The Demise of Flash and the Future of Web Development

The Demise of Flash and the Future of Web Development

Just over a decade ago, Flash was one of the most ubiquitous platforms across the web.  But now Flash is on its way out and HTML5 is poised to overtake it as the future standard of web developers.  So what’s driving the demise of this once great platform?  Let’s look at what made Flash successful in the first place for some clues.

In the late 1990’s, Microsoft and Nestscape were battling for browser supremacy, each offering their own features in an effort to compete with each other.  Because of this, cross-browser compatibility issues were very common, much to the frustration of both web developers and end-user alike.  But then along came a company, called Macromedia, with a solution – Flash.

This add-on plugin offered cross-browser compatibility and gave users access to an array of new visual effects, such as high-quality animations, videos, and enhanced interactive web site menus & user interfaces.  Flash took off and became highly successful over the next decade.  Seeing the potential of this plugin, Adobe Systems acquired Flash in 2005 as a way to help promote their line of developer-centered software applications.  Their hope was that as Flash became more widespread, developers would increasingly rely on Adobe’s products.  For a while it seemed like the strategy was working.  But despite its success, Flash also had its drawbacks.

The biggest problem with Flash was that it didn’t utilize system resources efficiently and was often considered a “memory hog.”  This problem was further exacerbated by the increasing popularity of mobile and responsive devices, which required software that could run effectively while using minimal system resources.

Adobe tried to bring new versions of its Flash software to the mobile market, but the results were often less than satisfactory.  In 2007, Apple launched the IPhone, and IPad a few years later.  Both of which became wildly successful.  After seeing the success of these products, Adobe tried to work with Apple to bring a reliable version of Flash to its iOS-powered devices.  But Steve Jobs soon scraped the idea after seeing the drawbacks.  In a now famous 2010 memo, posted on Apple’s website, he is quoted as saying–


Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low-power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards — all areas where Flash falls short.”


Essentially, Flash is falling behind because it’s now obsolete and unable to meet the demands of a changing tech market.  It was designed for the desktop era but its success didn’t translate over into the mobile era.  Adobe’s efforts to bring Flash to Android and Blackberry devices also ended in failure, sealing Flash’s fate.  Meanwhile, HTML 5 is open source and can achieve many of the same visual effects as Flash while utilizing system resources more efficiently, making it an ideal choice for developers, especially for mobile devices and responsive environments.  So will HTML 5 become the future standard?  Only time will tell.

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