Any presentation technology is entirely dependent on its tools. This has been true since the very earliest days of computers when the presence of a high quality text editor, compiler and debugger could make the difference in a $35 million corporate purchasing decision.
Adobe Flash occupies a hallowed place in the history of the Internet for one unique reason. It was the first technology to bring sound, motion, animation, business logic, compatibility and manageable system requirements to the Internet in the same package.
Integrated Development Tools
Microsoft’s Visual Basic remains one of the best products ever brought to market for developers, and its results speak for themselves. The reason for its success was the stellar quality of its integrated development environment (IDE). Developers could literally draw Windows applications on the screen and stitch them together with a minimum of manual coding. Only Borland’s Delphi came close to matching Visual Basic.
Adobe’s Flash tackled exactly the same problem but approached it less from a logic standpoint and more from a cinematic standpoint. Flash also made high quality streaming video possible at a point in the web’s history when few alternatives existed. The result was a $1.65 billion business called YouTube.
PC to Mobile
Flash encountered its first headwinds not long after YouTube was launched. Its biggest problem was PCs run on wall outlets. Mobile devices run on batteries. Flash was suddenly caught in a world where every processor cycle mattered, and it wasn’t prepared. Mobile developers ran for the exits and in the process abandoned a mature, stable technology in favor of a set of flimsy unstable tools.
HTML5 to the Rescue?
While HTML5 is close to replicating what Flash was able to do, developing in HTML5 is a disjointed bug-riddled nightmare, especially for large-scale applications or any kind of client server architecture that relies on complex presentation of multi-category data. What Flash did was provide a solid, tested IDE and an unmoving target to write applications to. HTML5 provides no IDE and a constantly moving target controlled by huge corporations all of which are competing with the people trying to deploy applications on their browsers.
Flash the browser plug-in is probably dead. However, Flash the IDE and application development platform will be around for a very long time. Simply put, there are no equivalent alternatives, and by the looks of things, Adobe may have enough of a head start at this point there never will be.