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Web development will become much more complicated

Now many of you are expecting this post to be about the lack of Flash on the iPad or about the future of HTML 5. While those issues are important, there are actually much larger issues facing the web development community. These issues are not necessarily negative, but they will change the way we all work.

My first real job in this industry was doing DHTML at AOL/Netscape. Now this was during the peak of browser-compatibility headaches. There was IE 5, Netscape 4.7 along with the new Netscape 6 (yes they skipped version 5 to catch up with IE) and Mozilla browsers. Adding to the madness was the AOL client application, which contained a modified version of IE 4. I credit this job for getting me interested in Flash. I was fed up of dealing with browsers and just wanted to create a single experience that would work everywhere. Well those days are quickly coming to an end, regardless of whether you use Flash or do HTML development. Below are some of reasons why things are shifting.

Mobile Flash is different than desktop Flash
You often hear people talking about the idea of developing once and deploying to every device. That sounds nice but it isn’t realistic. The real story is that you can create 80% of your application once, and then spend the remaining 20% of your time creating UIs that work well on the various devices. For instance, mobile devices obviously do not have as much horsepower as your quad-core tower. So once you get Flash Player 10.1 on your phone, don’t go to the FWA and expect those sites to run like they do on your desktop. Because of that you will need to do a lot of optimizations that you wouldn’t ordinarily worry about with desktop Flash. The UI of your application will also have to be optimized for smaller screens and will have to be touch-friendly, meaning not relying on things like roll over. Luckily Flash now has full support for multi-touch and gestures so you will be able to create some really innovative experiences. Adobe will also be disseminating some great resources about how you can best optimize content for mobile devices.

The app revolution
I always talk about how revolutionary I think the iPhone has been, but not necessarily because of the technology. After all, multi-touch has been around for a long time. But the concept of having apps for everything you do versus doing them in the browser is something that has caused a real shift in the way we interact with the web. Personally I love this approach for the iPhone, but I’m much less excited about that approach for the iPad. I buy apps for my iPhone like it’s a bodily function. I have never been convinced that having Flash on the iPhone would really cut into the app store business, although I think Apple strongly believes this. Browsing websites on a phone is never really a great experience unless sites have created mobile-optimized versions. But even then, they are usually a lackluster version of the full site with a subset of the content available. Android is also a very app-centric environment. So what does this mean for web developers? It means that in addition to your full website, you may be asked to create an iPhone application, an Android application, and a version for mobile browsers. This will be made slightly easier as tools like Flash CS5 will have the ability to export a single application for multiple devices.

Cutting edge browser plug-ins are here to stay
Over the past week I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of ridiculous statements about Flash being dead or that it will be replaced with HTML 5. That is pure nonsense to put it mildly. If those people actually read some of my earlier posts they would understand that I believe HTML 5 will eventually be able to fulfill certain roles on the web that Flash has traditionally been used for. But during the time it takes for that happen, Flash will continue innovating and pushing the envelope of what is possible on the web. Flash has always been the environment of choice for developers who want to create the experiences that will become the standards of the future. Open web standards are a great thing but they move at a very slow pace. The advantage of plug-ins is that they can rapidly add new features and innovate without the need for waiting for the browser manufacturers to get their act together. This is not just true for Flash, but also for other plug-ins like Unity3D and Silverlight. So there will always be a huge demand from companies for cutting-edge content as they attempt to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Just look at all the companies creating augmented reality applications now. This will create the need for some developers to create a cutting-edge experience site using Flash, a standards-based website using HTML 5 for devices like the iPad (assuming Apple doesn’t come to their senses), and standalone applications for devices like the iPhone and Android.

The explosion of web-connected devices
For me, the iPhone has literally transformed the way that I interact with the online world. I pay my bills, moderate my blog comments, track my workouts, and interact with social media from my phone now, rather than my laptop. Now of course I still need my laptop as well for countless things that aren’t appropriate for a mobile device. But in addition to that there will be a whole slew of other devices that will be coming like tablets, internet-connected TVs, set-top boxes, and gaming consoles. All of these devices will consume web content and may require using a host of different programming languages and graphics technologies.

If I had to give advice to young people who are thinking about getting into this field, I would warn them upfront that they will need to spend countless hours keeping up with all of the new technologies that will sprout up, seemingly overnight. To put it mildly, this is not a field for lazy people. The positive side of all of these changes is that none of us should have a problem finding jobs in the future, regardless of what technology you specialize in. Unless of course you do stupid things like posting screenshots of porn on your blog :). As the internet permeates itself onto every surface imaginable, there will be an increasing need for developers who understand this certifiably insane industry in which we all work. So no matter what role you play in building the internet, things are about to get more and more challenging.


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  1. How would HTML 5 be able to publish movies to a file, not just a render at run time, it wont be able to.
    Along with a lot of stuff that Flash can do, and all the different applications Flash works with to produce a final product.

    HTML 5 will be just as Silverlight is to Flash.
    It’s just not going to be enough to take it down.

    And if by any chance there is, I will still continue to use Flash for as long as it’s alive.

  2. I disagree only in matter of perspective. I see more opportunity, less complication. Not everyone should have deployment to every single medium, but if you want it, it’s possible. That’s exciting to me.

  3. @Leon I don’t see HTML 5 as being a direct competitor to Flash. You will always need HTML and I believe you will always need Flash as well.

    @leef yes I’m excited too. I just want the Flash community to be aware that things will be getting a little more complicated as multi-device scenarios begin to become the norm.

  4. I agree with you on so many fronts. Flash is not dead (it’ll evolve), development will become more complex and technologies like Unity will continue to require plug-ins and push the limits of the user experience.

    Instead of everyone bitching and complaining about Flash vs HTML 5, Adobe vs Apple, we should be celebrating that we have so many tools and technologies to choose from and discuss. It’s a wonderful time to be an interactive developer.

  5. Well put… As long as there are a variety of companies responsible for the mediums (I.e. Tablets, web-enabled tv, mobile, etc), there will be a variety of languages and techniques for rendering and creating content for the mediums.

    Saying html5 will replace flash is as narrow minded as saying html5 will replace .net or that planes will replace cars.

  6. The interesting thing is that Adobe lost a lot of people with the introduction of ActionScript3. The entry requirements for people starting with ActionScript3 (especially designers) is simply too step.

    Sometimes I feel a lot of companies introduce some advances their technologies purely based on the fact that they need to “innovate” (read ad more features) to sell new products.

    So is web development becoming more complicated? Definitely! Blame is on new product features, I mean “innovation”.

  7. It seems to me that the only people who are saying: “Flash is dead” are HTML or JavaScript developers. I am ActionScript developer. I love working with AtionScript. But I’ve seen people who think that ActionScript is utterly complicated. I know some people are still using AS2 thinking AS3 is too hard to switch.

    Now all those JS/HTML developers have something to play with – HTML5. Finally they can at least try to do what’s been done in Flash for the past many years. But I don’t think Flash has ever been really alive to HTML/JS developers.

    Just my $0.02

  8. @Tom you actually make a great point. I often walk into the Adobe office and ask if we can stop doing new features for a while. Unfortunately you can’t do that, especially if you are a publicly-traded entity.

    @Alex yes there are many, many Flashers still using AS2. It has proven really challenging to figure out how to make that change happen. AS3 is actually much easier than AS2 once you learn it because it is consistent. Once you learn AS3 the thought of going back to AS2 makes you want to hurl.

  9. The nice thing about Flash is that it’s true write once, run anywhere. I hate HTML and people who sing about the gospel of HTML 5 probably don’t write it themselves. It’s so unnecessarily complicated. You spend as much time forcing CSS to do things it was never meant to do, as you do making sure it works in all browsers. As a result, I pretty much refuse to do HTML work professionally and pass it off to starving students that need the money. I stick with Flash, Silverlight and PHP. HTML is for chumps.

  10. I appreciate the sobriety of this. I’ve been making similar comments on other blogs. It’s crucial to see the true value of Flash in sites like Stamen Design’s piece for SFMOMA ( This is what Flash ought be for: radically intuitive graphical exploration of data/art/etc. It’s wonderful that we can “think outside the (DOM) box”, though in Flash, I do long for such simple devices as autosizing divs I’ve developed (history/planning) timeline software in Flash and see using AS3 for a long time — crossing my fingers that CS5 will allow for a decent implementation on iPad. But I do wonder about things like: How the heck will we be able to debug for iPhone/iPad out of the Flash IDE?

  11. Great article Lee. I wonder if anyone has produced a study on how likely users are to upgrade flash in comparison to how likely they are to upgrade their actual browser? Compatibility issues were the reason I got into flash too (back at version 2)…and I still think those issues are relevant today. HTML5 is a great technology that I look forward to embracing…but as a support to my flash work rather than as a replacement.

    Its funny how the “flash is dead” argument comes around every 4 or 5 years like clockwork. Nothing changes and Flash just sits back with its hands behind its head and sighs. I look forward to hearing it again in 2015! :)

  12. You’re right, live is getting more connected.
    At the beginning, there was html; now you have dozens of ways to create and deliver your content over the web (phyton, php, java, flash, nameyourlanguage). webdevelopment is getting more and more complex… is this all bad? i don’t think so. as you mentioned, there are jobs for everyone of us, developer for web, mobile, tv, gaming consoles…. sounds good to me. 😉

  13. @Andreas sounds good to me too! I like to think that we are all revolutionizing how people live and work. That’s a pretty cool way to spend your day.

  14. Great post, Lee. Good to hear some level-headed reasoning about the future of web development.

    One little off-topic thought: it would be amazing if Adobe created a native iPhone/iPad Flash Player app, just like the desktop standalone player. Just imagine browsing Safari, clicking on the blue lego and launching the SWF inside its own application. Or you could load SWFs from URLs from within the app itself, like the standalone version does. Could be a good way to get over Apple’s walled garden. I’d try to make one myself if Flash Player was open source!

  15. It’s not AS3 that has raised the bar. It’s Flash as a whole.

    Gone are the times of Flash 4, with its limited set of features. Back then, creativity simply required thinking outside the box (and the abuse of MovieClips).
    Today the number of tools and features has grown, and so have the prospective outcomes. Innovation requires a good understanding of Flash as a whole (including most of the AS3 internal libraries, as well as those found about the web).

    AS3 is a more mature, proficient, and easy to understand, scriping language than its predecessors, but Flash as a whole is a more complex tool than it was ten years ago.

    Maybe I am unbalanced because of my personal experience, but unless you have a tightly integrated team that can brainstorm and work together at developing creative ideas and concepts, I think that for cutting edge Flash creations there is the need for something better than “designers” plus “developers”.
    The key is to merge those figures. The designer must also be a developer and grow into a project manager, delegating time consuming tasks to specialized figures.
    In other words, someone has to have all the pieces of the puzzle (or most of them) in order to find new ways to put them together.

    I have recently moved from the new media word to that of automotive manufacturing (I am a vehicle designer now, with a degree in Product Design), and I can tell you it works exactly the same way here. The designers appear to be the only people who have a grasp of the “bigger picture” and embrace different perspectives about process and product issues.
    Then there are all the other specialty figures (powertrain, chassis, aerodynamics, safety, ergonomics and so on), ALL of which look at their side of the problem, most of the time (which clearly leads to a lot of headaches).
    For the designer to be able to “guide the rest of the world”, it is necessary to do more homework than anybody else, to understand technical aspects of things.. to gather many small pictures that can be assembled in the big one.
    OK, a designer can’t and shouldn’t do the work of an engineer, but sadly most engineers get so obsessed with their daily tasks that they fail to look up. It doesn’t take genious to find the way to make things work, only a bit of good sense.

    Guys, the world of Flash has simply risen to the level of our most complex industries, but at the same time it has left individuals the chance to deliver strong innovation. This is thrilling, but yeah, the lazy ones can find the exit door right away!

  16. I am going to agree with the title of this post. I have been working with the web, first as a developer and later as a designer, for more than ten years. When I started out it was all HTML, JavaScript, classic ASP and coldfusion, and Flash (version 3?) and I thought my head would explode at that time. I was gulping down books at the rate of nearly 500 pages per week just to keep up with whatever cool thing my boss(es) saw and wanted to do on the website(s) that week.

    Since that time I have added PHP, .NET, ActionScript (1 and then 2 and then 3), JavaScript again with the DOM and AJAX and jQuery revolutions, HTML again and then DHTML and then XHTML, and XML, and XSLT, and SQL-92, and some fusebox for ColdFusion, and some Silverlight and then limited 3D (using either Swft3D or Blender or a bit of Max)…. erg!

    Now I am neck deep in the Drupal CMS and I spent 2 years over my head in SharePoint 2007 (first designing themes and then writing .NET controls for SharePoint and then debugging UI issues with integrating Ajax and SharePoint)… and the need for Red5 and Flash Media Server and streaming / progressive downloading of FLVs and that comes with video editing (first in Sony Vegas but then Final Cut and now Adobe Premier in the CS4 suite.)

    I can barely catch up let alone keep up. What is funny to me is that if you are a web designer (and I wear this hat), then people will hand you a blank slate and say “design me a tasty UI experience for this widget / site we need!” and ignorantly some designers then obligate the rest of the community to play rapid catch up with the pictures that designers draw. The designer draws controls that allow the web visitor the ability to rotate or crop video and the develop has to spend the next two weeks explaining how difficult that is or spend late nights figuring it out.

    Don’t get me wrong… I am still in love with this platform and what it is I get to do. And I love having options and innovation breeds options. But everyone I have ever worked for, wants to do all of the options at some point. I just think, if someone is still in the first five years of their web employment then they don’t know yet what it means to have to reinvent yourself every 3-4 years because of the web-tech curve.

    So, admittedly it has been a long 3 weeks at work learning new tricks, but I don’t know if I have 10 more years of this in me. I am thinking that a career change to neurosurgery might make the rest of my life easier.

  17. What makes web development, and especially Flash development, even more complicated is that some services still require the ancient AS2 standard. Take AdWords for instance – after almost 4 years since AS3 was introduced, they still require your flash banners to be written in AS2. It’s frustrating.

    So I, with my fellow colleagues, decided to start a pro-AS3 movement on Facebook We’ve got over 1.200 fans. If you wish to support us, now’s the time!


  18. I agree, the web is becoming more complex. I also agree that this isn’t a bad thing, but a good thing.

    I do disagree with this though: “You often hear people talking about the idea of developing once and deploying to every device. That sounds nice but it isn’t realistic.” – What the ever more complex web is going to force Flash developers to do, is what people did with CSS…. fluid layouts. You simply have to consider the smallest screen (mobile) and the largest screen (HD monitor) and design a fluid layout that will work at both of those sizes. If it does, then you are good. Then, you build the capability for multitouch in, so that, if multitouch is available it can be used, but is not required. Suddenly you have 1 application that scales to any device.

    As for breaking through the Apple barricade….. Have you guys considered building a server-side flashPlayer that sends data over an AJAX bridge to an HTML5 canvas, and simply embed the SWF in the page if canvas isn’t supported (IE)? It would require a lot of new/changed code, and A LOT of optimization to not overly tax a server, but it would get around the problem with Apple not allowing flashPlayer on their devices.

    PS – you guys should hire the crazy developer who build Gordon:

  19. I think it will be less complicated due to standardization.
    The mobile app world is just little baby, it will become some standard.
    HTML5 is not born fully and it will make our lives easier like J-query did. It will lighten up a lot of lives. Flash is nice, but really shitty for serious companies with a flashblock policy. So come on over HTML5 and shine you lovely light upon us all.

    The only thing that I do want is that they hurry up and push standards.
    I can not spend all days of my live experimenting with new stuff.
    Nowadays I spend 10 hours a day behind a computer. And I dream about code, video’s, 3D and websites.
    Im 26 years now and will not do this for another 11 years. 6 hours max. Although the pay is good, I get 54 euro an hour.

  20. Now of course I still need my laptop as well for countless things that aren’t appropriate for a mobile device.

    Now hat everyone knows you’re looking at porn, does it matter which device you’re doing it on?


    As to the meat of your post – people with less experience will tell you you’re wrong, but you’re not. And you didn’t even mention the affect that monied interests have on this process; either slowing or quickening the pace at which a specific technologies are adopted or developed. And then of course there’s the fact that we cannot control adoption nor the pace at which it happens completely, if at all.

    Pick something, be an expert at it, and try to keep abreast of the abstract features of it and how they are evolving, which will help you to keep an eye trained on where you may need to jump next.

    I think as long as Adobe continues what seems like an effort to enforce the distinction between development and design with Flash-related tools, a true Flash killer is a distant wish for monied interests to who it is a threat.

  21. Thanks, Lee, for this great article!
    Yeah, Flash, along with other Internet technologies, have a long road left to travel. And this article once again illuminates new horizons for Flash technology.

    And we should take into account all the issues mentioned above in order to create successful projects.

  22. Great read lee,
    I came across the issue for the SortFix project that I just did how to reach multiply device trying out the following work flow wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts.

    The SortFix search app is built on PureMVC very optimized and OOP
    the idea is when a user is useing the search app via mobile device the backed sends the required date to the app IE “mobile-android-320-150” the app will receive this and then load a different PureMCV view utilizing only what it requires improving performance and cutting development time.

  23. agreed… mobile is a whole new ball-game. Peter Paul-Koch, of , has been doing a lot of research into mobile compatibility and usability issues – definitely worth checking out. Given all of these issues, mobile Flash may become appealing as a cross-platform consistency haven (except on iDevices, unless with the CS5 exporter), though I guess some of these issues may still affect Flash.

  24. GSkinner brought up an exciting concept about Adobe eventually generating Canvas/JavaScript files similar? This might reduce the plugins strength, but if you keep the devs happy (using 1 IDE to generate SWF, AIR, Apps, and Canvas/JS) we won’t be going anywhere else anytime soon:) What are your thoughts?

    I think your right about mobile flash vs. desktop flash. Most of the Flash out there today is intricate & immerse. Experiences that are most enjoyable from my 27″ screen would be nightmare to try to pinch zoom my way through.

  25. regarding #11:
    Need new features?
    The ultimate feature for flash would be an API for hardware accelerated 3D graphics (DirectX/OpenGL) just as Director offers it for ages. In my opinion this would be a major USP for Flash, leaving all competitors behind, for the following reasons:
    – the demand for 3D does exist (compare current offline game graphics to Papervision stuff etc.)
    – nowadays, almost any machine has GPU accelerated 3D graphics, rendering triangles at lightning speed
    – a huge community of Flash developers could just take off using their familiar technology

  26. I was reading above comments from Tom and his thoughts on the difficulty curve of Actionscript 3 and thought to myself “WOW I actually have a chance to talk to somebody directly associated with Adobe”
    So let me take advantage and hope you respond Lee:
    I am a designer who has worked on Adobe applications for years (10 plus). So basically, when Flash 4 came out I was HOOKED. I learned Actionscript and had it nailed down pat. I was creating some great stuff I must say. Now during this time, I also was doing print work using Photoshop and Illustrator, not to mention HTML sites with Dreamweaver.
    Basically, I kept up with the new releases pretty well.
    Actionscript 2 came out and I decided to wait on that figuring the users were not caught up yet. At least it seemed a bit less likely for users to update their Flash Players as easily as it is now. By the time I grabbed an Actionscript 2 book, Actionscript 3 was announced!
    So I waited. Glad I skipped it.
    Recently, I picked up an Actionscript 3 book (by my boy Colin Moock of course who got me at a high level with Actionscript 1 way back when). Now let me say, I am a designer first but I pick up code pretty well. I taught myself PHP (partly because it seems so much like Actionscript 1) rather easily.
    But damned if I wasn’t saying huh? to myself when I embarked on my Actionscript 3 learning adventure. I decided to dial it down a notch and grabbed a more basic book from Friends of Ed (another of my go-to guys when I need to learn). I still can’t get it. So many unnecessary steps I find annoying. Load this package, extend that package, what?
    I believe you have taken us designers out of the game which is sad because that is who Flash started out being made for.
    I used to make nice fast loading sites. How? I spread my code out over frames letting things load in when I needed them. I attached code to movieclips and buttons. All the stuff that is now frowned upon. But… I didn’t need any stinkin loading pages. Now the recommended practice is to put an ass-ton of code in the first frame! No wonder people complain about performance issues! Now it takes 10 lines of code to do something it used to take one. What happened?
    Why did you guys move to a more C+ code centric style? (forgive me if that makes no sense but I’m sure you get the idea). Coders already have C+ to work with. You had something that fit in-between the designer and coder that was awesome. It came natural to me. Now I really have to work to get this. And that’s hard to do when you’re keeping up with the latest greatest versions of Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Illustrator. Plus I really need to learn InDesign and dump that Quark 6 someday.
    Well sorry for the long post but thanks for letting a designer tell you how it is for many of us. Don’t forget us. We made Flash what it is today!

  27. No matter what comes in the future, if people are as passionate as the people on this form then the future of the internet is going to be great and flash/HTML will always be around.

  28. Nice! Dead on. Most of our web clients already call for shareable widgets AND iphone apps included in their web campaigns. Most of our web sites and widgets are already created using flash so I’m really looking forward to creating mobile apps using CS5.

  29. I am so excited with the way flash has been going lately – I feel like I am watching a phoenix die. As a browser plugin, the days of its rule are numbered. But…

    The days of browsers being the main way we connect to the internet are numbered too. Apps, widgets, tools – are becoming the norm. Flash seems to be heading in that direction. I think it has a bright future as an application development platform.

    – Joey

  30. Perhaps Adobe best response to S.Jobs is to deliver a quality, bug-free, and reliable product.
    Regarding this, “no public beta for CS5” was a very strange move, specially after the failure of CS4 and its patch.

    The formerly-reliable-feature that hurts me the most is the lack of as3 integration with the timeline (which was the backbone of animation and made the success of flash): clearly a blind spot for Adobe devs and from my sources it will remain ‘as is’ a very long time.

  31. This whole “HTML5 will kill all other RIA platforms” idea, is the biggest load of tripe I’ve heard in awhile. Here’s why.

    1) As a professional Flash developer I see millions of dollars spent annually on Flash applications and advertising. As we speak, I am developing an Aviation training platform, which makes heavy use of Flash. …

    …Yet I’m expected to believe that because HTML5 may “potentially” be able to do “some” of what Flash can do, that companies (the world over) will just throw up their hands and say, “To Hell with it, dump all our existing apps and ads, we’re going with HTML5!”….

    2)The examples of HTML5 doing what Flash can do are a joke, at least at this stage. Just like JavaFX, the examples displayed on the website are very buggy, and require you to authorize them prior to use and cannot honestly be compared to Flash.

    3) Microsoft wouldn’t be spending millions on Silverlight if they honestly thought HTML5 was the true “Flash killer.”

    4) Apple doesn’t care about an “open internet.” If they did, Quicktime wouldn’t exist. They don’t like Flash because Adobe has taken substantial market-share, and Apple views Adobe as a competitor. Don’t be surprised if Apple doesn’t release it’s own “Flash killer” plugin sometime in the future.

    5) Flash gets a bad rap from “bad Flash”, (intro’s etc.) But truth be told, good Flash goes by unnoticed. I was doing my taxes the other day and quickly realized the Turbo-Tax application I was using was all built in Flash/Flex. Most users wouldn’t notice this, because it wasn’t a game, or annoying. Guess you can’t do your taxes on the iPad. 😛

    6) Have you tried to develop RIA’s with AJAX and HTML lately…?

    7) Flash is almost as old as the internet itself (at least as we understand it today.) And developers (NOT consumers) will determine which platform is used most. So, logically, there will always be more RIA developers using Flash than any future RIA development environment.

    8) HTML5 will be great in 5 years – Flash will be greater in 5 years.

    9) I use Flash, which just by default, due to my awesomeness, must make Flash awesome.

  32. i know flash and as3 very well i love it but i use other technologies too, i am excited about HTML5 i start to play with .
    developer should be curios to new technologies and learn and use as much as they can

  33. I suppose my issue with Apples decision to not support flash on the iphone/ipad is that the internet is about freedom, the freedom to choose and view and install what you what, when you want, after all it is you who have purchased the hardware..why be held to ransom by its creators ideals over which software you can install. If I want flash on my iphone why shouldn’t I be allowed to? I’m a flash developer by trade and while I’ve watched the last 2 weeks with a fair amount of trepidation I can only look upon HTML 5 as a good thing for the web and flash and for the users experience in general…for without competition we would have a very stagnant and boring industry indeed.

  34. Web development is quite easy if you skip flash, the users web browser won’t crash randomly after the flash.player is gone insane!

  35. The news this morning discussed how a lot of big names opted out of running ads during the Superbowl. Know why? Because they are putting their dollars into interactive campaigns on the WEB. These big names (Nike, Puma, Samsung, Diesel, etc) won’t accept static web sites / graphics as their delivery method. They will demand a rich, interactive experience.

    So to all of you Flash haters … good luck with meeting your client’s expectations. I can’t wait until they kick you to the curb for another company that CAN do the job … using Flash.

  36. Dude. Awesome post. Thanks for keeping it real. I remember having a client a few years back. Web stuff, intranet stuff, desktop and handheld. Surgical instruments maker. Client stuff had to run in a bunch of different browsers and a few different windows-based mobile devices. Flash to the rescue. Had some great help in getting the online stuff working, then put a subset of the whole shuh-bang on a tablet-type thing and the old Compaq iPaq, and some more mobile hardware. That iPaq thing was pretty powerful. Clunky as hell, but it was widely deployed in the field.

    I feel like that model’s maturing at an even greater pace now, where not only access and apps are crossing devices, but that in many respects, the users of the different devices within a single company, and possibly even intra-department will require different looks at the same data, too.

    Fun times. I’m just getting too damn old, though. I think I’m gonna go out in a blaze of glory and pick a fight with the axe murderer in a parking lot somewheres. Better yet, iI’ll just bootstap some youngins up so they can make me rich with all their newfangled wizardry.

  37. designer or developer?

    as designer who has spent countless days hacking as3 trying to learn this stuff… i must admit adobe really has given us the most frustrating process and flash IDE for coding BLOWS .. and flex builder is so freekin fugly! not clean or minimal like textmate.

    OOP – or die you artists. DIE!!
    writing packages, extending, access modifiers, static overrides, all that crap is so abstract and it is NOT FUN at all. I tried to make it procedural and understandable.. but in the end I have to understand everything is a CLASS in AS3… and OOP is the way.

    this design pattern shit is so fukin abstract and verbose!! really seems to sap all fun from sketching code and experimenting.


    i started to build a seperate textfile with common snippets ready because unless you love writing code all fucking day this shit is too much. — I wished adobe spend less time on crappy super shitty flex- flex components… and more time on making Flash IDE a killer coder tool. With snippets panel a LONG LONG time ago.

    NO graphical programming environment .
    there is no GUI for class creation at all.. I like to click and drag properties … scroll and select methods.. stretch arrays, tug and pull some for loops/ifs and Cases —or Add game physics to coding and most of all sound, color, shapes, texture, sound, typography, paths.. wish someone (adobe) would just build a dataflow UI drag and drop classes, UML builders with animated parameters/arguments.. feeding it each other.. timer classes, textfields, loaders .. eventlisteners.

    like these examples of modular soft-synth designs…

    ok its 4am.. I’m rambling.

    excuse the frustration… let me get back to those cryptic error messages
    Error #1119: Access of possibly undefined property someProperty through a reference with static type flash.display:DisplayObject.


  38. One of the larger differences supporters of HTML 5 don’t seem to understand… is that (compared to the unified environment of Flash) they are working in an already bloated, hacked-heavy, code-cobbled environment.

    Right now I’m finishing up a large web site that contains XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery, hybrid Flash for image fade/rotation, and PHP. I have a staggering and dangerous amount of “chemical-code mix” with large amounts of JavaScript and CSS sourced in every page. After hacking all of that code to eventually work together in harmony, I thought to myself (web developer 10 years) that this bloated, code-cobbled HTML mess is really starting to become too much to deal with. It now takes me much longer to get it all working together than it used to and then the amount of time I have to spend testing and testing it all in 10 different browsers and versions has become a huge time-suck.

    It is far far easier to work in a unified environment like Flash where every multimedia element you need is right there ready to use and you know it works in all browsers and platforms. The HTML 5 supporters have little understanding about what they are asking for. They are asking to “add to” the chemical-code mix that is already too bloated, code-hacked, and cobbled of an environment.

    Making money in web development is about generating great web sites quickly. At this point of the Web, Flash is now far faster at it than the hacked and bloated HTML route. I am now beginning to understand why all the big name web agencies use Flash almost exclusively.

  39. Lee – I left this over at grant skinners blog – needs to be addressed. Flash can display html – and air can literally pull anything in. Further I can see flash 11 or 12 being able to render javascript and html FULLY. So the real question is – in line with your APPLICATION SLANT why do we need browsers at all ?

    Flash will be able to publish to html5 – i think that is the direction the tool is going to take – and it will be an awesome if it does – it just makes so much sense. HTML5 is never going to be able to publish to flash.

    Ultimately – there is no need for html5 – none. However they have simply occupied the default position of legitimacy – as soon as you question it you realise it is costing clients billions. If we only used flash – then we could achieve everything we do do today at a fraction of of the cost.

    What would html5 programmers have us do – put browsers on televisions and in cruise ships and Oil Rigs so that the interfaces can display html ?!!! Its ridiculous. As soon as we question their default position of presumed and assumed legitimacy we realise they actually have no place.

    I can create anything html can in a second in flash and have it across almost any device on the planet – done. However when we have to cater for html – the costs and production goes through the roof.

    Ultimately this is about jobs – if we went to flash – the industry would be cut by half.

    HTML is a text mark up langauge – which is trying to bolt graphics and video functionality onto it. I find it utterly absurd.

  40. Also – flash integrates with products such as arduino for external device development. when was the last time you saw an HTML art installation allowing users to interact with their bodies to create sound and light installations – exactly. HTML5 advocates simply DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT THE FCK THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.

    How is 3D html coming along ? How is the GPU integration coming along ? How is socket serving, Stratus, stream switching, microphone access, file handling, bit stream, gesture, augmented reality etc, etc coming along with HTML5 – exactly it isnt – html5, javascript css is a joke.

    Looking forward to seeing flash cs6 publish to html5 – in fact who wants to develop a flash library which handles html / javascript / css and can display any web page as standard ?!!

    Awesome – that’ll shut em up.

  41. Good to read that some people at Tuaw are at least fair–proving wrong that Flash 10.1 beta 2 player crashes on that terrible computer called Mac:) I hope Adobe keeps on improving Flash’s performance –please add that GPU acceleration on desktops. If FLASH do prove that it can run great on Macs as well as on PCs ,would haters shut up? NO-THEY ARE CLOSED-MINDED IDIOTS. Computers should serve people , not people serving Macs. I bought that computer and therefore I should be able to do whatever I want with it–if I want Flash or not–it’s my decision. I won’t let people like Steve Jobs take away my rights.THAT’S IS EVIL .That’s why I am exercising my freedom–gonna shift over to PC.:)

    I don’t get the proprietary issue–my take on that is–I earn money using the tools–why not pay for them since I am earning from them—yes, Adobe will get rich–but it puts food on the table of thousands of people(employees)–it’s a give and take thing–that’s only my opinion.

  42. Lee, thanks a lot for this article. In fact, I was on the point of writing to you regarding this topic. I am very angry over what people presume to say about the greatest development tool in the history of web as such !

    It must be understood that all this provocation comes from people with no creativity who intend on placing the web back into the stone age by forcing us to adopt primitive ways of creating visually rich applications. IT IS DISGUTING and every effort should be made to push them out of our web domain.

    another point I`d like to get across is the rise of the devil – Apple. you mac fanboys have ditched so much dirt upon Microsoft without realizing who the biggest dictator is. Ipad/iPhone – are normal mobile devices with so many limitations and should not be regarded as a tool for destroying other well-known standards – Flash.
    Most importanly, the reason why we have got Flash is Internet Explorer and therefore you`d better pray that IE remains the most popular browser. I do hope and pray every day that Microsoft never adds full support for HTML5.

    Lastly, Adobe has a good chance of keeping Flash alive by attacking HTML in its core concept. That has not happened so far. Instead with the advent of AS 3.0, a great deal of developers found themselves in a dilemma over which direction to head in. It is pretty difficult ( no doubt about that ) and the transition came about at the wrong time… now AS 3 is the most sophisticated language that is at least 50 years ahead of Javascript but what is the point if basic web design rules are ignored ? AS2 is another important thing to mention. It is a fantastic language, I love it, I use it every day and to be honest I dont need AS3 for the time being.. clients want SEO and great usability features, so things like SWFAddress, SWFObject should be coming out of Adobe Laboratories !!!

    Flash Forever

  43. I’m actually eager for HTML5/CSS3 to become standards, so I can safely use them in my Flash projects.
    I doubt that HTML5 will actually be able to replace Flash RIA content, but the improvements to basic HTML markup are long overdue.

  44. Plus, do not forget one really simple thing.

    When you buy, you vote. If you’re not happy that the iPad does not have Flash, do not buy an iPad. If you’re not happy that the iPod does not have flash, do not buy an iPhone.

    Complaining about it but still buying the goods is saying that you agree with the way things are.

  45. I am a designer turned AS3 developer. I can make games, interactive projects that communicate to backend code, etc. HTML is ridiculous. I don’t know how many times I have gotten pissed off at the fact that people are still using IE 6. Hacks? Yes. I use them. They are a big waste of my time.

    So why isn’t Steve Jobs saying there are issues with HTML? I’ll tell you why… Steve Jobs doesn’t find HTML as a threat to Apple. He bad mouths anyone that gets in his way of sales and expects everyone to take it as gospel. This is total BS. Adobe Flash, Google, Verizon, etc. He will not be happy till he alienates the entire tech community and makes Apple the monopoly he has always dream of. (Sorry to say that Bill beat you to it Steve. A little bitter are we?)

    The only good about the web is Flash. It is consistent, reliable, and easy to learn with some basic self motivation.

    Steve “The Arrogant SOB” Jobs thinks he is the second coming of Christ. Seriously. He needs to check himself. Steve Jobs a liberal? Yeah right… more BS to swallow.

  46. Hi Lee,

    I think this is the right place where I can pose my biggest question I wanted to ask the team who built but could not. Here goes, Why did Adobe abandon the earlier version built completely in Flex for a combination of Flash (videos) and HTML? When Adobe itself is not using the very technology they built, then why would anyone else bother with it? The answer I think will settle the debate.

    Do reply when you have time.

  47. I’m wondering if the role of a Flash/Interactive/Creative Developer (whatever you call it) will split even further. In the agency set-up, will we have people who specialise in particular deployment platforms? (ie. Mobile Flash Developer, etc…)

  48. @Gaurav Adobe recommends people to use Flash where it is appropriate. There is no need for Adobe TV to built entirely in Flash. The video is delivered via Flash but the accompanying site and features like ratings and comments are delivered via regular HTML, which is the way it should be.

    @Phillip yeah I think there will likely be people specialized in app development for mobile (iPhone, Android, etc) and some that will specialize in the full browser experience.

  49. From Maros: clients want SEO and great usability features, so things like SWFAddress, SWFObject should be coming out of Adobe Laboratories !!!

    You are so right. Probably the most important thing and Adobe fails to address it. hell if they just got that back button working years ago, most web surfers would have no idea they were on a Flash site.

  50. @amul — I must agree with you. Being a designer and developer probably means you are a visual person who enjoys looking at interesting things. Staring at source code for hours at a time can get a bit old. There is only so much you can do with code color modifications.

    If anyone is equipped to produce a more visually interesting environment to write code in, I think it is Adobe. Inserting icons into code for instance, to indicate variable types would be one of many possible approaches to liven up the IDE, make it more accessible and potentially more effective.

    It would just be a visual abstraction on top of code writing.

    What do you say Lee?

  51. I am really excited about HTML 5! Okay, I will try it out and learn it. But what excites me is HTML 5 would only make FLASH better. Flash will evolve and there will be more avenues to explore and conquer.

    Lee, what’s up with AIR Mobile?

    My ears have grown tired of hearing about the end of FLASH. AJAX, the Flash Killer, then there was jQuery–the Flash Killer, after that SilverLight–the FL KIller–and now HTML 5 the Flash Killer, any takers?

  52. HTML5 will revolutionize web development but it won’t kill Flash. My hope for the web development community is that we will focus on appropriate uses of Flash/HTML5/AJAX. We are often forced to use a technology because it’s a buzzword that helped an BusDev guy sell a project.

  53. BTW this post is nuts ! Unless you are a one-trick monkey.
    I love AS3.0, but I love to get busy with full featured HTML5+Jquery libray+Raphael library. This will totally own this world.

    // @Adobe If you read this
    Flash needs a 3Dmax/maya or similar interface. You are heading that way anyways with Physics in CS5 and 3D in Photoshop.
    Papervision opened our eyes, now it is up to the kings to make this the best thing ever.

    Just think about Adobe 3DStudio CS5. And while you are at it, please make sure After Effects has got 3D motion tracking on it’s own. Unless you want to keep using Boujou.
    Please Adobe, go the 3D direction. Fully featured everything. I do not want to purchase anything else than the master collection to do ALL multimedia.

    Right now I am a specialised user in everything that is included in the CS4 master collection and I can work with 3DSMax, papervision and all video related stuff. Im a great designer and edittor and what not.

    I would combine all my powers into one package.


    @Lee, keep up the good work.. but try to expand your powers. Flash is just 2% of MULTImedia. Maybe you could be an evangelist on ALL assets.

  54. Hi, I’ve been involved in an uphill struggle with Flash for a while now. I think AS 3.0 is the bee’s knees for e-learning applications and I’m astonished by the lack of Flash support on a lot of learning management systems (like CMS’s but designed for delivering learning content and tracking students activities and grades).

    I’ve targeted Moodle since it’s the most widely used open source one (50,000 sites, 32 million users and counting) and created a plugin module to provide decent support and integration. I got a lot of resistance from HTML, PHP and Javascript developers in the e-learning community whose reactions ranged from indifference to outright hostility, and yes, the HTML5 argument came up. I’ve even been chastised for claiming that Flash is the de facto platform for e-learning. I think the evidence on the WWW overwhelmingly bears that claim out.

    I don’t understand where this hostility comes from or why anyone would feel the need to attack another programming language like that.

    For anyone who’s interested in a possible alternative to SCORM, the project is GPL3 and on Google Code: and there’s a better explanation of what it is and what it can do on my blog:

  55. @Xander, I don’t think going all 3d is the way to go. I’ve been on sites and presentations where 3d elements are totally over-used and hog a great deal of resources because the 3d model wasn’t modeled with efficiency. To me, that’s like going back into 1997, where every single image, button, and entire website had a lenses flare.

    The bottom line is: all of these are tools. They should be in your toolbox regardless of who their vendor is. Artists still use a pencil, so Photoshop didn’t kill paper and pencil. Also, there have been times where we lost power in the building: Instead of calling it an early day, we rigged up a candle and wrote our code on pencil and paper.

    When you’ve been in a situation where you couldn’t use your “favorite IDE” or tool, you appreciate the basic tools you first started with, whether it be a pencil, a sheet of paper, Microsoft Notepad, Command Line Prompts, or a 2d game, like Mario Brothers and Monkey Island.

  56. @Ryan, I never said that I do not start woth pen and paper. I always start with all the correct documents and when the customer agrees, I will start using the tools. Nevertheless it would be a realy nice feature to have one package that could do it all.

  57. I think that if Adobe attempted to make their suite be able to everything, then it would be become convoluted and slow. Look at Flash CS4, it has some great new features but they have issues and the app as a hole runs allot worse than CS3. I hope Adobe’s first priority is to performance tune everything they currently have, fix the current bugs and focus on not making new tools but making the current tools even better. It has been made clear by the community especially Joa Ebert( that flash has great potential to be very powerful if the current weak points are optimized. With those changes you will find a vm that is very capable of handling 3d without all the workarounds that currently have been found. But I think that 3d will only be one avenue that will be expanded with performance enhancements. Look at projects like Bloom( the more power you give people the more they will use.

  58. Thank you for this writing. Very accurate, and very important. The Flash-hating buzz has gotten me down a bit, but it’s time to roll up our sleeves and make ultra-sexy sites and applications that serve the project in a way that only Flash can, while making terrific companion mobile versions.

    Thank you again.

  59. hi lee

    thanks alot for the post …. i was deciding between learning silverlight and flash/flex … 6weeks into learning c# and now i think i know what to do …

    FLASH/FLEX ALL THE WAY!!!!!!!!!!!!

    but i do have a concern though … what else do i need to learn besides AS3/MXML if i want to create apps. do i have to learn coldfusion? whats this server side logic people are talking about??

    i eventually one day will be creating apps for my customers and they will want to keep costs down.

  60. Lee,

    I am Instructional Technology student graduating this May. I am very excited to be part of this industry, mainly because of the constant challenge to keep my skills sharp.

    As a new developer, in my mid-20’s and a member of generation Nintendo; I expect innovations and know that even before I buy the hottest tech item of the year, there is something already much cooler in an R&D lab somewhere.

    With that being said, in the corporate world these innovations are rarely adopted as soon as they are available. They must pass the test of time before large corps will spend big bucks to switch their systems over, especially if the curent hardware configuration is not compatible with new tech.

    It seems as if the new advancements in the industry will present new challenges for all developers, old and new. But as Lee mentioned there should not be a shortage of job opportunities for anyone in this industry.

    Thanks for Sharing.

    Anthony Ruth

  61. It seems absurd to me to imagine that HTML5 will replace Flash. Clearly Flash isn’t going to sit still whilst HTML5 is gathering momentum. The finishing line will continue to move forward, and Flash will remain at the front of that race, imho.

  62. I agree that in this world of web development, there will be a place for Flash, a place for other plug-ins, and a place for HTML 5. I don’t think one will trump the other, and though I’d really appreciate one method of designing and developing apps for all devices, I’m OK with the fact that that’s not the case.

    Overall, I am very disappointed with the move to AS3 from a practical perspective, and I guess it’s a bit late to make that statement, however time and time again as I complete project after project in Flash (especially small ones) that I am reminded of why I loved AS2 so much and why I think that AS3, though much more capable and mature, has totally alienated Flash’s original constituency, designers.

    Practically, I think that AS2 was a sublime blend of form and function. It was not too abstract, and it kept simple actions such as event handling, loading external assets, attaching movie clips from the Library…simple. I think it was the perfect balance between design and code that allowed both designers and developers to coexist and be productive. Developers could take things a step further with OOP and more advanced things if they wanted. However, designers could still easily grasp the language and write code on the timeline to easily sync with their animations. I know many designers who are still using AS2 because AS3 is just too big of a leap. I am from the early days of Flash, and this was not what it was originally all about. It was about allowing designers to be creative with web technology without having to get stuck in the morass of messy HTML/JavaScript/DHTML code. AS2 was a nice bridge between the 2. Now most of the designers I started out with either still use AS2 or have just given up completely on Flash.

    Also, forget doing small quick projects. God forbid you have a very tight deadline and need to get a flash site up in a hurry. You might as well forget about it, as you will most certainly be up sh*t’s creek without a paddle messing around with AS3.

    Either way, for all of AS3’s robustness, Adobe made a conscious decision years ago to abandon the people that helped make it one of the most popular web technologies. I will admit, AS3 is great for hugely complex applications, such as an online video game, an online app, or a Flex project, but for simple websites, I just want my old Flash back.