Although I use to make a living from Flash since Flash 4 (learning time) and Flash 5 (real usage time, when AS 1 was born), I’ve never been in the mood to write about the goods and chimes of Flash, as most of times I’ve been forced to agree with the general sense which said that stuff made-in-Flash was crap. Who doesn’t hate Flash intros and banners and nonsensycal fireworks?
Today, in the mature age of Flash (and maybe myself’s professional mature age), I see the cake quite different.
- Flash is a plugin, just like the old Java plugin, QuickTime, Windows Media Player or VRML: a way to introduce rich content in a browser.
- Nobody demands for a plugin a bunch of features regarding navigability (integration with common browser’s features, such as history, bookmarking or accessibility), except for the Flash plugin.
- People in Macromedia (then) and Adobe (now) made a great effort of creativity and enthusiasm in order to introduce in the Flash plugin lots of features, including support for audio, video and 3D. Do you remember when you was forced to install a bunch of things only to hear audio in the mp3 format? Flash supported it. Do you remember when watching a video in the web was sort of chance if you had the codec installed, if available at all for your machine specs? Flash made possible a successful website such as Youtube. Do you remember when people needed something else, from the programming point of view, and AS 2 was born (and yet more AS 3), being a real alternative to today’s so called Web 2.0 and smelly things such as Ajax, which is today a very common technology?
- Flash, even being a plugin, offered a bridge to the user’s surfing experience from the beginnings. Wheter you like it or not, being more or less difficult for the developer, you can bookmark a page from Flash contents, access the history, make a Flash movie fully accessible and localizable, make practice of asynchronous communication with the server, get your contents indexed by major search engines and a long catalogue of things you would never expect from a plugin.
- Most probably, people who feels anger against Flash, feels anger as well against bad (or low-cost, if you prefer so) web developers. Me and my team can make a full blown rich app driven by Flash -in the client side- in a few days, supporting navigability, accessibility AAA and advanced features (such as databases in the backend). Today, 2010, you are told to make a website with A/V support. You have three days to make it live. Will you rely on WM, QT or Real? Or you will stick with the de-facto standard, codenamed Flash? What about 3D? Do you prefer Flash via Swift 3D, for example, or you will force your users to install whatever plugin?
- Bad and low-cost developers still can offer with Flash to their bad and low-cost customers much more than they can offer with their bad and low-cost web knowledge.
- Although Flash still offers usually much more features than other plugins (I won’t say “similar plugins”, as I don’t know similar ones), including a brand new OOP programming interface with AS 3 and integration with most if not all of modern technologies, along with the mentioned A/V capabilities, as well as support for 3D, bitmap and vector graphics, camera and micro input, etc… Although Flash offers more and still more, it still offers more again: Flash was exiled from major mobile platforms (specially iPhone, which is a point of reference), but Flash keeps trying and trying. The new betas, with an eye put over the mobile platforms, are performing so fine in the desktop in the first optimization. I believe they’ll keep improving. Stuff in the computer uses to require more and more resources (RAM, CPU, etc.). That’s because we all are forced to replace our computers, mobile phones (and now also TVs —in Spain, at least— with digital TV). And now Flash is in the business of downsampling: more features, less resources. It was time, anyway, and now begun the race. They’ll keep improving. Once more again, we demand from Flash a very high level of performance and optimization we don’t in fact demand to the own machines (nobody seems to blame Apple for creating a 4 GB iPhone or iPod, then very soon the 8GB one, then 16, 32GB, etc., making every new release feel oldies the previous ones). Adobe is making his homework in order to optimize CPU and RAM usage, support multitouch and a very long etcetera in the chain of the —oftenly stupid— needs of the market.
- SWF specs are free. We have now many tools —paid and free— to create and compile Flash movies. If you are freak enough, you can even create your own swf-based format and your swf-based flash player. In fact, they DO exist. You can even use your Flash knowledge to create robust cross-platform desktop apps based on SWF (Adobe’s AIR wasn’t the first to make it real, others did it first, creating environments similar to the RealBASIC or Revolution IDE’s and runtimes, such as mProjector, Zinc or the open-source HippoHX… And much more).
- Still waiting for others’ answers: universal, cross-platform, localizable, accessible, extensible and with the unlimited level of support of a huge and still-growing community of developers. And, as stated, with the enthusiasm required to make something new every day.
- Finally, the market rules. In my personal and tiny market, I never thought I was forced to learn AS 3, coming from AS 1 and 2, as well as I never thought the print shop would never accept as input a 5MB PDF document, instead of a Quark 3 document with a bunch of fonts and images enclosed in a ZIP disk. Today we have market for Flash, as well as yesterday, and a brighting future for the “newborn” AS 3 language, along with all the daily newcome features for us developers and end-users.