It’s becoming ever rarer to see Flash used as an integral part of websites as a result of the rise of CSS3/ HTML5 and the massive amount of benefits that they bring to web design.
Often flash was used to gain ultimate control over how the user could interact with a website, along with how it looked. Although this came with its benefits such as animation potential, interaction potential and the ability to choose from whatever font that was at your disposal, it also had a lot downsides. One of the most common frustrations was the fact that many were built without the facility to bookmark or share a page, something which is expected of almost all websites.
HTML5, being the latest installment of the Hyper Text Markup Language, has lots of additional tags, meaning lots of additional potential. It’s now beginning to replace the Flash virtual machine (the Flash player), as these new tags allow the designer/developer to replace a lot of the functionality that was previously Flash’s domain. The key word here however is ‘beginning’, as browsers do not yet fully support it (see how well your browser supports Flash).
The increase in browser-support of CSS3 also means that designers can maximise the potential of websites because the subtle additions that it brings can result in a far more enjoyable experience for the user. The biggest and most talked about benefit it brings when used in conjunction with HTML5 is responsive design, something which couldn’t be done in Flash (if it has I haven’t seen it). The fact that the same website can now be taken across many different screen sizes and devices, delivering the same experience, is a big bonus and has lots of positive connotations when things such as brand loyalty are taken into consideration. It’s supported on almost all major mobile devices and an announcement by Adobe stating that they were killing mobile development of Flash in favour of HTML5 could be the nail in the coffin.
So what does this mean for Flash developers?
In the announcement from Danny Winokur, Adobe’s VP, he said:
HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms. We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers.
This means that Flash developers don’t need to worry too much as long as they keep up to date with which features can be replicated in HTML5. Adobe will be working with all of the key companies in the web to transfer Flash’s capabilities, ultimately resulting in work becoming HTML5 rather than a Flash format. People can still use the same development tools and knowledge as their skills will be leveraged by Adobe.
Could this mean that Flash’s capabilities will eventually be brought to mobile devices?
Adobe and Apple had an ongoing dispute up until recently over Apple’s lack of support for Flash. Both sides had good arguments, however it seems that with Apple’s decision not to support Flash on iOS coupled with their massive mobile-device market-share may have driven Adobe to make the decision that they have done. This may result in HTML gaining far more features at an accelerated rate, with more interaction possibilities for mobile devices.
Aside from that, flash will have it’s place for quite some time to come. For example, currently HTML5 only supports 3 video file types, and is by no means on par with Flash in terms of being a platform for games.
** UPDATE by Luke Sherran – 16/05/2012 **
After attending a CS6 conference today, we found out that Adobe is still investing in Flash but the focus is on high end applciations like game development and video players. Adobe are really pushing their suppor of HTML5 with most of their products, and they have now decided to stop supporting mobile devices completely. It would seem that the focus is now to keep Flash alive until HTML5 has progressed enough to replace it, so I won’t expect there to be much more innovation or technology upgrades.