Adobe’s Flash In The Pan?

Adobe’s Flash has had a successful run the past few years. While the latest usage statistics show a slight decline, it still employs an impressive 95.89% browser install base as of Jan, 2010.

Some concerns have been raised lately with Apple’s decision not to include Flash support in it’s newly announced iPad (which runs a modified version of the iPhone OS). It’s been known that Apple’s iPhone does not support Flash. Apple blames Adobe’s buggy implementation of the Flash plugin as one of many reasons, causing poor battery life, security holes, application crashes, etc. While this is nothing new, the spotlight has again been focused on the lack of Flash on the iPhone OS.

Other reasons for Apple skipping Flash support that I think are much more important are HTML5 and the open standard of SVG.

One of the many critiques of Flash is that it is not an open standard. Many, including myself, believe closed platforms tend to stifle innovation and prohibit standard adoption – this, coming from a Flash developer. Also, the Flash plugin has long been sub par in performance on the Macintosh platform – but Adobe is finally taking small steps to remedy these issues. Is it too late?

In order for the web to move forward with a common standard and new innovative tools at hand for developers to use to create the next big thing, we NEED open standards. Period.

Adobe has an opportunity here to develop an HTML5 and SVG authoring tool, waiting to supplant Flash when it does eventually fade away along with proprietary video codecs and browser plugins.

As for myself, I welcome new venues and technologies to learn, as long as they allow for innovation, freedom and creativity in not only the resulted medium, but development as well. The next few years will be the litmus test for Flash in whether it has a place on the web or not. I believe strongly that openness on the web is the future and if a proprietary plugin expects to make the cut, some changes need to be made.

Robert Scoble has a good analogy:

Let’s go back a few years to when Firefox was just coming on the scene. Remember that? I remember that it didn’t work with a ton of websites. Things like banks, e-commerce sites, and others. Why not? Because those sites were coded specifically for the dominant Internet Explorer back then.

Some people thought Firefox was going to fail because of these broken links. Just like Adobe is trying to say that Apple’s iPad is going to fail because of its own set of broken links.

But just a few years later and have you seen a site that doesn’t work on Firefox? I haven’t.

What happened? Firefox FORCED developers to get on board with the standards-based web.

The same thing is happening now, based on my talks with developers: they are not including Flash in their future web plans any longer.

Adobe’s CTO, Kevin Lynch tackles this very topic in his blog post.

Admittedly, I would be sad to see Flash go. I love the control you have over your assets. As of right now, there really is no open alternative to that kind of control. jQuery and other JS libraries are just not there yet – but there is much promise. Combine jQuery with HTML5, SVG and time – you just may have a Flash killer.