With Adobe decision to stop work on mobile Flash, HTML5 emerges as the victor

By Joel Falconer
We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now

Today is a significant day for the design industry: news that Adobe has discontinued work on its mobile Flash player in favor of a new focus on HTML5 leaked out of the company today, with an official announcement expected tomorrow.

Those of us in the design and technology industries knew it was just a matter of time. Anyone who won’t admit that Flash’s days are numbered hasn’t been keeping a close eye on the industry. Many point to Apple’s stubborn refusal to support Flash as the death knell for the platform, but it’s not a stretch to say that it was heading towards a gradual end even before that.

It’ll take time for the effects of this move to filter down, considering many mobile companies have licensed the technology and will continue to support it for as long as it remains — and I try to say this without too much sarcasm — stable. But even for Adobe, who have defended Flash and its place on the mobile web time and time again over the past few years, this wouldn’t have been a sudden turnaround. They saw this coming as well as anybody else.

Evidence of that is their recent acquisition of Typekit, which is a service on the forefront of improving design flexibility on the web. The service, along with an increasing level of support for webfonts in major browsers, has made that limited palette of web-safe fonts we all struggled with for decades seem like a problem from yesteryear.

And let’s not forget that, way back in March, Adobe made a lot of noise by releasing a Flash to HTML5 converter.

It looks like AIR will receive as much focus as ever, but for the most part Adobe is said to be investing more in HTML5 than ever before, most likely referring to authoring tools for HTML5 features such as Canvas.

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • Bakkerjoeri

    I’m quite happy with this development. It can lead to a more standardised system in webdevelopment; one format less to worry about.

  • Phillipseamore

    We’ll I see this as a very sad move.  HTML5 is nowhere near being complete and standardized, especially when it comes to additional requirements like subtitles etc. (which for developers in some countries is growing to be a legal requirement in many projects).

    Also Apple has decided on running as crippled HTML5 support as possible in Safari as many of the features like timed metadata are usually used in higher end video projects (think MLB etc.) so they want to force you into developing native apps rather than webapps.  This is mostly so they can enforce their terms for 30% of subscription revenue.

    HTML5 doesn’t even have any usable error handling in most browsers ATM!

    • Stu

      HTML5 is more of a standard than any version of ActionScript.

      • mc

        ActionScript is pretty close to the ECMA spec, isn’t it?

    • I don’t get your point. Maybe you should make one instead of trolling around.

      • slawek22

        If you don’t think he makes the point i suggest to read the post once again and try to understand it.

        • I think he misunderstands chances and problems and is not a webdeveloper…
          I never heard of a legal requirement for subtitles?! Where? in Films? What have films to do with webdevelopment? Where is the link between HTML5 and mobile Flash not developed further?

          What is the point with Apple? They don’t support Flash, what is the point in pointing out that they don’t support HTML5 fully, too? What is the argument here?

          Error handling in HTML5?? Come on! I don’t have a parachute in my car neither, but I don’t see an argument why this is bad. Implement your own, if you need one.

  • George Langley

    Authorware was abandoned for Director, which was abandoned for Flash, which will now be abandoned for Edge. And so the cycle goes.
    The good news: HTML5 is an open “standard”, so anyone will be able to make a development tool to aid in WYSIWYG development, not just one company – more options, cheaper options. And you can hand-code it all now.
    The bad news, of course: we need all browsers to properly support all of HTML5’s features (and quit squabbling over video formats). But even a closed system like a plugin from one provider has had spotty support – lack of a 64-bit Director Shockwave plugin being an obvious one.

  • 66

    another reason for web designer or developer to never love one application

  • Johans

    Do not forget Adobe also acquired PhoneGap

  • AnilG

    Flash was great in 2001 but it’s a pain in the neck now.
    I know there are a lot of concerns about HTML5, and I don’t fully understand this because I haven’t got into it yet, but I’m optimistic.
    There was a day when I wanted to build an entire web app in Flash.
    I am REALLY glad I don’t have to consider that today.

    • slawek22

      Why flash is a pain now? Just because Steve said so? I’d really suggest you to use your own brain.

      Media capabilities of HTML5 are decades behind. Even if the spec would be 100% supported, which isn’t true. Some optimistic assumptions say 2020, so in 2020 you’ll have decent support for something that (for media) is as advanced as flash was about 10-12 years ago! – in 2001!

      In 2020 year, they say, you’ll have 100% support for technology that’ll be outdated by 20 years then! And it won’t happen anyway as corporations will still use outdated versions od Internet Explorer. And still you’ll have maintenance nightmare as there’ll be 3 browser engines on the market that will work completely different.

      So what is the point? It’s really selling old thing using a new name.

  • James Piechocki

    It’s hard to beat the ease of Wix.com. Anyone who tries it out becomes a fan.

    • I utterly despise using Wix generated sites.  I think of them as novelty works, put together by people who can’t do better.  

      Who wants to wait 30 seconds or more for a site to load, before seeing anything useful or actionable?

      I won’t miss the frequent Flash browser plugin updates, will anyone?

      • Sure, the Flash version of Wix has a bit of a delay, but their new HTML5 set-up is crazy fast for loading. Also, just because they cut-out the manual coding side does not mean it’s a tool for amateurs. It still has a substantial learning curve for those people who don’t understand manual coding. Knowing coding helps you picture what’s happening better.

  • Marianne

    where does this leave Flex Builder with PHP integrated?  Is it still valid as I thought I understood that it did convert to something of a native app – not flash – when developing for mobile.  I am missing something here?

    • Adobe is only abandoning the plugin for mobile browsers. They supposedly will continue to build plugins for desktop browsers, but seriously – who’s going to spend the time to build a Flash swf that will not run everywhere your site may be viewed? I suspect Edge will become their online focus, while Flash will become just an app-building program (both desktop apps and mobile apps), as they don’t run in a browser.

      • slawek22

        And what other options you have?
        Build apps that’ll run only on Webkit?
        Maybe build apps that run only on Firefox? 
        Maybe build apps that run only on IE9?
        Or you can build your apps for all 3 rendering engines, write 3 versions of the same thing that’ll create a mess, it’ll still will NEVER work, no matter what you do, under IE6-8 and probably any minor update to browser or spec will break the thing.

        Any complex HTML5 code is a maintenance nightmare.

        The whole HTML5 is a mess. It isn’t even finished! Media capabilities are ridiculous, there’s not even decent support for playing sound or any filters other than opacity. Canvas? Performance under IE is appaling. SVG maybe… anything below IE9 isn’t suitable.

        Arguments like this are ridiculous. You basically state that no one will build flash additions for websites because it’ll run for “only” 99% of the market including all browsers on PC, Linux and Mac.. BUT it won’t run on iPads. Instead you say you’ll use HTML5 that’ll run … in only ONE browser, that one you wrote code for… of course untill you have the browser updated. Then you probably need to make changes to your “modern” HTML5 code :)

        People spreading FUD like this are a bunch of kids following recent fashion trend created by apple or “developers” that never code a thing!

  • I honestly thought Adobe resilience with Flash was going to last well into 2012. I don’t celebrate this per se, but I am actually relieved that there isn’t a real power struggle regarding this. If there is one thing I detest is being stuck in the middle when it comes to format wars, technology wars, etc.

  • We kind of saw this coming, but Adobe is developing a tool called Edge, for creating rich experiences in HTML5. It’s currently in release 3, meaning that it does not yet have all the features baked in. It is interesting the way they are building this tool, they are releasing it to the public in iterations, getting the users’ input to create what designer’s and developers want. It’s pretty cool, check it out!

  • Great article!

  • Rob D.

    They are stopping work on Flash Player for mobile browsers, but Flash is still quite relevant for creating mobile apps (delivered using Adobe AIR, not in the browser).

    Another massive failure by Adobe public relations. They start the meme that “Flash is dead” and then don’t even bother with damage control. Remember when Apple said they wouldn’t allow Flash, or Flash-developed apps, on the iPhone or iPad? Everyone heard about that because Apple’s PR machine is awesome. But how many people know that Apple reneged on that policy a few months later, and you’ve been able to build apps in Flash for iOS ever since?

  • Thanks for your comment, slawek22, it’s nice to get some feedback, but, no, actually, not because Steve said so. Where did you get that from? You’re obviously dredging the bottom of your own resentful mind.Actually, I always found Flash a pain but there was no other way, so I was just glad I could do it. I even got pretty excited about doing a whole app in Flash. Now I can do everything I want using HTML and JavaScript.I’ve not proceeded far into HTML 5 yet but cross browser support for various HTML and DOM features have been advancing steadily. I gave up on Flash a few years ago. I WILL be able to code an advanced web app with one set of code and watch it work on multiple browsers.I’m interested to try a serious app on HTML 5 to see how it plays, but basically I have to commit to HTML 5 because that’s the standard. I’m not expecting it to be worse than HTML 4.Maybe you can’t do everything YOU want in HTML, which is perhaps why you’re rusted on to Flash. So I guess life is going to get harder and harder for you, as Flash pales away and falls off, which is possibly why you’re so resentful.

    • Slawek22

       Well you fail to bring any valid points. You dislike flash, because it’s a “pain” and it’s “not standard”.  HTML5 is just too complex to be standarized across browsers. So with HTML5 you’re unable to write cross-browser compatible code. With flash you can’t write code for Apple devices and that’s it.

      As for the standard. Flash is standard, several people just have the problem that one company makes the standard.

      >I have to commit to HTML 5 because that’s the standard
      Well it isn’t. The standard is going to be completed somewhere near 2020. For now it’s just a “draft” which browsers are implementing more or less correctly.

      • Slawek22, I was just sharing my personal perspective, I wasn’t trying to make any points. I write to whatever cross-browser compatible “standard” that I can. However, while I used to use Flash for more advanced interface behaviour, now I don’t need to. That makes me happy. It’s just a relief to be able to drop off one extra technology. I find it easier without Flash. See you in 2020.

  • Orion5a

    This is a poorly researched, biassed article.

    This what the powers that be have decided: 

    – The desktop web will continue to push the envelope with Flash at the lead and HTML5 on it’s heals.
    – The mobile web will be dominated by HTML5, and will be a simpler, lower bandwidth, place designed for small screens and slower devices.
    – Rich interactive experiences for mobile will be the domain of apps — easily monetized, higher performance, with more options for proprietary and cross-platform tools (Flash & AIR, Unity, Haxe, etc.)

    The biggest impact for web designers is that the standard practice will be to design, develop and maintain separate mobile versions for all web sites.  This trend is already picking up a lot of momentum, all Adobe & Apple announcements aside. It’s a no-brainer for a lot of reasons.

    Flash developers will now focus on desktop web and mobile AIR apps for high-end rich experiences (primarily games), and switch to HTML 5 for simple, interactive experiences for the mobile web.

    Joel: maybe do some research before you spout off the latest Apple fanboy or Web Standards propaganda, anti-Flash knee-jerk reaction, BS.

    Articles like this do a disservice to designers and developers everywhere.

  • Chivve11

    The content of the post is very well, from here I know much about sports knowledge. It can provide a lot of the latest sports news. I love this post. By the way I know some about websites which content is also very well..”

    Oklahoma Web Design

  • Tejacharu


    Nice articles but you dont focus only mobile user mostly 70% of people browsing only in browsing center not mobile.

    thank you,