Is The End of Flash Near?


The powers that be are moving strongly against Adobe Flash. Will it make it remain a key player on the internet or soon be as antiquated as a Java Applet?

Flash is being attacked on multiple fronts: Apple, Usability, Silverlight and HTML 5. Can it survive? Let’s consider each of its threats.


With Apple’s most recent decision to ban all cross-compilers on the iPhone, they have royally screwed Abobe. The iPhone cross-compiler was the key feature of Flash CS 5 and and now it’s worthless.

What’s strange about this one is that users genuinely want Flash on their phone. So how long can Apple keep flash off the their devices? The answer seems to be indefinitely.

It’s good to be the king of the platform. As flash has learned the hard way, don’t piss off the king.


The usability gurus have long had it out for Flash. Jakob Nielsen (ie – Mr. Usability) had this to say about Flash in an article entitled 99% bad:

About 99% of the time, the presence of Flash on a website constitutes a usability disease. Although there are rare occurrences of good Flash design (it even adds value on occasion), the use of Flash typically lowers usability. In most cases, we would be better off if these multimedia objects were removed.

Flash tends to degrade websites for three reasons: it encourages design abuse, it breaks with the Web’s fundamental interaction principles, and it distracts attention from the site’s core value.

Ouch! At least flash still has that 1% going for it!

And did I mention that he wrote the article in October of 2000? Yes, he has a long, long hatred of flash.


With the advent of Silverlight, Microsoft is now gunning for them, by creating a Flash clone that’s better architected and surely much more likely to attract the hearts and minds of existing Microsoft developers – of which there are many.

Silverlight’s main hurdle is getting installed on all the browsers, but Microsoft still has such a huge slice of the browser market. And they can go a long way towards solving this by pushing Silverlight with a windows update.

It’s unclear what role Silverlight will play as it’s still so young, but Microsoft has a long history of slowly overtaking competing products after starting from way behind (Anyone still using Word Perfect?).

If nothing else, they will carve away at the audience of developers and users who want interactive content on the web. Who knows how many of the current crop of C# developers would be Java developers if C# did not exist?


HTML5 may be the largest threat of all to flash. Not only does HTML5 have some of the same features as flash, but it has the trump card of being a web standard rather than locked into one vendor.

It just seems to fit the open nature of the web better. And in maybe a sign of the times, YouTube is transitioning to HTML5 video (away from Flash).


So what does this all mean for Flash? The future does not look good, with all of the barbarians at the gate, but they could still innovate their way out of this dilemma by providing something beyond what it available in Silverlight or HTML5.

And if all else fails, at least they’ll always have Club Penguin.


2 Comments » for Is The End of Flash Near?
  1. John Dowdell says:

    Hard to say, rumors of deaths are often exaggerated:

    (I believe there’s usefulness in a common high-performance engine bridging various proprietary silos.)


  2. Bryant says:

    HA! Nice John. I love the reference to Crises on Infinite Earths.

    Believe it or not, I actually remember reading that exact comic when I was growing up. And who knows, maybe flash will be reborn…

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