It’s a known fact that mobile Apple products don’t support Flash technology for philosophical and technical reasons. Microsoft has revealed that Flash will be limited in Windows 8; Internet Explorer 10 will not load any plugins while running in Metro interface mode. However, content requiring plugins such as Flash may still be viewed in classic desktop mode. With the general industry push towards HTML5 driven sites and two of the big contenders moving away from Flash, Adobe itself has conceded and announced that it will no longer be developing Flash for mobile devices.
With the trend shifting from browser plugins to HTML, is Flash doomed as an internet technology? Is this the end of the technology that enriched our browsing experience with games, videos, and wildly interactive interfaces? Perhaps so, for Flash as we know it anyway. I wouldn’t condemn Flash just yet though – there may still be much life left. But first, why the shift towards HTML5?
Why Flash is an inconvenience
With all of its benefits, Flash also brings inherent complications stemming from its plugin nature. One big problem is that Flash is only awesome if the browser has it installed, with no fallback support in its absence. Another issue, content displayed with Flash is not available to other browser plugins and/or specialized styling rules that might enhance said content for people with disabilities, censor inappropriate content, etc. Furthermore, browsers that don’t support Flash are completely out of luck in displaying a site built entirely with Flash. The list of disadvantages goes on but now let’s talk about the benefits of an HTML5 approach.
HTML on the other hand is THE standard for content delivery via websites, and HTML5 is fully backwards compatible with earlier versions. True, the experience may not be the same on more limited/older browsers but the content is gracefully degraded to plaintext. Every browser is capable of displaying HTML, which is ultimately plaintext. Alright images aren’t text, but images have always been complimentary visuals and the more recent HTML specs state that images must have an alternative text attribute to be used in the case that images cannot be displayed.
What is replacing Flash
Flash in the future?
Alright so a Flash-less (and plugin-less) browsing experience makes sense. That’s not to say that Flash technology doesn’t have its uses. The fun things that Flash does for us are still fun! Flash is still good for building highly visual interactive applications. From a developer’s perspective the Flash platform API and development tools are still powerful tools for quickly creating applications!
Ultimately, I don’t believe that Flash is necessarily doomed – being cut off as an internet technology is merely a change of venue. Where Flash goes from here is ultimately up to its ability to adapt to shifting trends.