’m betting on death with a last minute attempt at innovation.
    To your Mac Vs PC debate, I’d wager that a great percentage (30%+) of Adobe’s market is Mac users. To explain it away as size, shows Adobe doesn’t care about their customers as much as you opine above.
    Finally decoding support is available. Adobe is just in a stalemate with Apple because your butthurt over them blocking Flash.

  • Tom Dibble — 5:34 PM on January 29, 2010

    And by what magical process is this? Does Flash ‘nice’ it’s process so that your other processes get priority over it? Um, no, it doesn’t.
    Moreover, from practical experience: Flash comes as close to making a MacBook Pro burst into flames as is possible (ramping the fans up to gale force) and most certainly does NOT cede the floor when something I find more important than YouTube needs some processing time.

  • Eric P — 5:41 PM on January 29, 2010

    Exactly, and how exactly do you customize a HTML5 video player? Not just skinning, but behavior. A video tag and a plain vanilla video player (that is probably going to act differently across browsers) is not what video sites want. They need something super-customizable. So Flash will continue to live on for Video for a long time.

  • Tom Dibble — 5:43 PM on January 29, 2010

    John – yes, it costs money to send out the free player, but (obviously) Adobe makes money off the fact that they do send that player out for free. The ubiquity of Flash Player makes the Flash authoring tools business, which Adobe completely owns, viable.
    So, no, Adobe “loses” money on putting out the Flash player just like I “lose” money driving to work. It’s a necessary expense for the opportunity at a far greater profit.

  • Eric P — 5:45 PM on January 29, 2010

    Actually not just live content. Adaptive streaming is becoming a requirement for regular video on demand sites too.

  • Tom Dibble — 5:57 PM on January 29, 2010

    I run with dozens of tabs open in Safari all day every day, most of which contain one or more SWFs. I can’t tell you the last time it crashed.
    Wait. Seems like a few months ago you said you use ClickToFlash to block flash on your own computers. Is this no longer the case?
    [You're thinking of John Dowdell. I've never installed such a plug-in. --J.]
    From my personal experience, my wife’s Mac (which doesn’t have Click2Flash on it) has experienced three Hulu crashes (under Safari, but since Apple sndboxed Flash into its own process, this doesn’t affect Safari overall, most of the time). Three broken legos in one week.
    The only way I can square your statement (which has been echoed by numerous Adobe or Flash partisans, so it’s not just you) with my plain experience (across multiple Macs) is that somehow Apple ships Flash-resistant Macs to the Adobe campus. Maybe the fans are able to go the extra 15% faster to keep the CPU from melting when Flash decides it needs 100% of four cores to depict a cat playing piano? Maybe they have a “special” build of Flash included that flips the “oh, you want me to NOT crash and burn” flag when it detects the Adobe internal network? I don’t know. But this pattern of “it works for me” claims from Adobe employees is beyond simple coincidence.
    [Well, I can only report my personal experiences. --J.]

  • Tom Dibble — 6:20 PM on January 29, 2010

    Why isn’t Flash open-source/an open standard?
    You never really answered that. Why isn’t it? If it was an open standard, then when Flash Player crashed on my MacBook for the hundred fiftieth time I could maybe do something about it, because either your Mac/Flash team has the uncrashiest Flash environments in the world or they just don’t have the resources to do the up-front legwork solving the problems.
    And don’t tell me that open source means non-agile. Open source is as agile as you let it be, and there’s absolutely no reason why Adobe would have to run an OS/Flash project like OpenOffice or Gimp.
    You mention fractured code bases. It’s not completely impossible, but, again, look to the good OSS projects out there. How many versions of Firefox are out there? Surely, where predictability is an obvious consumer benefit (as in the case of browsers or other content delivery systems), there is a general resistance to fracturing of the codebase.
    If Flash runs faster on Windows than on Mac, that must be proof of Adobe’s incompetence and/or anti-Mac malice, right? Of course, if Flash ran faster on Mac than on Windows, that would be taken as proof of OS X’s modern awesomeness. Heads they win, tails we lose. (Come on, tell me I’m wrong.)
    You’re wrong. We blame Flash’s crap performance on OS X on Adobe/Macromedia because we have so many examples of other similar environments which stack up quite nicely compared to their Windows equivalents. Javascript rendering performance, for instance, and video playback performance. Hell, even Microsoft’s own Silverlight – who have a vested interest in making Windows look best – performs roughly equivalent on OS X!
    On the contrary: were Flash to perform in a stellar manner on OS X, we’d use that instead as an example of how Microsoft is rigging Silverlight so that it doesn’t perform as well on OS X as it should :)
    The latest Flash Player uses many fewer CPU cycles for video, but the needed hardware decoding support isn’t available on the Mac right now.
    The CPU-choking was NEVER present on Windows.
    I could (and did) run Flash on an old 1.5GHz P4 and never top 75% usage of the CPU. Put it on a ten-years-newer Mac with a CPU with a clock cycle twice times as fast and many times more efficient, and the same video maxes out two cores. You can’t blame that on Apple not giving you access to video acceleration hardware (which, again, they really do; you just have to use their Quicktime API to do it; not allowing you to go “to the metal” on the video hardware is a major reason why Mac OS X is so much more stable than Windows), because before you started using video acceleration hardware under Windows you were ALREADY much more efficient there. Moreover, running Flash on Windows under Parallels, Flash/Win runs circles around Flash/Mac with fewer resources. I’m pretty sure that Flash/Win in that example (going through the additional abstraction of Parallels’ video stack) doesn’t have lower-level access to the acceleration hardware than straight-up Flash/Mac!!!
    No, the plain fact of the matter is that your Mac/Flash team is either horribly understaffed or horribly incompetent. I’d guess it’s more likely the former, as it really doesn’t take much competence to start grinding away at crasher bugs and performance stall-outs.
    I suppose the counter possibility is that your Windows/Flash team is just absolutely stellar, able to wring stability and performance out of an inherently unstable and ill-performing architecture, but then the blame finger starts pointing at the Flash architecture, which is, well, still the same folks.
    The options here for Adobe are:
    1. Ditch Flash altogether and start making HTML5/etc as good as Flash. I don’t see Adobe doing this, and I do agree that HTML5/etc have a lot further to go there than a “pull out the cruft” project on Flash would.
    2. Open Source Flash Player, so that people can fix bugs and contribute them back to Adobe, making their particular operating environment of concern more stable in the process. This would be ideal, but I suspect the Flash codebase is a fairly unmaintainable mess that Adobe wouldn’t want shown in public, or that Adobe fears access to the actual Flash player code would allow other folks to write a better development platform. Of the two options there, the former reflects far better on Adobe than the latter.
    3. Just keep on keeping on, and end up with Flash’s future determined by the likes of Apple and Microsoft (ie, dead dead dead with nothing to show for it). In the end, everything I’ve seen indicates that deep down, this is the route Adobe is dead set on taking.

  • Nathan Duran — 6:25 PM on January 29, 2010

    I’m not on the Flash team, I just shoved a bunch of Flash components into my product because the team I *am* on has lost the ability to relate to its users in any meaningful way. Photographers? Who are they? Someone else’s problem.
    The fact that we had a lot of valid arguments against the quality of Apple’s development frameworks and tools once upon a time will be trotted out forever, regardless of whether or not they are any longer true. We don’t know, because we don’t want to look. It’s much easier to just shove more Flash into the UI since we don’t have to learn any new APIs–who cares if controls are inconsistent and regions fail to redraw themselves correctly? Developers can’t draw so no one’s going to question our excuses.
    You’ll buy all the useless features you don’t want and didn’t ask for because you have no choice, and if a choice ever comes along, we’ll guilt trip you into staying with the tried-and-true solution you grew up with because we don’t want to backpedal and admit that buying Macromedia was probably not that great of an idea.
    Powered by Inosso.

  • J-Man — 7:40 PM on January 29, 2010

    Asa, you have to go back a long time to see how Flash got its foothold into browser ubiquity. Long before Windows XP, Facebook games, and YouTube, we had interactive, vector drawn, animated “Frog In A Blender”-style content that was, at the time, unbelievably fast to download on a 56K modem. Nothing else could touch it, and when you added in anti-aliased text in any font, it was a done deal, a true love affair for creatives. Creatives love good tools and make good stuff with them and people love to download good stuff, and small download sizes for plugins lowers the resistance to seeing said good stuff, thus increasing downloads and plugin ubiquity. See how it is all connected?

  • Ben — 10:35 PM on January 29, 2010

    I want to thank Tom Dibble for taking the time and writing the post that had been mulling around in my head. I think the real problem is with Flash Player. All of the Flash detractors are complaining about the performance of the Flash Player (and count me as a happy click-to-flash user on Safari). The Flash supporters here generally seem to be talking about Flash as a development platform. I’m not a web developer, so I don’t have much use for Flash, but I can certainly appreciate programming tools that make developers lives easier. However, the problems come with Flash as a delivery system. As for end users, they couldn’t care less. Sure, there are millions of Flash users, but that’s because it’s required by lots of sites, not because Joe User loves Flash.
    While, I’m certainly not an open source True Believer by any means, I think this is a case where it would be very helpful. John’s argument that open sourcing the Flash player seems a little hollow. Doing that wouldn’t make Flash any less agile. The exact same Adobe employees could keep working on it. John said it himself that there isn’t any particular economic advantage for Adobe in keeping it to themselves, since they don’t make money off of it.
    Open sourcing would allow others to make sure flash works great on their own platform, which would only help Adobe sell more development tools, which is what they want to do anyway. I would suspect Flash would end up on iPhone OS devices if they did this. Apple wouldn’t be dependent on Adobe making Flash perform well (which I think is certainly a good chunk of Apple’s Flash aversion), Apple could do it themselves, and frankly, they have much more economic incentive to do so anyway.
    I doubt that Adobe would ever do this, but I just couldn’t understand why John blew this option off so easily.

  • John C. Randolph — 11:08 PM on January 29, 2010

    I think people would be a lot more sympathetic towards Adobe and Flash, if the Flash team ever managed to debug it. I don’t know how it is on Windows, but on the Mac, the only app crashes I ever see are when I’m running Safari, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a backtrace that didn’t have flash_enforceLocalSecurity() in it.
    If I were calling the shots at Apple, I’d not only leave it off the iPhone, I’d ban it from Safari until and unless you made it reliable.
    -jcr

  • Jim — 3:03 AM on January 30, 2010

    I think you need to take into account how hard Microsoft was trying to be “the” standard at the time. This made it difficult for anyone, quicktime, real, etc to standardize.
    [I don't remember MSFT ever preventing QT, Real, etc. from running anywhere (unlike, say, the situation with Flash video and the iPhone/iPad). The existence of MSFT video options didn't prevent Flash from proliferating and becoming the standard. Apple has to look elsewhere for the cause of QT failing to become the standard. --J.]

  • James Kirk — 3:50 AM on January 30, 2010

    It’s really very simple. Steve Jobs hates Flash. So all those folks who worship him hate Flash too – doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense.

  • HZC — 6:02 AM on January 30, 2010

    “If Flash runs faster on Windows than on Mac, that must be proof of Adobe’s incompetence and/or anti-Mac malice, right? Of course, if Flash ran faster on Mac than on Windows, that would be taken as proof of OS X’s modern awesomeness. Heads they win, tails we lose.”
    Yeah, great, so add fuel to the fire. That’s your solution?
    “The latest Flash Player uses many fewer CPU cycles for video, but the needed hardware decoding support isn’t available on the Mac right now.”
    Hello, my fans spin out of control to look at video using Flash, every single time! You can’t blame this on hardware decoding; no other video player that I use on my Mac does this… and they decode video too.
    The fact of the matter still remains that using Flash on a Mac is a very poor user experience and the high CPU utilization translates to fast battery drain on a mobile device. I’d rather have my 10 hours of battery life on an iPad while I’m travelling than constantly search for an outlet at every airport.
    Until Adobe figures out how to code properly on an OS X platform and tames Flash for Mac, it’ll won’t make it on to any of Apple’s mobile devices.

  • Beating a Dead Horse — 6:25 AM on January 30, 2010

    I actually appreciate and agree with almost everything you wrote. This however is the norm which needs to be addressed for Apple to let you play nice in their sandbox at the playground:
    Process: Safari [1976]
    Path: /Applications/Safari.app/Contents/MacOS/Safari
    Identifier: com.apple.Safari
    Version: 4.0.4 (5531.21.10)
    Build Info: WebBrowser-55312110~1
    Code Type: PPC (Native)
    Parent Process: launchd [110]
    Interval Since Last Report: 1266384 sec
    Crashes Since Last Report: 6
    Per-App Interval Since Last Report: 584514 sec
    Per-App Crashes Since Last Report: 3
    Date/Time: 2010-01-30 09:19:24.968 -0500
    OS Version: Mac OS X 10.5.8 (9L30)
    Report Version: 6
    Anonymous UUID: xxxx
    Exception Type: EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGSEGV)
    Exception Codes: KERN_INVALID_ADDRESS at 0x000000005f6c6576
    Crashed Thread: 0
    Thread 0 Crashed:
    0 …romedia.Flash Player.plugin 0x0eca4d64 0xec15000 + 589156
    1 …romedia.Flash Player.plugin 0x0ec3f598 0xec15000 + 173464
    2 …romedia.Flash Player.plugin 0x0ef72a58 FlashPlayer_10_0_42_34_FlashPlayer + 590216
    3 …romedia.Flash Player.plugin 0x0eee2b38 FlashPlayer_10_0_42_34_FlashPlayer + 616
    .
    .
    .

  • Kiyoshi — 7:13 AM on January 30, 2010

    “It’s really very simple. Steve Jobs hates Flash. So all those folks who worship him hate Flash too – doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense.”
    How nice that you can put it into such simple terms. And completely ignore the many reasonably posts by real Mac users with REAL problems with flash.
    For most of the detractors, it’s not about politics at all. It’s about the pure simple fact that flash creates MORE problems for us than it solves. If something was crashing your browser or freezing your system every day, wouldn’t you be upset with it? But no, of course that makes NO sense does it?
    If you won’t listen to what people have to say, don’t start a conversation.

  • Kiyoshi — 7:15 AM on January 30, 2010

    “It’s really very simple. Steve Jobs hates Flash. So all those folks who worship him hate Flash too – doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense.”
    How nice that you can put it into such simple terms. And completely ignore the many reasonably posts by real Mac users with REAL problems with flash.
    For most of the detractors, it’s not about politics at all. It’s about the pure simple fact that flash creates MORE problems for us than it solves. If something was crashing your browser or freezing your system every day, wouldn’t you be upset with it? But no, of course that makes NO sense does it?
    If you won’t listen to what people have to say, don’t start a conversation.

  • Mike — 8:14 AM on January 30, 2010

    today = Flash
    tomorrow != Flash
    Simple as that really, the question is, what’s Adobe going to do?
    [Uh, support other standards (as it does today, and as I demonstrated it doing for the future)? --J.]
    The fact that the Flash application in CS5 will produce iPhone apps… I mean, think about that, that’s like bizarro Adobe.

  • cpawl — 9:15 AM on January 30, 2010

    Flash is used for video for one real reason… so content surfers don’t download the file and use it themselves.

  • John Dowdell — 9:29 AM on January 30, 2010

    John’s right, sounds like you’re talking about me, although with some details distorted.
    It came up in a discussion about Adobe’s CEO being asked about “HTML5″ support in authoring tools, and his reply that we’ll of course continue to support HTML as it evolves. Comments went off-track, into Mac stability.
    In one digression I said “Got too many tabs from pushy sites on a weaker browser? Try a Flash blocker, control your load. Will still crash, but slower cycle.” I’ve used Flashblock for Firefox for over five years, because I’m often on a slower connection and can’t trust websites to not push high-bandwidth content at me. I also recommend an ad-blocker, because of the post-Web2.0 prevalence of web beacons. But regardless, my Mac browsers regularly crash or need a restart, despite not having any Flash load.
    This point was apparently too subtle for the Mac pundit community, who read this as something else, as you’ve demonstrated.
    Strange meme on Click2Flash, by the way. Interest was only shown after the general public expressed disappointment in iPhone restrictions. All of this conversation is necessarily from Safari users, and few seemed to be aware of the more common and famous Flashblock for Firefox. And none of these Safari users seemed to know of Pith Helmet, an earlier Safari extension for the same purpose. Click2Flash became a popular rhetorical device for rationalizing iPhone restrictions. Weird.
    Anyway, this shows why digressive comments are better left unpublished… now we’re five levels deep in a digression here, and you’re not taking good advantage of John’s good advice in the essay above.
    jd/adobe

  • John Dowdell — 9:51 AM on January 30, 2010

    Flash, open? History, here.
    (PS: Brevity, dude. ;-)
    jd/adobe

  • Kare Morstol — 10:30 AM on January 30, 2010

    Good point cpawn. Although many browser plug-ins allow you to download the flv video files. If HTML supported some kind of secure video streaming it would definitely help the internet move away from flash which I still think needs to be done even after reading this excellent article.

  • rado — 12:42 PM on January 30, 2010

    adobe believes that it provides the same experience across platforms, ignoring the crippling time dimension. do they realise flash is an interaction tool, where responsiveness is the key idea? it’s little wonder we think they are beyond repair.

  • Daniel — 1:01 PM on January 30, 2010

    Good article. It’s refreshing to see employees at large companies show real engagement in a discussion like this – obviously you believe in what you do and care for it. And I think it was quite balanced, unlike the comments from both sides.
    I think you nailed it in the paragraph where you called Adobes control over Flash development “Apple-like”, and defended that as the way to ensure predictability and agility. That’s a reasonable argument, but at the same time it’s just as reasonable for Apple to wish to not depend on the Adobe controlled Flash to push their “experience” further in to the future.
    Also I think that arguing that it’s reasonable for Adobe to optimize for the 95% case works two ways as well. If it’s reasonable for Adobe to deliver a sub par experience on Apples platform, then it’s reasonable for Apple to turn to alternative technologies to prevent a sub par experience.
    I think the Flash hate mostly have historical reasons. It has not always been cross platform (some would say it never was). It has been used instead of html even when html actually would have been a better fit. (Not least by Adobe; I remember the terrible experience trying to read online documentation on a sluggish Flash-based portal. Must have been back in Flash 5/Flash MX days, as I developed on that platform.) It has always been lagging in accessibility. And it took a long time to open up the format to allow for alternative authoring tools. Now the situation is better, but I hope it’s understandable that people like me still have mixed feelings on the format?

  • elle — 2:47 PM on January 30, 2010

    Was I supposed to just get a large red pie chart slice?

  • Selvin Wright — 3:23 PM on January 30, 2010

    There should be the option to enable flash, but have it disabled by default.
    My major complaint about flash on the mac is the stability. I recently switched away from firefox to chrome. This is because when flash crashes I just get a dead computer icon instead of the firefox crash reported popping up. This isn’t just a safari issue as you play it out so be, this is all browsers on osx. Sure the mac is 5% of desktop browsers, but the iPhone is 50% of smartphone traffic worldwide.
    Say I’m an average non-tech savvy consumer. If i’m on a locked in device like the ipad or iphone where I can’t install anything, who’s fault is it that “the internet” keeps crashing? It’s not adobe’s or flash’s fault. They don’t know those names. They know this device from apple keeps crashing all the time. Blocking flash is something apple can do, because they’ve proven that millions and millions of people will still buy iPhones when their competitors have flash. As long as it’s a youtube video wether it’s through the youtube app or it’s embedded it’s still available. That’s enough for most people.

  • Steve — 3:39 PM on January 30, 2010

    I’ll take a swing at that. Most of the ire against Flash is the content. Every stinkin’ web page you come to has a dozen Flash players coming after you like Moroccan street vendors. That’s the reason for installing Flash blockers in the first place – to get a little peace.
    The other reasons of not being “open” speaks more to fear of abuse and of security. Hell, the only security your computer can count on is the Air Gap Firewall.

  • tomsamson — 3:57 PM on January 30, 2010

    You bring up some good points, but you argue for Adobe´s technology being closed and proprietary on several ends (even if its open on other ends for which you also give good examples) that it would lead to more agile development.
    You may be right when you compare Macromedia´s/ Adobe´s workflow to some consortium leading to longer timespans to form a propper open standard, but you´re way off when comparing it to the open source community.
    Macromedia/ Adobe has for many years disappointed the community in not offering proper in Flash IDE coding tools until more and more community efforts became successful and widespread enough that Macromedia/Adobe decided it would be a good idea to make an own custom tool for coding side things (instead of adding a propper one into the flash ide for many years).
    The community has been begging for proper 3d support for many years but it took community efforts like papervision rising up until Adobe finally added at least half baked basic 3d functionality into the flash ide.
    Adobe has totally missed out on the iPhone App Store gold rush and is now trying to excite its developer base 2-3 years too late to the party with an AS3 only solution of which the performance for more in depth apps still has to be seen.
    The community meanwhile already does its own efforts with porting haxe to iPhone and with igameswf even allowing AS1/2 content on iPhone.
    While talking about gameswf: check out scaleform and its performance on lower end systems to see how much better a custom player could be on some ends.
    You say it was due to flash that this and that is so common, usable and widespread on the web now.
    This is only partially right.
    Yes, Macromedia/ Adobe has done great things regarding video in the past.
    But, that´s not just due to flash alone, its because you have a big following who actually creates cool stuff with the technology.
    And i feel like you´re disappointing more and more of that huge crowd so more and ore are looking for other options.
    I´ve also seen Lee Brimelow´s post here:
    http://theflashblog.com/?p=1703
    Yeah, that is nice for some quick impact, but when someone thinks about it longer and is better informed, its of course clear that its actually a good thing flash is not on the browser of iPhones or even the iPad.
    There may be and sure are other reasons involved in the background when Apple didn´t add or allow support for flash running in its´portable devices´browsers but the reasoning they gave, that it just wouldn´t run at acceptable performance is a total valid one by itself.
    So yeah, i don´t understand why Adobe moans and complaints like that after ignoring a huge chunk of its´developer base for many years, the big chunk that asked for proper hardware acceleration for all graphical operations, not just “we use hardware acceleration in some cases when playing video” after all these years.
    If you want to complain, complain to your fellow Adobe engineers and decision makers.
    In case you haven´t noticed i´m a flash developer since day 1 of flash´s commercial releases and yes, i´m disappointed with Adobe.
    Maybe you should cut down on your marketing department and increase your developer group, especially the part that actually understood the good sides of flash instead of the group that thinks its best to just make a lousy java clone out of it.

  • tomsamson — 3:59 PM on January 30, 2010

    You bring up some good points, but you argue for Adobe´s technology being closed and proprietary on several ends (even if its open on other ends for which you also give good examples) that it would lead to more agile development.
    You may be right when you compare Macromedia´s/ Adobe´s workflow to some consortium leading to longer timespans to form a propper open standard, but you´re way off when comparing it to the open source community.
    Macromedia/ Adobe has for many years disappointed the community in not offering proper in Flash IDE coding tools until more and more community efforts became successful and widespread enough that Macromedia/Adobe decided it would be a good idea to make an own custom tool for coding side things (instead of adding a propper one into the flash ide for many years).
    The community has been begging for proper 3d support for many years but it took community efforts like papervision rising up until Adobe finally added at least half baked basic 3d functionality into the flash ide.
    Adobe has totally missed out on the iPhone App Store gold rush and is now trying to excite its developer base 2-3 years too late to the party with an AS3 only solution of which the performance for more in depth apps still has to be seen.
    The community meanwhile already does its own efforts with porting haxe to iPhone and with igameswf even allowing AS1/2 content on iPhone.
    While talking about gameswf: check out scaleform and its performance on lower end systems to see how much better a custom player could be on some ends.
    You say it was due to flash that this and that is so common, usable and widespread on the web now.
    This is only partially right.
    Yes, Macromedia/ Adobe has done great things regarding video in the past.
    But, that´s not just due to flash alone, its because you have a big following who actually creates cool stuff with the technology.
    And i feel like you´re disappointing more and more of that huge crowd so more and ore are looking for other options.
    I´ve also seen Lee Brimelow´s post here:
    http://theflashblog.com/?p=1703
    Yeah, that is nice for some quick impact, but when someone thinks about it longer and is better informed, its of course clear that its actually a good thing flash is not on the browser of iPhones or even the iPad.
    There may be and sure are other reasons involved in the background when Apple didn´t add or allow support for flash running in its´portable devices´browsers but the reasoning they gave, that it just wouldn´t run at acceptable performance is a total valid one by itself.
    So yeah, i don´t understand why Adobe moans and complaints like that after ignoring a huge chunk of its´developer base for many years, the big chunk that asked for proper hardware acceleration for all graphical operations, not just “we use hardware acceleration in some cases when playing video” after all these years.
    If you want to complain, complain to your fellow Adobe engineers and decision makers.
    In case you haven´t noticed i´m a flash developer since day 1 of flash´s commercial releases and yes, i´m disappointed with Adobe.
    Maybe you should cut down on your marketing department and increase your developer group, especially the part that actually understood the good sides of flash instead of the group that thinks its best to just make a lousy java clone out of it.

  • Antonio Carvalho — 4:27 PM on January 30, 2010

    Hi, I was pleasantly surprised by your thoughtful post, very good arguments that made me think on the whole “Flash is bad for web” differently.
    Always delightful to read such a mature text.
    Thank you,
    Antonio

  • Antonio Carvalho — 4:29 PM on January 30, 2010

    Hi, I was pleasantly surprised by your thoughtful post, very good arguments that made me think on the whole “Flash is bad for web” differently.
    Always delightful to read such a mature text.
    Thank you,
    Antonio

  • Antonio Carvalho — 4:29 PM on January 30, 2010

    Hi, I was pleasantly surprised by your thoughtful post, very good arguments that made me think on the whole “Flash is bad for web” differently.
    Always delightful to read such a mature text.
    Thank you,
    Antonio

  • CH — 4:39 PM on January 30, 2010

    Actually, it is quite clear from your distinct inability to judge the accuracy of his statements that you have no understanding of the topics he is writing on, just no clue. Anybody can point out that someone is using technical jargon; that’s good for you, except for when he is correct, then your point is impertinent.
    It also makes me question your intelligence given that you seem to think what he says requires a degree in computer science. I do not have a degree in any computer field nor am I an independent software developer. Doesn’t mean I don’t program in my day job. But seriously, you think hardware decoding is a complicated topic? It’s well known that Apple’s public APIs only support hardware decoding through Quicktime. Adobe is asking for direct access to the hardware decoding APIs using their own code, which you know Apple’s not keen on—that’s an unprecedented land grab. Is that Apple’s fault or malice against Adobe? No, that’s just the platform’s system of standards that Adobe has to play by like everyone else. Why should anybody have the right to get their hands on low-level aspects of the system that Apple’s so carefully abstracted—especially when it’s for a proprietary entity? I’m sorry, Flash is a business, either write for Apple’s APIs or don’t support it, don’t turn it into a entitlement or moral argument. Acting like it’s Apple who isn’t “cooperating” is as dumb as refusing to comply with town ordnances on the design of your storefront because it doesn’t fit your “look.” Even Apple bites the bullet and finds a way to adapt.

  • Daniel — 5:25 PM on January 30, 2010

    The primary reason I’m not a big fan of Flash is simply because of its terrible performance in OS X. I’m not bothered whose fault it is, I just wish someone would fix it.
    If you have a Mac you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. Give it a reboot, open YouTube in any browser and fullscreen the video. I guarantee you, on no matter what machine (even the latest Mac Pro) that this initial switch won’t be smooth.
    And now I sound like the rest of them (Charles & Co.) I just don’t understand how something as trivial as switching to fullscreen could be so slow and resource intensive.
    It’s 2010 not 2001.
    Don’t let my opinion lead you astray, though. I very much enjoyed your well balanced article. And it gives me hope that you still have hope for Flash.

  • Super Dude — 12:23 AM on January 31, 2010

    First, I’m not changing the subject, I quoted 2 lines from the OP.
    Second, yes I prefer to remain anonymous, thank you very much. I wouldn’t put anything past you guys, see this for e.g: http://www.freesklyarov.org
    Okay, onto your main point. Your comment is extremely interesting because it seems to be the first time Adobe has publicly acknowledged that the real reason for that DMCA takedown was the encryption scheme NOT *potential* copyright infringement. Meaning that Adobe deliberately mis-used the DMCA and mis-led the entire community about the real reasons for the takedown right? Readers can see the link posted earlier for why FireFox should be also killed using the same ridiculous logic.
    And here is an analysis of your so-called encryption scheme, I know you are aware of this – but this is for the benefit of readers: http://lkcl.net/rtmp
    Here’s one more question for you. Open-source projects Red5 and RTMPD have implemented RTMP for interoperability with Flash Player 9 and 10. I know for a fact that the details are not part of the much-touted opening up of the RTMP specification via the “Open Screen Project”.
    So, what is Adobe’s official position regarding this? Can Red5, RTMPD and Wowza expect to be sued by Adobe in the near future? I’m sure a lot of people want to know. Looking forward to your response.

  • adambanksdotcom — 4:08 AM on January 31, 2010

    Excellent piece: thoughtful, informative, and engaged with the ideas, not the politics. I don’t think John is working for the wrong company, but we need to see more of this side of Adobe, not the other.
    I don’t, personally, miss Flash on my iPhone and I think Apple is probably right to sideline it at this point. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the misses. In particular, Text Layout Framework seems like what everybody needs to produce native iPad magazine content (because, with all due respect to people like @pixelmags who have moved very nimbly on this, digitised print mags will get tired very quickly). Is there any way of using Adobe tech like this to create non-swf content?
    ["It's all just code..." as they say. Adobe will do what customers demand, or it'll fall apart. You can dislike Flash or various other things Adobe does/has done, but you can't argue that it's been an unsuccessful company, and its success has come from listening to customers and meeting their needs. I have no doubt that it'll continue to do so. --J.]

  • bowerbird — 5:28 AM on January 31, 2010

    flash makes my browser run slower,
    and even causes it to hang at times.
    i know this for sure because i installed
    click-to-flash, and now my browser
    performs much better and doesn’t crash.
    as a bonus, i am spared the flashy ads,
    the blinking and noise. i like the quiet.
    i hope flash continues to be a defacto
    standard, so i can continue to block it.
    thank you for your time.
    -bowerbird
    p.s. your comment system loses
    my name and e-mail address info
    if i preview a post. please fix that.

  • Super Dude — 6:33 AM on January 31, 2010

    You can see my response to “jd/adobe” who replied to my comment.
    And IMHO attempting to prevent people from downloading something that exists on the internet – is just like trying to stop people from saving web-site images using crappy pieces of javascript.
    Unfortunately, it will take a while for studios and content providers to get it. Meanwhile people will happily resort to torrents instead of enduring buffering delays, the increased CPU utilization of Flash + H.264 (especially when the stream is DRM-ed / encrypted). Who wants to experience streaming media that assumes you are a criminal and does not even allow you to re-wind a video without re-buffering?

  • SUREGOTTOLD — 7:21 AM on January 31, 2010

    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/01/googles-dont-be-evil-mantra-is-bullshit-adobe-is-lazy-apples-steve-jobs
    “About Adobe: They are lazy, Jobs says. They have all this potential to do interesting things but they just refuse to do it. They don’t do anything with the approaches that Apple is taking, like Carbon. Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy, he says. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it’s because of Flash. No one will be using Flash, he says. The world is moving to HTML5.”
    ADOBE SURE GOT TOLD

  • aongus — 5:10 PM on January 31, 2010

    Great article — interesting that it has been complimented by blogs that do not share your point of view.
    I’m a long standing Mac user who passed an ACA exam in Flash last year, and was struck by your distinction between the Flash authoring tool and the player. If the requirement for a plug-in were to evaporate due to a hypothetical new standard or technology emerging, the authoring tool would be no less valuable so long as it could export to the new format(s).
    I viewed but missed the significance of the Illustrator > Flash > Dreamweaver > CANVAS demo when you first posted it; it’s hugely interesting. The reason for the research effort & expense is apparent now.
    But innovation, as you point out, is needed urgently. Flash as an authoring environment falls between three stools:
    – an almost-IDE, hated by programmers of my acquaintance (unlike Flex, which they love);
    – an almost WYSIWYG interaction tool for designers. Writing ActionScript 3 is something few visual artists will shine at; this supposed advance disempowers us;
    – a second-best animation program: ToonBoom Animate has leapfrogged Flash Pro, although it lacks a capacity for interactivity (in any case inaccessible to visual artists since AS3).
    Digressing, the leaks of Steve Jobs’s alleged comments are entertaining, but largely irrelevant, since what we read are out-of-context quotes from an informal talk. I’ve heard far worse said in local businesses about partners/competitors!

  • Michael — 6:14 PM on January 31, 2010

    While we can be grateful to Flash for some things, like your point on kick starting web video – its an ‘add on’ to the web and has never been properly implemented by the developers who used it.
    Things like allowing Flash apps to have embedded links is a huge sore point.
    While HTML5 has awhile to go, I’m hoping Flash will slowly go away

  • atomicpoet — 6:25 PM on January 31, 2010

    John, I don’t think Adobe deserves the beating its gotten over Flash these past few days, but you’re wrong about open source. If any thing, Flash NEEDS to be open sourced.
    http://blog.atomicpoet.org/?p=201

  • Daniel Carvalho — 10:48 PM on January 31, 2010

    Bravo. Great article. Good to read some rational thoughts on the subject.
    HTML purists and Apple folk have been hating Flash unjustifibly for ages and guess what, Flash has still been around for over a decade.
    Good examples of what Flash has done for us, I’d go so far as to say, Flash has helped make the internet mainstream. Sound stupid? Just look at the penetration of websites such as YouTube mentioned in movies? It’s embedded in our popular culture now.
    “Of course, if Flash ran faster on Mac than on Windows, that would be taken as proof of OS X’s modern awesomeness. Heads they win, tails we lose. (Come on, tell me I’m wrong.)”
    This is so true. I’m actually starting to think it’s impossible to have logical discussions about anything with (most) Apple users. People have subcribed to a cult, with Steve Jobs as their diety.
    Why shun a platform that allows for creativity, immsersive and engaging experiences?

  • Daniel Kalchev — 3:21 AM on February 01, 2010

    Flash Player multi platform? Come on, on how many platforms does Flash Player run?
    One? Right!
    Sort of support for Macintosh and Linux? Painful experience for the users of these platforms.
    Computing, including browsing the web happens on many more platforms. The users of those platforms are too, targets of the web designers and streaming video consumers.
    Those are both groups of people who put out the cash.
    Guess what? Either Flash Player will become trully multi-platform (the only viable way is to make it open source), or publishers will find alternative ways to deliver their contents to users. I would bet on the latter.
    Is iPhone popular? yes!
    Is iPad going to be popular? Yes!
    What about the various e-readers out there that will spread like wildfire amongst users? Do you expect these devices to run Flash Player?
    Like many already mentioned: Flash is good. Flash Player is bad. Flash Player has always been a failure, from day one.
    By the way, if Flash is so great, why doesn’t Adobe run their own websites off Flash?
    Right… customers won’t be able to see the contents and purchase products.
    Think about this.

  • Petter — 8:24 AM on February 01, 2010

    I’m sure Apple will create an appropriate API for acceleration on OS X if you talk to each other, just as was done with the graphics vendors when you did Flash Player’s hardware acceleration on Windows. I’m fairly sure you don’t read back the video stream from the GPU to the CPU on mobile platforms as on the Android, Palm webOS or Windows Mobile devices which you have already demoed.
    You can probably integrate flash video playback in the Quicktime framework, with acceleration, however I understand why you don’t want too.
    You wouldn’t really have to do anything else on Linux to get hardware acceleration either. Just do what you did on Windows, tell graphics manufacturers what their (proprietary) driver need to support. And they will probably implement it (which requires the proprietary drivers on the users end, which users of proprietary Flash player will be happy with). Just don’t make things harder then they are. You don’t make progress by butting heads. Microsoft even manages to collaborate with the commercial linux players… You have already showed you can do it on less powerful (linux powered) platforms. I’m sure it will improve. But not without using all the available hardware.
    I’m fairly sure people blame Apple for iTunes sucking on Windows, just as they blame you for Flash sucking on Mac. I’m fairly sure users can draw the conclusion that iTunes is better on a Mac and that Flash player is better on Windows. Without involving the underlaying os’s at all. Of course Windows users wishing to run or running iTunes blame Apple and of course does Apple users blame Adobe. There’s no fanboyism to sucking or disappointment. Maybe you should realize that your users get disappointed at you, even if they love you as a company. Microsoft has nothing to do with the graphics vendors conforming to your demands. I don’t see it as Apples faults or as Microsofts strength. Of course Apple controls which drivers go into OS X, (and microsoft which goes into Windows/gets certified) but it sounds like your on a bad standing with each other. Doesn’t even sound like there’s a implementation of that in the labs. You have proved your competence with the open screen project and all that you have demoed there on mobile devices… People now expects you to do the same with other devices and systems. I love that you do your own decoding, and thus allow a licensed player to be distributed. But that doesn’t justify blaming everyone else when your system has to do something different from other platforms.

  • wds — 8:51 AM on February 01, 2010

    You’re assuming it’s somehow Apple’s fault that the flash developers can’t figure out a way to make it work with the quicktime interfaces. A similar problem permanently hobbles the linux flash player. The telling part here is that the developers can’t get it to work with any of the available APIs, even though they could well contribute whatever they need themselves. Yes these are minority platforms but ubiquity is precisely the argument the OP has built his entire blog post around.
    This is where all the hate is coming from and after years of this bullshit we’re all just tired of it. If I can’t even play 720p content smoothly on a horribly overpowered PC with a quad core CPU, how is it going to work on any mobile device? This combination of a move to low-power devices with high bandwidth means performance matters again.
    We’ve been waiting for long enough for flash to catch up, time to look for alternatives.

  • Bertrand — 9:12 AM on February 01, 2010

    Why I don’t understand, and maybe John will provide me with an answer on that, is why Adobe couldn’t do its own GPU acceleration library.
    This would have two advantages:
    - You control it, so you can optimize it as much as you like
    - You can make it as much multi-plateform as possible, using OpenGL/OpenCL (which are cross plateform, cross GPU), so that you don’t have to rely on specific platform API like you seem to do for now on this aspect.
    Of course, this would probably require a lot more time and money then relying on OS APIs already ready to do the job. But it has the two advantages I described which would allow better result and make it easier to maintain.
    Is there any technical reason that avoid you to do that? Or is it just economical reasons?

  • Bertrand — 9:35 AM on February 01, 2010

    Also another idea would be to open the runtime specifications (flash player specs) and allows third parties to make their own Flash runtime.
    You’ll say that the problem is that we may suffer the same problem as with browsers, but the solution to that is easy, simply put in the license terms that the runtime must be approved by Adobe through compatibility tests so that runtimes are fully compatible with the Flash runtime specifications.
    As an example, you can see what SUN did with JVM, and they had already an agreement with Apple even before so that Apple did make its own optimization on the JVM.
    [How many desktop Java instances do you hit per day? Or per month, even? Who wouldn't aspire to such a lofty outcome? --J.]
    Doing that would give no good reason for Apple to not support Flash on iPhone OS. As then they can make their own optimized Flash runtime. Think about it.

  • Ken — 2:26 PM on February 01, 2010

    1. The reason Youtube took off was that *bandwidth* was finally available. Every browser out there supports simple MPEG videos, and has for a long time. The advantage of Flash is that the designer has control over placement of the control buttons (play, pause, etc).
    2. Flash does not use H.264/MPEG4 out of some benevolent desire to support open standards. Macromeadia choose MPEG4 because that’s what everyone was storing their videos in already, and in order to have anyone adopt their product, they *had* to support the standard.
    3. Flash isn’t just slow on Mac OS X, it’s terrible on Linux. In fact, it’s slow on everything but Windows, where it isn’t exactly fast in the first place. So awful is it on Linux that on some video sites, I’ll have broken sound on flash player with a quad core 2.3ghz machine, having 8 gigs of memory, and a very fast video card. Flash is probably the least efficient video player in existence.
    4. Flash is available on 99% of browsers. 80% is a better guess, but because flash isn’t actually a browser, no exact data exists.
    5. The idea that open sourcing flash, or opening the standard, will lead to fragmentation and a slow update cycle is ridiculous. MySQL, Apache, Java, and Firefox are a few examples of open source projects that have one single authoritative source and development trunk. Even Linux generally remains unforked in any meaningful way.
    The basic fact is this: Adobe makes money off Flash because Adobe controls the product. No one really understands the file format, no one understands the player, and certainly no one understands the SDK. But when a lot of people use it and no one understands it, Adobe is positioned to make money in a variety of ways. And that’s their business model: confusion = profit.
    Therefore, what’s good for the Internet is bad for Adobe and visa versa. In order for the open Internet to succeed, Adobe must fail, because Adobe’s plugin is the last refuge of proprietary garbage on the Web.
    You can bet that I’m rooting for the Internet, not Adobe, because those are two incompatible interests.

  • Ben Lindstrom — 3:12 PM on February 01, 2010

    Ya know @Charles.. I’m all for standards, but frankly I’m tired of waiting for the single block standards to be released. Smaller incremental releases with road signs saying “this is where we’re going” would improve peoples lives greater than three years waiting for a massive standard to be released and another three years waiting for Firefox, Safari, IE, Opera, etc to implement it.
    It makes me sad to realize how far SVG has gone, and how unusable it still is unless you force a browser choice on the viewer.

  • kyduke — 8:07 PM on February 01, 2010

    I need the Flash App Store hosted by Adobe.
    Flash can beat iPhone and Android Apps.
    Flash developers need a marketplace. We do not want to sell my applications to aggregators or OEM market. We want to sell my applications to Adobe’s market.

  • Samo — 11:35 PM on February 01, 2010

    Open-sourcing Flash would lead to a fragmentation of the format & Flash runtimes, and that would destroy the predictability and agility that differentiate Flash from other standards.
    Sorry, but this is retarded. It’s why Jobs calls Adobe lazy. You guys are even too lazy to come up with a solution to what you perceive as problems
    How about: Flash is Open Sourced and Adobe is the de facto release manager? Have random SWF players, but only one Certified Flash Version X Release. No?
    Yeah, I guess that wouldn’t work, cause God knows every Flash user will suddenly start downloading the plugin from random websites.
    Adobe is like the guy who can’t swim but is clinging so hard to Flash that they’ll make Flash drown, along with their own “multimedia web platform thingamajig”.

  • Alper Cugun — 2:40 AM on February 02, 2010

    The self-serving and often factually incorrect rhetoric coming from the Adobe community regarding this issue is telling. There is a deep insecurity about the position of Flash.
    To point out just one annoyance with this article:
    If Adobe can easily roll out changes to the Flash framework, then why haven’t they made it more usable in the past years? For instance why don’t they roll out something like mouse wheel support or text resizing globally (this is broken in almost every Flash site)?
    Let me add: I expect Flash’s demise before I expect an answer or solution to this issue.

  • Tom Dibble — 1:44 PM on February 02, 2010

    I stand corrected on the Click2Flash comment.
    For the record, I run Click2Flash now because it is stable on current Safari and works really well. I’ve used FlashBlocker (and i seems at least one other Firefox flash killer back when Firefox was Phoenix) and used PithHelmet as well but had stability issues with the Pith. Click2Flash allowed me to do regular browsing in Safari again. I imagine the Click2Flash “meme” becoming more popular in the last couple of years has more to do with it coming out and being stable than it does with the iPhone not supporting Flash.
    Anyway, this shows why digressive comments are better left unpublished… now we’re five levels deep in a digression here, and you’re not taking good advantage of John’s good advice in the essay above.
    I’m not sure what John’s good advice above was. But, surely, this odd parallel universe syndrome where the Adobe folks all have flawless Flash experiences on their Macs and the rest of us folk tend to have crash after crash in Flash on our Macs is worthy of comment and discussion. If you’re going to bring anecdote up to prove Flash is stable, then you ought to be willing to hear the mountains of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

  • Walter Ian Kaye — 7:05 PM on February 02, 2010

    Flash is INACCESSIBLE.
    It doesn’t work on my Sony Ericsson phone.
    It doesn’t work in Lynx.
    All Macromedia/Adobe’s talk of Flash accessibility is bull — there’s simply no such thing. Show me a Flash site that works in Lynx or on my cellphone? You can’t, because it doesn’t exist.
    Flash always crashed my browser on myspace.com; when I disabled plugins, myspace worked perfectly and Safari 2.0.4 became rock-solid, up for weeks at a time.
    Thank GOD for m.youtube.com — works perfectly on my cellphone (but strangely not on my Mac; must be a QuickTime codec issue).
    As someone else said, the reason people are using Flash for video is to prevent (or at least hamper) downloads of streaming content.
    Hey, this blog software is broken! I tried to post using Lynx; the Preview button worked, but Post gave an “invalid content” error. I had to copy/paste to Safari to post this comment. Adobe, please fix your broken blog software.

  • Walter Ian Kakye — 7:12 PM on February 02, 2010

    Flash is INACCESSIBLE.
    It doesn’t work on my Sony Ericsson phone.
    It doesn’t work in Lynx.
    All Macromedia/Adobe’s talk of Flash accessibility is bull — there’s simply no such thing. Show me a Flash site that works in Lynx or on my cellphone? You can’t, because it doesn’t exist.
    Flash always crashed my browser on myspace.com; when I disabled plugins, myspace worked perfectly and Safari 2.0.4 became rock-solid, up for weeks at a time.
    Thank GOD for m.youtube.com — works perfectly on my cellphone (but strangely not on my Mac; must be a QuickTime codec issue).
    As someone else said, the reason people are using Flash for video is to prevent (or at least hamper) downloads of streaming content.
    Hey, this blog software is broken! I tried to post using Lynx; the Preview button worked, but Post gave an “invalid content” error. I had to copy/paste to Safari to post this comment. Adobe, please fix your broken blog software.

  • Pissed Mac User — 10:34 PM on February 02, 2010

    Show me any graphical plugin working in Lynx. Oh, yeah, there are none because it’s a text only browser.

  • Lyndell — 8:28 AM on February 04, 2010

    I like to compare a YouTube video in Flash, to QuickTime. In both the Mac and PC, QuickTime will play a 480p video with the same CPU usage as a QVGA video on YouTube. Granted, hardware acceleration on my upgrade video card has the same PC playing 1080p WMV videos. Flash wins in ubiquity, animation and versatility, but it does video poorly. It’s the worst way to present text. I think QuickTime dropped or abandoned animation and Windows Media doesn’t do animation.
    MySpace, hmmm, I avoid that worse than Flash.

  • Paul1969 — 10:58 AM on February 04, 2010

    Lessee, your advice is to block thousands (probably tens of thousands) of advertising sites, in order to view the dozen or so Flash-using sites that I do wish to see?
    No thanks, I’ll stick with ClickToFlash. It is far easier to click the few Flash elements that I want than to manually block the multitudes that I don’t want.

  • Aaron Fooshee — 1:18 PM on February 04, 2010

    I had to look up your numeronym. Thanks for making me smarter.

  • Aaron Fooshee — 1:37 PM on February 04, 2010

    Your commenting system is weird. Why no Ajax? I ended replying to the wrong thread and not even noticing because there is no indication of what I’m replying to (other than the commentator’s first name). Checking that is the correct name (but not necessarily the right thread) would require scrolling all they way back up top of the comments. Poor usability there, but y’all make great products, so I forgive you.
    [I'd like to make it better, but I'm not a CSS/JS expert, and I don't know what Movable Type enables. --J.]

  • Roger D. — 12:19 AM on February 05, 2010

    I hope that Apple will extend an open hand to Adobe to work together to make Flash work better on the Mac. Apple needs to make the next move.

  • Jared Vorkavich — 7:17 AM on February 05, 2010

    John, I’m impressed that you even talk about this knowing the rants you’ll surely get. You make some good points, and I’m glad to know that Adobe is continuing to think beyond the Flash runtime when improving the Flash authoring tool. As a Flash designer/dev, I’m looking forward to CS5 and the iPhone app output. I’d even like to see other runtimes included in the future. The more I can leverage my existing skills, the better I’ll do professionally.
    On a side note, I visit websites with Flash in Safari on OS X all day long every day, and I’ve never really noticed performance issues. I was surprised to hear that Flash runs better on Windows. It may be the only thing that does. [sarcasm]

  • Tim — 8:39 AM on February 07, 2010

    You make some good points, but manage to slip in some questionable claims.
    “And today, more than 15 years after Netscape debuted, Flash remains the only way to, say, display a vector chart across browsers (i.e., such that you can count on every viewer seeing it).”
    That’s stretching the truth pretty far. First, you can’t count on “every viewer” seeing it
    [It's just about as close to universal as one can get on the desktop. On mobile devices, of course, it's true that Flash can't be everywhere, because that's how Apple wants it. --J.]
    since some people don’t have Flash (is there even a 64-bit IE plugin yet?),
    [True, though what percentage of people run IE in 64-bit mode? And what difference would it make if they did run in that mode? --J.]
    and many more have it disabled.
    [Please show me some stats. I saw something the other day that use of Flash blockers on Engadget (or a similar site) had gone from 2% in 2006 to 6% in 2009. So, among the very most tech-savvy customers, Flash penetration has fallen to an *abysmal* 94%. Sorry, but that's a little like crowing about the Republicans' 41-seat "majority" in the US Senate.
    I know, I know: you'll say all that sounds cavalier, and that I'm saying that there's no reason to want to block Flash content. That's not what I'm saying. I *am* saying that people get a little too infatuated with the sound of their own echo chamber, thinking it reflects the world at large ("But everyone I know voted for McGovern!"). --J.]
    Second, it’s really only “vector” to developers; if I can’t hit control-+ and have it get bigger without pixellation, I’m not sure I’d really call it a “vector chart”. Third, “Flash” is a brand name for countless versions of a plugin, some of them quite different from each other — I’ve had real life bugs where something worked completely differently on 10.0.x and 10.0.y, or differently on the IE and FF plugins.
    Fortunately, there *is* a fantastic cross-browser method that uses vectors, zooms and prints at high resolution, requires no plugins, can’t (easily) be disabled or blocked, and reduces an O(n*m) test matrix to an O(n) test matrix: SVG+VML. (It’s not a single brand-name. Oops. But our users don’t care about the mechanism, as long as it works really really well.) Many real websites use this, like Google Maps, and libraries like RaphaelJS provide a decent wrapper for it.
    [That's great. Did you see the part where I came to Adobe specifically to build an SVG animation tool? I haven't tried to track down the techniques you mention, but I'd say that holding up --rings a little hollow. Meanwhile SVG viewership still hasn't reached even 50% penetration. I'm not celebrating that fact; in fact, I'm amazed that the rest of the world (okay, MSFT in particular) hasn't gotten its stuff together in all these years. But those are the facts on the ground. --J.]
    “The latest Flash Player uses many fewer CPU cycles for video, but the needed hardware decoding support isn’t available on the Mac right now.”
    I see at least two problems with this excuse. First, Flash on Mac has pretty much always been slower for just about everything; it may be convenient for Adobe PR that Apple’s APIs aren’t there yet, but that’s certainly no indicator that Mac support would be good if they were.
    [There's no one magic bullet here. The Flash Player team needs to make changes, and so does Apple. Each step helps. --J.]
    Second, running (Windows) Flash on a virtualized Windows on Mac OS X is many times more efficient than running it natively on the same Mac. (At least one of these virtual machines is even open-source.) So at the end of the day, it *is* possible, somehow, to get a program to show graphics that fast. The Flash team just hasn’t figured it out, or hasn’t put in the effort to make it happen.
    [You should read this follow-up post. --J.]

  • Spyral — 6:00 PM on February 07, 2010

    It is funny to see you pretend that flash brought video web sites. There were some long before that. It is not flash that brought youtube, it is the “social networks” and the whole “web 2.0″ stuff (you know, the guys who make money by putting advertising on contents they don’t create). If Youtube had adopted quicktime plugin, quicktime plugin would be the thing. And watching videos on the web would not make my computer devote every last CPU cycle to it (ok exagerating a bit).
    Actually I just compared processor occupation between flash youtube and html5 youtube on Safari on my mac and I got 60% playing and 15% just buffering for flash, and 25% playing and 2% for buffering for html5.
    So maybe dumping those video plugins was not such a good idea, from the users point of view…

  • David — 9:19 PM on February 07, 2010

    The only video I remember before Flash is from Real Player. Flash will never be able to approach the awfulness of that software and company.
    Quicktime is much less flexible than Flash for video.

  • Don Marti — 8:35 AM on February 12, 2010

    Missing factor in this whole conversation: the problem of patents. Everyone can see everyone else’s HTML because we have a patent-free format. Companies can’t implement each other’s video formats in browsers because of the patent licensing mess. So if there’s anyone to thank for near-universal web video, it’s Adobe’s lawyers.

  • Taylor — 8:25 AM on February 16, 2010

    If you use Firefox or Chrome, you should try AdBlock (or AdBlock Plus). You don’t have to do anything “manual” except install the add-on.
    Has worked fine for me for years.

  • Sorbus — 2:22 PM on February 18, 2010

    Could you answer a question for me please John?
    You quoted the 5% figure for Mac OS market share. Do you have OS percentages for users of ‘Flash heavy’ websites such as YouTube? That would give a good background on real-life uses on Flash, rather than OS market share. After all, the Mac/PC/Linux ratio changes depending on whether users are home or business users, for example.
    Thanks for an insightful article.
    Sorbus

  • DexBanks — 4:02 AM on February 23, 2010

    @failadobe – Are you angry at the canvas when the painter makes an ugly painting? Are you making a distinction between the Player and the strobing-blinky-annoying things people have used it for?

  • Evan Skuthorpe — 4:56 AM on March 10, 2010

    Flash will evolve. It won’t die.

  • oldschoolR@large — 5:11 PM on March 12, 2010

    I think Mr. Nack has framed the article in a balanced light. As for people mentioning Apple’s Hardware API’s; I found this interesting article
    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/03/10/flash_html_5_comparison_finds_neither_has_performance_advantage.html

  • Nate — 12:45 PM on April 28, 2010

    It seems clear as day that all the “coolest” website are in Flash. And by coolest I mean fun and entertaining. When was the last time you saw a blockbuster movie teaser website in CSS. Or a over-budgeted product release like a new pair of Nike’s using AJAX. Web standards is great for dynamic info-based sites and/or those that dump video here and there. If my memory is correct, Macromedia was perfecting interactive multimedia since before there was an internet with Director (I was maybe 14 at the time!). Let’s see these “standards” try to sync video (let’s throw some animated clickable vector graphics on top) with audio cue/loop points in a unique, interactive way. Not going to happen… ever…

  • Hugo Matinho — 3:01 AM on May 07, 2010

    Could anyone tell me which is the standards mode of creating sound with html? I’ve failed to find any documentation on creating any sound with a markup language.

  • Hugo Matinho — 3:04 AM on May 07, 2010

    Could anyone tell me which is the standards mode of creating sound with html? I’ve failed to find any documentation on creating any sound with a markup language.

  • mike — 3:43 PM on June 03, 2010

    Flash fucking sux…. deal with it and put a fork in it. HTML5 all the way

  • Peter C — 6:44 AM on July 31, 2010

    Gee Mike… That was deep. Your comment is about one step more useless in contributing than this ‘one’.

    The notion of cooperation and solution sounds so much better than slamming a door and having a petulant dummy spit…

    I bury your fork with my spoon.(smiley face)

  • Josh — 8:49 PM on September 19, 2010

    Wow – Best article I’ve read in a long time!

  • Toronto Limo — 9:40 AM on December 15, 2010

    Flash fucking sux…. deal with it and put a fork in it.

    [Lucid, cogent, refined; you're a credit to your side. --J.]

  • Mario — 8:57 AM on April 26, 2011

    I love both. Apple and Adobe. Refreshing article, good to know! Thx

  • geek — 2:30 PM on September 15, 2011

    Flash will evolve. It won’t die.

  • Dark Penguin — 12:20 PM on October 10, 2011

    John, I would love to be subjected to that “crappy customer experience” on my smartphone, if one of the three player options would work on it. As it is, most video content on the internet is unavailable on my phone. As for why I care about this when I could just go to my PC and watch whatever I want doesn’t address the matter of times, places, and situations in which only my phone is available to me. (In my case, the place and situation are that I’m lying in bed, the first person in the house to wake up, and I’m looking for some idle diversion that won’t wake up my SO.)

    In the past, we expected website content to be adjusted and filtered to the capability of the device. If you’re on a mobile device many webmasters force you into a lightweight mobile rendition, but that doesn’t happen with AV–it’s either full bore Flash or you’re SOL.

    And my last point goes beyond matters of Adobe and its products. If the Flash player has all these issues concerning mouseclick and mouseover, then WHY is it the standard format for AV playback on mobile devices?

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