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Flash is dead, long live … What?

According to Steve Jobs, Flash is dead. He should know, because he’s the one holding the murder weapon. Flash is dead to Apple because they are not allowing it on the iPad, a device which otherwise would seem ideal for viewing the kind of rich media content the Flash platform excels at.

Obviously, Apple’s decision, and Jobs’ declaration, is not a prescient message from the future, but a company policy intended to protect the profits from their app store. They do not want their sexy device to be able to access all the rich content from the web, they want to be able to charge you for it instead. Even so, when someone like Steve Jobs declares Flash is dead, people take notice. So if the future is no longer Flash, … what is it?

Even before Apple weighed in, I’d noticed the demand for Flash has been on the wane. And even more noticeable has been the wavering interest of my fellow Flash devs. Symptomatic of these times, the Flash Brighton group, the collective home of the finest Flash designers and programmers in Brighton, is in the process of a rebrand, which will very likely include (gasp) dropping the word “Flash” from the group name.

On an individual level, I’ve seen many of Brighton’s finest recently devoting their attention to non-Adobe products. And these are the folks who know. So here are some of the technologies people have been playing with:

Unity – a 3D games engine, also banished from the iPhone via their T&Cs, but capable of some amazing browser based interaction. See for many fine examples. If you want a Unity developer, may I recommend my friend and colleague Iestyn.

OpenFrameworks – a C++ framework, capable of creating multi-platform content. Ideal for interactive art, ambitious installations and audio-reactive work, but also capable of publishing to devices such as the iPad, iPhone and Android. This has been my own favourite toy of late.

Processing – a highly accessible language based on Java. Not so great for the web, but excellent for digital art, video or offline interactive work. For the web there is Processing.js, a JavaScript port, which is probably the best Flash animation alternative currently. I have written an introductory book on the subject of Processing, if you want to get up to speed that might be a good place to start.

HTML5 – this is Jobs’ answer to the lack of Flash on the iPad. Unfortunately, while HTML5 has a huge amount of promise, it is still many years away from Flash’s current power. Even if Adobe were to cease developing Flash/Flex today, by the time HTML5 had caught up the iPad will be a distant memory (because we’ll all have migrated to Android devices long ago).

Objective C – inevitably, many Flash devs don’t like being locked out of the platform-de-jour, so have been awarding their attentions to Objective-C, Apple’s OS language. Again, if you want an iPhone developer, there are people I can recommend.

Flex – while Flash demand is dropping, Flex demand has been on the increase. Flex app are still using the Flash Player, so they’re no more welcome on the iPad than any other breed of Flash, but it still remains the best solution for rich media online.

Personally, I disagree with Apple; there is still a future for the Flash platform. Although Adobe are going to have to pull their socks up to fight back, ignore Apple’s greedy posturing, and focus on all the things that HTML5 can’t do very well. Video for example. Or how about 3D?

posted July 8th, 2010

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iestyn lloyd said...

Just to let you know Unity games are still being approved for iPhone and iPad!

More info here:

Flo - said...

Hi, I started also developing in Flash several years ago. I really love Flash, but during my studies at the Art University I am leaving Flash more and more… I am using at moment more your mentioned tool Processing. For creative coding I am not sure if Flash still has a big future…

Luckily, Joshua Davis is pushing things forward with the Hype Framework…

I also wrote a blog post about creative coding tools, maybe it is interesting for you?!

Jensa said...

This really of echoes the Oslo UG ( We’ve had presentations on all of the above as well. Many are playing with other tech, but then again haven’t we’ve always done that? I mean – creative coders are the ones that go to UG meetings. Creative coders are always looking for challenges and ways to push the envelope. They go to the meetings for inspiration, discussion and community. They love to check out new things and sometimes they’ll stick with that if they feel they’ve outgrown Flash. Seems like a very natural process to me.

As for demand – I don’t feel there any lack of it, quite the opposite. Despite many good coders going to other tech, there’s new people coming in as well and there’s plenty of good projects to do.


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