It’s never been about the open web

by Cedric Dugas on December 22, 2011

Warning! warning! rant ahead! I wrote this a week or two weeks ago, not being sure if I should publish it, finally decided to go for it.

The open web grinds my gear, there I said it! It seems a lot of developers wave their flags at every technology that are not open like the open web was the only solution viable. There is some sort of movement about the power of the open web and more specifically HTML5, and these days HTML5 is about pretty much anything that was added to the web stack for 2 years.

Even non developers heard of HTML5. Hell, even the web agency secretary knows the buzz word.

People supporting the Occupy Flash movement don’t get it

It seems the Occupy movement even got into web technologies. Even if “occupying flash” doesn’t make any sense if you want people to uninstall it. If I had to guess, I would say that the people supporting Occupy flash never really delved into that technology and just are kind of pissed that most of the publicity on the web is in flash (which makes a pretty poor audience to go to war with anyway). Because knowing the technology, you would know that Adobe API’s for creating interactive experiences is specially awesome, and that AS3 is a really beautiful language.

It’s so slow

So why do you want to remove Flash from the web again? Oh yeah, slow, buggy software… Guess what, there are as much javascript developers than AS3 developers that don’t care about performance, and the consequences are as much important: crashing and slowing your computer.

So don’t tell me it slows the web. A more accurate saying would be that videos and animations slow the web. The more we have javascript, animations, canvas, videos, the more your page is going to crash, whatever the technology. If Flash never existed another technology would have slowed down your computer with videos and animations.

Adobe is iterating a zillion times faster than the W3C body. Adding cooler API’s to Flash every year. Forget it guys it’s not going away. And this bring us to the next subject.

Flash cannot be replaced by HTML5 (* not currently, not in the near future)

Now you could certainly use HTML5 and jQuery to do what Flash does? Bullshit. That’s a statement that I often see. What does jQuery has to do with HTML5 anyway? You are going to query canvas with jQuery?

What you can currently replace, is the same thing that you could replace 3 years ago when jQuery 1.0 came out: basic animations. So why all the fuss?

CSS3 is a mess cross browser, it’s non-existent on IE8 and less, and canvas API’s are so low level we currently have no idea if you will be able to achieve all the great stuff that you do with Flash with a decent framerate soon.

No, Occupy Flash is about supporting the open web

The what web? Who’s behind the open web? Google, Apple, Sun, etc. The same companies that love proprietary technologies. They love it so much that they could not decide one default video format for HTML5 pushing for their own. They love so much javascript that they created a competitor much like Actionscript, Dart. They love it so much that they put their companies’ needs before the needs of the many.

They also bring us absurd things like “aside” , aside what? How does it help semantic if I can’t understand from the get go what it does. Is that going to be remove? No, that would mean tons of back and forth with tons of people that are moving a ship bigger than the largest boat on earth and consequently can never turn on a dime. Once a direction is taken, going to the other side is slow and costly.

The open web is a great smoke screen if you ask me. It’s nice that we move forward, it’s nice that we got new tools (thanks god for border-radius and box-shadow) but it does not mean it’s the better tool for all situations.

It’s about using the technology that make sense for your client or product.

You want to create an interactive experience, bring emotions, nothing will beat Flash with great designers. You want to create a web application, well there is a ton of opened and closed framework to that end. You must choose technology depending what is better for your team.

About mobile..

In fact it seems we are steering more and more away from open technologies. Mobile is all about closed frameworks that are faster than the open web. Try an app with jQuery mobile, then try an native application, which is faster? Maybe we should kill all apps created with Phonegap, or maybe, it’s all about using the right technology at the right time.



16 comments

(Not sure if you’re trolling, or serious)

Can you explain how you handle accessibility and search engine performance with Flash?

Can you explain how you handle mobile development with Flash? Mobile web apps perform just fine on most devices, and don’t require me to write a version for WebOS, Android, iOS, BlackBerry Mobile, etc. You will never see that same performance squeezed out of a Flash application on mobile. I don’t know what type of clients you deal with, but the ones I work with want a desktop-class site that performs similarly on a tablet, but doesn’t have the budget or the need to make a full native app for all of the platforms.

HTML is evolving rather quickly. Most of what Flash provides is already being implemented in HTML. Name something in Flash that doesn’t have an HTML spec. Sure, we have to wait for old browsers to die out. But most of them have adopted a rapid release cycle, making the traditional upgrade process irrelevant.

You essentially say: “use the best tool for the job” (which is such an overused phrase in this industry). I think what most of us are saying is “Flash is never the best tool for the job”.

by Ben Truyman on December 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm. Reply #

“Can you explain how you handle accessibility and search engine performance with Flash?”

I am certainly dead serious. Website created with flash are generally games / videos experiences / experimental suff using sound / video / complex animations. Since when did you saw a content website done with flash? that is really not where I was going with this. Have you ever used flash and do you understand what it is excellent at doing?

I also never talked about using flash on mobile, I don’t really see the use for it anyway. Unless you use the flash builder that compile to native, which is basically “the same” as using any other tool like phonegap or titanium, which is not necessarly bad. I like those frameworks and what they bring to mobile and I think it’s a great idea, and have a big potential future, like HTML5.

But, you are kidding me on name something flash have that html does not, Have you ever look at how the actionscript 3 api’s are comprehensive (and tested, and work everywhere). Not counting the plugin ecosystems.. Not even looking I can say access to microphone and web cam.

One example, sound
http://help.adobe.com/en_US/FlashPlatform/reference/actionscript/3/flash/media/package-detail.html

Now look at all the apis, soundTransform, soundMixer, soundCodec (ouch html5 heh), soundchannel

Now check html
https://wiki.mozilla.org/Audio_Data_API

Flash will always lead the innovative way, thats for sure because companies move faster, and I would not be surprise adobe provides the best tools for canvas and css3, 3d animations in the future. Its not a rant against html5 mind you, its a rant about exactly your comment! “Flash is never the best tool for the job”.

Since you seems sure that Flash is never the best tool for the job, and you think html5 can takeover, right now. How do you give a compelling experience to people on internet explorer?

by Cedric Dugas on December 22, 2011 at 3:30 pm. Reply #

Just real quick in response to replacing flash with HTML5. are you going to do it with canvas? probably not. It does, however go pretty far. You can certainly do everything with a combination of video, audio, canvas and WebGL that you can do with Flash.

And that’s really the point of HTML5, we’re taking all the stuff that’s been going on informally with plugins, javascript and various products and officially acknowledging it in a formal way with standardized APIs.

Of course it will be years before Flash is gone because of browser support, but I mean, come on, everything is a cross browser mess. Flash just like most technologies, will be gone at some point but it certainly difficult to say when.

by Tim Wright on December 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm. Reply #

@Tim Wright: Have you really try to create an immersive experience using a combination of video, audio, canvas and WebGL? Just try it and you will soon realize the complexity of making it work on even modern browser is a complete nightmare.

Actionscript have a bunch of awesome API that all well tested on all plugins ecosystem. That’s the main advantages of Flash over HTML5: cross-browser and cross-os tested plugins.

I’ve develop Flash experience and Flash website for the past 5 years and always keep my eyes on HTML/CSS/JS during that time. I’ve begin to develop interactive experience in HTML5 this year and i could say that budget and timeframe need to be bigger using HTML5 versus Flash.

I love HTML5 as much as i love Flash, but for the moment, there is no way to claim that Flash is dead and HTML5 is better….
but technologies pushes the web to the limit and that’s what important for now and tomorrow.

by Dominic Mercier on December 22, 2011 at 8:53 pm. Reply #

Yea, I have. and you’re right, it’s really hard. But I don’t feel like “it’s really hard” is a valid excuse for anything.

by Tim Wright on December 23, 2011 at 8:04 am. Reply #

哈哈

by 士大夫 on May 10, 2012 at 3:36 am. #

I don’t want an “immersive environment”. I want the Web. The immersive environments are those massive ghastly Flash (AND JavaScript, but mostly Flash) monstrosities that get in the way of actually getting the information one needs.

by Tom Morris on December 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm. Reply #

You are totally right when looking at things outside of the enterprise pov. Have you heard about Adobe Flex? Its a great framework, but the fact that the flash player plugin is required for a web app for business use is absurd. This is why more businesses are hopping into the HTML 5 bandwagon.

by cw on December 23, 2011 at 8:36 am. Reply #

This discussion about flash is funny. Adobe said officially that they give up. Flash will stay here, have new versions, security updates. But it is no longer the main strategy. Adobe go forward helping developper leverage HTML5/CSS and alike.

This is not because flash is bad, this is for a simple real reason: highend mobile is dominated by apple, and apple don’t allow flash to work on their devices. If you want reaches, and more importantly reache to people that have money to spend you have to support iOS, and that mean apps or HTML5. Not flash.

So we can go for apps. Is it serious? Today apps are on Android, iOS, MacOSX, Chrome, soon on Windows 8. But also on all mobile OS, and already in some TV systems.

Tomorrow your fridge, your car, all devices will have some internet/app features. And even on same kind of device you could have several echosystem.

Imagine the fridge. You want to add an eCommerce app for your service to be available on all fridges. Nice. Now you have say 3 major systems depending on the fridge and a dozen small one. You’ll not develop for all.

And what about the TV or the Car? Wouldn’t it be good if the car, provided you with a reminder of what you have to buy and where it is located?

Now imagine the price it would cost to develop an app for all device your consumer might interract with?

On the opposite you can have a standard that might have some limit on what you can do but give you reaches. You can have thin non standard part that give access to specific device features. That where the future is.

Today sofware is already complex and making something good is really costly… even just on the web or on the desktop. Having 20 versions of it isn’t the best way to leverage your dev teams.

by Nicolas on December 27, 2011 at 5:40 am. Reply #

Hi Cedric,

But don’t you just hate Flash? It’s probably one of the most insecure plugins that we “need” to install in this day and age to watch videos, regardless of the source. Of course, there are worse alternatives, but Flash isn’t the best.

by itoctopus on December 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm. Reply #

@Nicolas they gave up on mobile flash, desktop flash is still alive and kicking// not sure where you take your sources?? they just released 3d api’s + hardware accelerated for desktop..

Of course they will create libraries and software to help with open techs (obviously there is a market there)

The problem with flash mobile is hard and simple at the same time, you can’t go on desktop flash sites because it has been build for desktop power.

You need optimized experiences, and with Apple decision to not embed flash(which has nothing to do with making a better web if you ask me) there was not much market for it.

So you were stuck with a sucking experiences on any video sites you were going, that is why flash mobile is no more.

Not sure where your going the rest your were saying, tell me who is going to go on facebook on his fridge? What market you are seeing with having your fridge connected to internet that require html/css/js? Bridges to technologies are good for simple apps, when you go complex it is always better to go native. Better performance, more power, more possibilities, less restrictions.

These days, most api’s can be opened on the web and can be used with any language or tech.

by Cedric Dugas on December 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm. Reply #

“It’s about using the technology that make sense for your client or product.”

While I am a proponent of CSS3, Jquery and HTML5 over Flash (mostly because I always found Flash development tedious) I don’t think any web developer can argue with this statement. Everyone has his or her preferences, but development should always be about using the right tool to solve the problem.

by Tyler on January 2, 2012 at 12:08 pm. Reply #

i think your are right my friend most of the jquery work related to Jscript i have seen developers to doing these kind of tasks in html & Css3.

by Scott Shabot on January 5, 2012 at 6:20 am. Reply #

Development should always be about using the right tool to solve the problem – Flash will increasingly become the wrong tool to solve problems.

A couple of years from now, with broader HTML5 support and better tooling for the associated technologies and APIs, it wont even be a debate anymore.

I was at one stage a Macromedia certified Flash instructor – and I’m only too familiar with the drop off in of Flash adoption due to its weaknesses (perceived and real) and it seems clear where we are headed now that its primary role is being standardized by a set of capable and strongly endorsed technologies.

Flash has been great, and an important step, but nothing lasts forever.

by Andy Grant on February 15, 2012 at 7:23 am. Reply #

I think HTML5 is just the fifth revision of the HTML standard, so I do not see what this has to do with Flash. I think Adobe made a mistake deciding to kill Flash. Flash is really solid stuff, with amazing capabilities. If just Flash would have been integrated in browsers and AS3 files would have been served as scripts… wait, will call this HTML6.
Nice article Cedric!

by iulian on March 29, 2012 at 5:42 pm. Reply #

As a non-professional, amateur web developer who has a totally unrelated job for a living, I find your statements to be extremely to the point.
But then again, I don’t like any form of fanatism, so probably that’s the main reason why.

by Mauro on June 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm. Reply #

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