Did Adobe finally kill Macromedia Flash?

Adobe announced that it is ceasing development on the Flash Player for Mobile Devices. As you may know, I was on the engineering team that brought Flash Player 10.1 to Mobile Devices back in June, 2010. This announcement is disappointing for many reasons, but not surprising given the realities of mobile web development.

While I was at Adobe, we spent a great deal of time and energy to get the Flash Player to run fast enough on the HTC Nexus One running the Android OS. At the same time, Apple was making it very clear that Flash would never be allowed to run under Mobile Safari, especially if our goal was to have it work on Android first. The writing was already on the wall even before we shipped: no matter what we did, or how well we did it, we were not going to have our ubiquitous platform extend to the Mobile world.

Of course, that’s not the whole story. What I’m truly disappointed about is that Adobe is exiting the Flash Platform business–they laid off 750 people yesterday, including the entire US-based Flash authoring tool team. This means that offering a free Flash Player runtime subsidized by selling tools is no longer a business Adobe is interested in. I always worked to ensure that SWF as a data type could have the same ubiquity as JPEG. That is, you could trust that the SWF you authored in 1998 would be rendered by a publicly available runtime in 2028. For this to happen, you need to have an organization that can shepherd the technology and commit to doing so for all time.

Unfortunately, Adobe is not that organization.

Or is it? I hope that they release the runtime code to the public domain so that others can extend and maintain it. I’m well aware that there are 3rd-party licenses in the code, but that can be easily redacted. If there is any hope left for Flash to survive, it will have to be an open-source implementation that can fulfill the promise of a ubiquitous rich-media data type for years to come. Adobe needs to acknowledge that the public needs SWF to survive, and that opening up the platform is now the only way to ensure that outcome.

21 thoughts on “Did Adobe finally kill Macromedia Flash?

  1. During Adobe’s Financial Analyst Meeting today which they streamed online, Adobe demoed the next version of Flash Professional, outputting content Flash as well as HTML, JavaScript and CSS. So from what I’ve seen Adobe isn’t abandoning the Flash authoring tool. However, it would still be a shame if as you said they fired the whole US team but I wonder if those jobs are being moved to another country, if that’s the case.

  2. I have a lot of the same questions, I haven’t been this disappointed since they killed the Flash Mobile Installer (which was supposed to be a huge workaround for the runtime issue) or since I went through months of dev work only to have the Apple store kick our apps out two days before CS5 was released. My question is, what are they saying to their partners who were making such a big deal out of the “experience the ENTIRE web with this Flash capable device” pitch line?

  3. (unconfirmed) word on the street is that Flex engineering is moving to India (now by the sounds of it, as is Flash engineering) – Jobs for (Shantanu’s) boys

  4. Sitting on the sidelines, and as a part-time web developer, it would seem to me that the days of Flash are numbered. ‘Cause why would I develop a website using html5 to be sure it renders the same on all mobile devices, and then why would I learn new tools for the desktop, when I can just use different CSS?

  5. I’ve had some great conversations with Adobe employees, most of whom worked in the Flash Player team. I’ve been concerned — wondering how many of those laid off were from the San Francisco offices, and how many might have been people that I’ve met.

    Is this the whole US Flash Player team, or the US Flash IDE team?

    People who have been saying today how glad they are that “Flash is finally dead” must not know what they are missing. AS3 and a single runtime (especially with an IDE like FlashDevelop behind it) is a phenomal workflow compared to traditional Javascript and cross-browser debugging.

    I am glad that I am relying on NME for my applications (so I still have options) but more than that, I feel for the team that’s helped make the last 12 years of my professional work possible.

    Thank you

  6. People saying how glad they are that “Flash is finally dead” aren’t developers, so they don’t really know what they are talking about. Just sheepishly following the anti-Flash trend.

  7. You’re right, we’re not developers – we’re users. And we have spoken – Flash is a buggy, bloated, slow, inefficient and broken system. I can’t count the number of times Flash sites have locked up my desktop browser. In almost two years of iPhone use, I have never once missed having Flash.

    Was there a place and time for Flash? Sure. That place and time has passed.

  8. @Travis:
    You’re incorrect. Flash doesn’t kill your browser, bad developers kill your browser. Proper error handling and memory maintenance prevents flash pieces from ever killing a browser or slowing anything down. It’s a shame that these items are released out into the wild. 🙁

  9. I’ve been asking myself why Adobe doesn’t just open-source the player–or better yet, submit it as a standard. It seems like a lot of work is going to waste, and the environment and community are leagues ahead of HTML5 canvas or SVG.

    My gut reaction is that for any HTML5 tool to be a success, Adobe can’t use the “Flash” branding. It’s too much of a lightning rod now, and consumers will raise a red flag at the term.

    Also, good point regarding performance blame on the developer and not the player. I think a lot of people forget that the online video industry is too segmented right now, and that compiled code, such as that for Flash games, is easier to test, downloads faster, and is less hackable than the HTML5 equivalent.

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  11. Mike Chambers says “including the entire US-based Flash authoring tool team” is false http://www.mikechambers.com/blog/2011/11/10/flash-professional-and-the-future so please lets stop this FUD.

    Anyway Flash Professional is still a very much needed tool beyond SWF files if it can just output HTML/JS/SVG whatever, which is what they are working on. People underestimate the value Adobe has in trained designer/animator talent out there using their tools every day. The output format is less important.

  12. @Gary: I stand behind my statements and have a pending comment on Mike’s blog. I was, at one time, the Software Architect and Engineering Manager for the Flash CS authoring tool and I have nothing to gain by engaging in FUD tactics. I do have several friends who are losing their jobs and I have a very real interest in making sure their story is told.

  13. It appears that my comment on Mike’s blog was not selected for display. I won’t post it here out of respect for Mike and my other friends at Adobe who are working hard to contain this very public mess that was not their fault. I sincerely hope that the leadership team at Adobe have reconsidered their plans for the Flash Platform, including the Flash authoring tool and the great engineers who work on it.

  14. Nice comments.
    Adobe clearly lacks vision for Flash which is more than demonstrated in their near complete inability to refute critics of it or present forward-thinking, clear future development goals.
    I’m very irked by the jeering crowd of mostly disgruntled IT wonks who always have had an issue with flash because it “made their job harder”.
    Flash was (and hopefully is and remains) a great product. i’d love to see it go open source. It would be a Godsend.

  15. Pingback: Flash: I’m not dead yet! | junglecode.net

  16. Flash is light-years ahead of anything else out there. HTML5 is a standard on paper, but will never have a standard implementation, and it’s still seeing inconsistencies in canvas output related to pixel density scaling between safari mobile and safari desktop. Same old shit.

    Flash, on the other hand, is write once, run anywhere. Using FlashDevelop as a code editor is incredible, allowing me to craft complex applications with the assistance of code hinting, refactoring features, reference finding, and compiler settings. Flash Authoring is like a giant bonus where I can take any class and make it visual by basing it on the DisplayObject type and embedding graphics into it by simply assigning the class to a library symbol in Flash Authoring. This allows me to instantiate programmable, hand-drawn objects in code with a simple “new” operator. This is unprecedented. Nothing like that exists in HTML. Flash supports pixel shaders (pixel bender), a robust display-hierarchy-based event system with bubbling, phases, and handler priorities for ultimate control, a single compressed file as a payload, the ability to compile to SWC library files that embed graphics and can be referenced in other projects, runtime sharing, flash remoting blows AJAX and JSON away with it’s ability to serialize type-safe AS3 classes and byte arrays from client to server (C# for example), and the list goes on. Flash is perfect for developing RIAs, and I hope it’s around for a long time.

  17. As I wade through an endless series of tutorials, guides and conflicting forum posts about Angular and Ember and Knockout and Typescript and on and on and on, I despair over the mess that is becoming of good old HTML. As I read about the need for good authoring IDEs, and robust debugging, and type-safe consistency, and cross-platform capability, and working disconnected and adequate control over graphics standards and so forth, I was struck by the fact that I already had this ten years ago when I did some slick little apps with Flex that could be run on the web or on any Windows/Apple/Linux desktop with minimal fuss.

    When Adobe bought Macromedia, most developers thought Flash was just movies and that was it. Adobe never marketed Flex very hard, and I still have experienced developers who have no idea what Flex was when they see it on my CV. It’s a shame. It may have required a bit too much overhead with the Flash Player and/or AIR for mobile devices, but I’m sure that is an issue that could be addressed.

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