Design & UX - - By Felix Mak

I Still Love Flash. Here’s Why.

In recent times, people from all quarters have been getting their boots into Flash. The late Steve Jobs felt that (other than the competing business model issues) supporting Flash was not in the interest of Apple’s customers and that iOS products would not support it. A week or two ago, I came across the Occupy Flash movement. A group of developers have decided that it is time that Flash left the web space and work towards its strengths. Adobe itself recently announced that it was ending Mobile Flash development.

What this means is that Flash will not be supported as a browser plugin on all modern and future (for Android) hand held devices – where Air will still be supported via applications.

  • What does this all mean to the average designer who wants to use Flash in a site?
  • What does this mean for the future of the plugin for desktop based sites?
  • Can’t Flash and HTML5/CSS3/jQuery coexist and play to their own strengths?
  • How can it be accounted for that in less than a decade, there will be more hand held devices not supporting Flash than desktops that do?

Sadly, I cannot answer ANY of these questions.

What I can tell you is that I Love Flash. I always have. I always will.

I will be the first to admit that I saw the CPU cycle issue when testing my simple Flash movie that was an autorun on an installation CD when I considered myself a Flash developer (ooh that was a long time ago – I used Flash 4, 5, MX).

I will also admit that I use the ‘Kill Flash’ app to help me preserve battery life – if you have a billion tabs open on at least 3 browsers, you might notice a significant power drain from all the badly coded repeating Flash adverts on all those lovely blogs!

And though, I gave up Flash development due to my unyielding brain not accepting the new ways of coding for Flash (or Actionscript 3 for that matter), I still love Flash; what it was and what it is – Let’s take a trip back in time…

What WAS Flash?

In my experience – Flash represented an incredible and creative way to add a richness to our mundane static pages. It was like a Gif89a on steroids… No… if GIF89a was a graphic on steroids, then Flash was Godzilla. Flash buttons, Flash sites, Flash cartoons, Flash games, Flash intros, Flash autorun installers, Flash sites! It was such an exciting time!

I loved watching Flash cartoons (Bat Girl series, Stan Lee’s 7th Portal) and who could forget that Flash intro and interface for rayoflight.net (you can find it under projects of their current Flash based site as “Ray of Light Legacy Site” as a video). There are still ‘ray of light’ tutorials floating around the web too!

It was a time where Flash helped creatives ‘create’ and charge a lot for it too.

Then Flash grew up.

What IS Flash?

Yes, it grew up and there were growing pains.

As Flash was further developed, it could access web cams and the microphone. We could watch movies via the FLV wrapper – YouTube and the copycats come to mind. The growth of the Flash based video game industry is still boggles the mind!

While developing for Flash became more difficult for people like me, Flash based rich interactive media creations still made me gasp at what Flash makes possible.

However, as we have matured as web users, most of the time we just want to find content to quickly absorb and not have so many farty bells and whistles.

While effectivness of say, a restaurant website that is based in Flash can be high (love the video background but not the carcas menu), perhaps “low key” usage of Flash on others made doing the whole site in Flash possibly unnecessary (I do love the site design).

One other important aspect of web is SEO. Flash has a poor track record when it comes to text searching Flash files as well as deep linking issues. It just doesn’t come too naturally to Flash. (Of course, as time moves forward, we do get some solutions.)

Further reading on deep linking for Flash 1 | 2 .

It also seemed that as the Flash Player matured, was getting big, complicated and buggy. Oh, and let’s not forget that security issue that got to see a 1st birthday. There was a definite change of attitude towards Flash across all web communities. Developers looked towards simplifying Javascript by creating libraries of functions to harness the untapped potential and one seemed to have asserted itself as the dominant Javascript library.

Yes, it is me – jQuery in ALL MY GLORY

jQuery is pretty awesome! I am still a novice learning to become a jQuery Ninja, but I do like it alot. There are plenty of free scripts floating around the net that offer a nice media experience – I do like the FancyBox script right now and I have built a news slider or two as well as a control panel to display and hide different DIVs. Great stuff!

But from a user perspective, it just isn’t Flash.

Flash still makes my jaw drop.

Flash still beats jQuery for impact and richness

jQuery might be the Incredible Hulk, but Flash is still Godzilla!

You may disagree with me, but I truly believe that in terms of rich media experience, Flash eats jQuery up and spits out the bones.

Flash has certainly had its share of issues and has a reputation that may be too far gone. I just want people to remember what Flash does and why it is so cool. The late Steve Jobs may have pushed Flash Player close to the edge, but it will be others (media included) that will tip it over the side… I hope not…

I love Flash and it seems I stand alone.

Do I stand alone? If you feel the same way about Flash, use the comments to put links of the most impressive Flash based sites you can find! We need to remind people what it is that Flash can do and why desktop computers and devices need Flash Player. Don’t forget to type in “I LOVE FLASH” in the first line because you do, right?

You are either WITH US or AGAINST US

With Apple not allowing Flash Player onto iOS and the withdrawal of support to Flash Mobile, there is no middle ground. To quote a famous movie

“Now who wants to go home… and who wants to go with ME!”

The vast armies that stand against Flash Player have something to prove here too. Can you show me that a live site using jQuery or any Javascript library based site, coupled with healthy usage of HTML5 and its bag of tricks along with currently supported CSS3 tags can out do a media rich Flash site? Put the link in the comments to prove me wrong! I may come around. Don’t forget to type “DUDE! FLASH IS DEAD!” in the first line, because it is, right?

My name is Felix Mak and I LOVE FLASH.

Putting on my flame retardant suit now.

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