Future of Flash

Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform used to add animation, video, and interactivity to web pages. Flash is frequently used for advertisements and games. More recently, it has been positioned as a tool for “Rich Internet Applications” (“RIAs”).

Most owner’s of Apple’s iPad and iPhone have noticed their devices do not support Adobe’s Flash. Apple’s iPad and iPhone lines are expected to remain Flash-free for the foreseeable future. Despite Apple’s decision to not include Flash, the Android OS has been open to including Flash in their mobile devices. Figures from the 2011 Mobile World Congress, more than 20 million Android smartphones have shipped with (or been upgraded to) its Flash Player 10.1 software. Adobe expects its total mobile Flash adoption to hit 132 million units worldwide by the end of 2011, and the company estimates that 50 tablets will feature Flash pre-installed (or available for download) by the end of the year as well. Adobe maintains that they have a 99% adoption rate among desktop computers.

Some users feel that Flash enriches their web experience, while others find the extensive use of Flash animation, particularly in advertising, intrusive and annoying, giving rise to a cottage industry that specializes in blocking Flash content. Flash has also been criticized for adversely affecting the usability of web pages. Flash has long been a problem for search marketing consultants, because the software is not friendly to search engines. Without Flash installed, the user will view an empty white box.


The Flash versus HTML5 debate for digital content creation continues on. We’re all familiar with Steve Jobs’ rant against Adobe’s “proprietary product,” as described by Jobs in an April 2010 letter. Since then,  other Silicon Valley companies have started to incorporate HTML5 as a replacement—or, at least, an alternative—to previous Flash-only content..

HTML 5 is gaining ground as a competitor to Flash: the canvas element assists animation, and text can be more easily synchronized with audio and video element timeupdate events. In one example of this, Scribd, a 50 million user a month document sharing website, announced in May 2010 that YouTube introduced HTML5 support in January 2010, and on Jan 11 2011, the Google Chromium Project announced on their blog that support for closed codecs (particularly H.264) would be removed from future releases of Chrome. The Chromium announcement specifically mentioned that this was an effort to increase the use of license-free HTML5 and the <video> tag, and drive web-wide adoption of the open-source codecs VP8 and Theora.

In addition to HTML supporting Video, Facebook, as well, is another Silicon Valley giant that’s started to open its eyes toward HTML5-based content—for games.

HTML5 may transform desktop and mobile gaming, creating amazing user experiences that are only a click away. Already, over 125 million people visit Facebook using HTML5 capable browsers just from their mobile phone, and that number skyrockets when we add in desktop browsers. The future of Flash will depend on whether the technology can stay relevant in the changing web landscape of smart phones, tablet devices and Internet televisions.

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