My fellow Flash developers, this post’s title and the post is not to start a new flaming war on the subject, it’s just an opinion which you may or may not agree with.
I posted some of the following ideas in a private forum, so I thought I’d just save some typing and add some more thoughts in original forum post(s) and publish here on my blog. This post is also long overdue, so here it goes.
I think Flash is really a strong brand and awesome technology. There are certain things Adobe have done wrong in terms of strategy and vision for this technology.
Macromedia and later Adobe pushed Flash Player too hard on mobile devices. Back in 2005 when I won a t-shirt from Flash Lite competition, all the developers sent a clear message to Flash team, that on mobile, Flash apps are the future, as all the apps submitted were installable apps on Symbian OS, not mobile browser based.
Flash’s experience in mobile browser was too bad, there were no contents optimized for mobile, and Adobe tried to run existing content in mobile browser, which failed miserably. So we saw Steve Jobs’s thoughts on Flash. Which I agree to, also for lazy engineers part. The focus should’ve been on installable mobile apps from the start. For same reason Adobe had to pull the Android version. I do not see why Flash team failed to see it early.
I also noticed that Flash product team tried hard to sell the Flash Player / AIR to ODMs to embed / pre-install in devices. They did for some, like Nokia / Blackberry. Idea was a clear fail from start, as there was no way to update Flash Player / AIR until ODMs releases an OS update. Also the failed idea to get share of revenue from Flash Player based games/apps if a developer makes more than a million in a year. That was just crazy.
Pretty late, Adobe recognized and thought, oh! we should package the runtime with the app, so it will run correctly with its required version of runtime, and not depend on ODMs (we made a product SWF2Go in 2007 which did this). I can’t believe what sort of people were in Flash team who did not recognized this from the very start where I personally sent emails to Flash team, managers with same idea, am sure many other developers may have asked them the same.
Now in current situation, the only bad name Flash gets is from its Flash Player in the browser. What Flash team can do now is to split the player, one only with AS2 support, which I believe is the root cause of most security issues, and one with only AS3 runtime. This should’ve been the strategy from the start. But Adobe kept two runtimes in same player. Continuously improving on AS3 version, and deprecating the AS2 version.
We need tons of new language features in AS3, not just renamed APIs. Look at C# for example, evolution from v1 to latest. And this is really important moving forward. I do not see any new language features since AS3 was introduced with Flash Pro CS3. Here I’d like to share a post from Dave Yang’s FB feed, which summarizes exactly my point about why I and many other Flash developers held on to AS2 for too long.
For installable apps, AIR needs to drop HTML (webkit) and just keep AS3. I have not seen a single AIR app which is done with HTML, it’s a useless feature which wastes bytes with every deployment. All I see is AS3 apps and games in stores, so I always think why there’s this HTML thing in AIR, when Adobe also promotes another product PhoneGap, which does the same thing, makes mobile apps with HTML. Can anyone from Adobe tell me why AIR needs HTML support?
Also, AIR needs to support more platforms if it needs to gain some ground in future, i.e. Windows Phone / Mobile support which is top requested feature, but it seems that no one at Adobe cares anymore.
Now Flash Pro, this tool was awesome until CS3. Even before that there were versions which didn’t come with new features but just re-write of the Panels system. I’ve seen so many versions of Flash Pro which just did that. The team wasted time in re-writing Panels system, instead if improving on or adding new useful features. For example, the Info Panel did not show real-time X, Y and other details when mouse was held down (fields just froze until mouse is released), until I filed a feature in CS4 (I was first time in beta), and it was implemented in CS5.5. Two versions later, because team were re-writing the Panels (lazy engineers as Jobs pointed out). Unbelievable.
There are tons of things which Flash Pro team can bring, return to the core idea which made Flash popular, Design, Timeline, Animation and Scripting them. Each of these features Flash Pro can borrow ideas from other tools. And even they can come up with a new version in one iteration which can be so new and feature rich, many designers and developers will appreciate and will upgrade for sure.
I see why Flash is dead as there’s no revenue coming from this investment for Adobe. I.e. Flash Pro CC, most are holding back on CS6 or older versions like myself. AIR is free and a developer can use AIR SDK with free FlashDevelop or other tools to make apps, so Adobe do not get anything for their investment going forward with AIR. Flash Player team also gets a bad name when we see some security issues now and then, again there’s not much revenue from Flash Player (other than the Flash Player install page which keeps trying to install some useless software along).
Another reason, that all my Flash developer contacts from 2004 onwards have moved on to something else around 2010-ish. Some switched technology, some even on different directions doing amazing 3D printing, embedded hardware stuff.
What Adobe needs to do is to make Flash Pro, the tool so feature rich, so awesome that developer buys a copy, like the old days of Flash 5. Make the app store prominent and attractive to developers, to buy and sell pre-built assets ready to use in projects or to extend the editor.
Unity is a perfect example Flash team can follow. Look how they’ve not wasted time in re-writing panels, but they made Unity Editor so open that there’s a whole ecosystem for extensions. And brilliant idea of selling pre-built assets. They are making tons of money from this idea. They were able to give away free version of Unity, along with a perpetual or subscription version and cloud build. I see great strategy to make revenue from tool, and the assets store for developers. I am using free version, but I have bought extensions, from which they got something. Maybe in future I might go for Pro version as well.
There’s still time, and if Adobe can make and follow good strategy, which I currently don’t see (hence the post’s title), they can come back in game again.
BTW, about me, I am developing with Flash since 1998 (ver 3/4). Done great stuff with Flash, contributed to Flash Player (no credits) and Flash Pro (top beta tester, CS4 to first CC), and developer of SWF2Go.com, Flash Lite to Symbian app maker.
Would love to hear what you think about Flash and its future.
// chall3ng3r //