To Flash or Not to Flash: That is the Question

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the death of Flash, the multimedia software platform by Adobe. It all started when Apple announced it would not support Flash for its iPhone due to compatibility problems. Since then, a lot of people have jumped on the anti-Flash bandwagon, essentially consigning it to an early grave. However, at Bop Design we believe the rumors of Flash’s demise are a bit premature.

When it was first developed, Flash took web browsing to a new level, allowing videos, animations, games, and other rich Internet applications to run smoothly on websites. Yet, the platform does have several drawbacks. Flash doesn’t run very well on mobile devices, which becomes an increasingly bigger problem as more people use smart phones to access the web. It sucks up a lot of energy, causing it to quickly drain smart phone and tablet batteries. And it has to be frequently updated due to security issues.

Despite these disadvantages, Flash has not yet kicked the bucket. Many web developers still use it for games, copyrighted videos, and some web applications. But increasingly, developers are using HTML5 with Javascript and CSS3 to do what Flash used to do all by itself.

What’s behind the switch? Mobile devices, of course. Simply put, HTML5/Javascript/CSS3 is much more compatible with smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices. As more and more people browse the web via mobile, the ability to seamlessly integrate with those technologies becomes even more important.

Does this mean web developers should stop using Flash? According to industry experts, the answer is: it depends. It all comes down to what you’re developing and who you’re building it for. With any project, developers should first consider the needs of the client and then determine which technology will best meet those needs.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t avoid Flash just because it’s the trendy thing to do. And don’t use HTML5 just because it works better with mobile websites. You can invest a crazy amount of hours making all kinds of compromises to accomplish something with HTML5 that can be easily done with Flash. On the other hand, don’t stick with Flash just because you’re comfortable with it. These days, building a website with 100% Flash is not the mark of a skilled, versatile developer.

If you need to get something done and Flash does it better, stick with Flash. Otherwise, it probably makes sense to switch to HTML/CSS/JavaScript, especially if the need to integrate with mobile is high on the list. With HTML5, the content will be more accessible and will work better with today’s search engine technologies.

What does the future hold for Flash?

Although a great tool, HTML5 is still working its way through W3C, the international community of member organizations that articulates web standards to guide the industry. And although Adobe has also been focusing on HTML5 development tools, they also appear to be working on a new generation of Flash design and programming tooling. For now, there’s a place in the web developer’s toolkit for both. A skilled developer will know when to use each.


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