I'm going to miss so very many things:
1. A decent display architecture. Every display object has its own matrix transform. All of its children exist inside that space. Position your elements exactly how you want them. If you want markup-like UI layout, you can use MXML. Their display system is quite elegant. I will miss it a lot.
2. A complete development environment. Write code in Flash Builder 4. Generate art assets in Flash CS5. Save. It works. It's fast. All you need is two programs (maybe three if you want Photoshop). This is huge for me. The thought of re-rendering all of my art assets as thousands of flat bitmaps makes me shudder.
3. Performance. Yeah, yeah, everyone hates Flash because it destroys your battery, but it can actually pull off some very impressive feats. When I switch to HTML, I will have to prune back some of the cooler features I have, simply for performance reasons.
4. (nearly) Identical performance across browsers and OSes.
6. Display bling. Want a drop shadow around any shape? Done. In HTML, all you get are square drop shadows. Blur filter? Done. Dynamic masking? Done. Efficient alpha transparency for any object? Done. Obviously, if you go crazy with these you quickly eat up all your processing resources, but if used wisely they are very fast and look lovely.
This article was also from 11 years ago and other technologies haven't caught up.
The only weapon I feel I currently have in that war is iReader or Readability. I have given some consideration to "mining" .swf objects, but it is not currently a big enough pain point to further pursue that effort.
Oh, I take that back: the "mobile" version of many websites is also nice since they are (usually) more content-oriented and less dancing monkeys. I fear that, too, may change but for the time being it works well.
I liked a couple parts of AS3 but … the toolchain so horribly broken that at this point I wouldn't consider Flash unless Adobe gives me a free upgrade from CS3 to something where the "debugger" doesn't crash frequently and things like breakpoints actually work. I'd tend to think $800+ should get you remotely near feature-comparable with current browser debugger.
Basically this is a long way of saying that point #2 is a huge drawback from my perspective because Flash is integrated but none of the individual components are as good as what competition's producing in the open world and Adobe's been very slow to try fixing years of platform neglect.
For example I draw an object SVG and when I move it I have trailing bitmaps and flickering.
But also I think people in general need to understand that there is a difference between building a multimedia application and a website. Its a trade off, if your app is a game or supposed to be some psychedelic experience by all means use flash.
But if building an informational website, throwing in a scrolling banner with flash is probably a misuse.
I know really well what the allure of Flash is. I tried my hand at developing casual Web games and that's done in Flash. The following are the reasons, in what I believe is the order of importance:
1) Adoption: When it comes to users, everyone and their grandmother has Flash. Even if they don't, getting it and installing it is usually really easy. When it comes to development, you find that casual Web game portals (such as Kongregate, Newgrounds and Armor Games) are Flash-oriented and you even have sites like Flash Game License and Flash Game Art.
2) Ease of Development: I've seen games that were obviously made by people who have a considerable talent for art and so little talent for coding that they should have a court restraint to keep them away from development tools. Guess what? They work anyway and are popular. Yes, you have to learn ActionScript, but that's pretty much all.
3) Good Free Toolchain: You don't really have to shell out 600 dollars for Flash. You can get your stuff done for free, using FlashDevelop and Flex SDK.
Anyway, my point is that it's widespread, it's easy and it gets shit done. For those who think nagging is the solution, for those who rubbed their hands when Apple said it wasn't going to support Flash, here's the crucial question: can you show people an alternative that satisfies their requirements as well or better?
In this case, Adobe is the metaphorical Microsoft: their stuff is out there and they make it easy for people to use it. As the history has proven, the solution is not to call people sheep because they use Flash; the solution is to provide the metaphorical Mac and metaphorical Firefox and metaphorical Ubuntu -- stuff that's so good, that people will switch in droves without looking back.
1. Creating Hello World was dead simple. Just like photoshop, it was as easy as selecting the text tool, typing out what you wanted and hitting publish. Instant visual feedback for what you were creating.
2. Flash swf startup is measured in milliseconds, java applet startup is measured in seconds. Sun never seemed to care about "visual java" and they suffered for it.
3. Single vendor control. For years Macromedia and Adobe were giving devs and designers the apis they wanted, rather then being stuck in design-by-commitee hell.
5. Absolute layout. While html developers were complaining about box models, flash developers were building things to look exactly as they wanted them to.
4.1 Who blocks JS without also blocking Flash?
5 This is what I'm talking about. Flash devs were busy building exactly what they wanted while HTML developers - by virtue of not using absolute layout, etc, were delivering what users could actually use.
and some other games on armorgames or kongregate and stop propagating rumors about HTML5 replacing flash for games. The performance of HTML5+JS is not there yet, unless you talk about tic-tac-too games and the like. If flash is going to be replaced by something it would be by unity3d not by HTML5 or might be chrome native client. Adobe would be smart to secure this game thing because ads, video, etc, will probably be less and less. I'd love to see a cheap flash console where indies could publish games and sell games.
That said I'm happy to see flash beeing kicked out of website design, when flash is mixed with html it sucks.
When it's as easy to write your game in HTML5+JS as it is in Flash then people will switch, and not one minute before.
Mind, this isn't a 100% fair review, it's not an in-depth comparison or anything like that. It is, however, the "first glance evaluation" you'll probably get from any Flash game developer who's wondering whether they should switch to HTML5+JS.
I'm not saying we should just give up and use Flash forever and ever. I'm trying to explain why HTML5+JS is not a mature game development platform yet.
On the other hand, I'm pretty sure DOM doesn't provide a boilerplate game loop. It might sound trivial, but sorting and linked lists also sound trivial and you don't see people reinventing them on a daily basis either.
I usually program in Java but I'm using Flash (the tool) to throw together the GUI for a game I'm making. I find it's way more productive to develop the GUI visually rather than positioning and tweening things with code.
Of course, ultimately you can do all of that in a canvas but it is an awful lot easier in Flex.
Also, don't you have to manage the redraw of areas yourself with canvas?
[NB I hate what people do with Flash as much as the next person - but the actually tool is actually a pretty decenlt development environment (I just used the command line Flex compiler)]
I think it's one of the best Flash examples out there.
IE not implementing the tag isn't a big deal, since they expose the drawing (directx) interfaces anyway
I got a press release yesterday that said jquery was now more common than flash across the top websites. the 'flash is everywhere' argument is a bit 2004 and isn't true anymore .
I think you mean Chrome frame here? explorercanvas is an implementation of Canvas on top of SVG for IE.
Any alternative to showing videos on the web will obliterate the need for flash for pretty much all users, and it's hard to imagine any alternative actually being worse for that (but deciding on format sure seems tricky).
I didn't know until today that this spring's RSA hack used Flash:
Perhaps, but interestingly enough the attack wasn't against a web browser, but against Excel running a Flash applet. Maybe that path was chosen because it's less carefully examined by security policy and security software; I don't know.
In any case, it's certainly true that this pathway wouldn't have been available if not for the unnecessary use of Flash in places where it doesn't belong, i.e., Excel. Which ties into the theme here rather nicely; Flash used unnecessarily is worse than Flash eschewed entirely.
Interesting, I always assumed you had to buy the full Flash IDE to do anything. Granted, I never really looked into it at, but I wonder how widely known this is? Am I just ignorant? :)
We only used the official Flash IDE for building animations, for programming, it all too easily allows for code to be flung everywhere and creates debugging nightmares (Flex and Flex Builder is a slightly different story).
FlashDevelop is great, but it isn't an essential piece any more than Eclipse is an essential piece for building Java apps.
It's nice for people to want their favorite Flash-based sites/games to work as-is on their phones and tablets, once you get down to it though, those sites/games just won't work well without major overhauls, and so instead of rewriting to Flash (with all its usability problems), why not give your users a better experience in a web-native or device-native form?
I'm using Linux myself full-time, but for flash games I might even consider Linux irrelevant if there is no way of getting good performance.
The by far biggest part of the audience still uses windows and that probably won't change for quite a while.
Flash is installed outside the package management system (particularly on distros emphasizing Free Software: Debian, Ubuntu, etc.). This has improved through packaged installers (the plug-in's still fetched from outside of repos), but only in very recent times.
The player is very resource-heavy. I'll browse with several score tabs open. On a sufficiently beefy box, that's tenable, but with flash, memory and CPU utilization go through the roof.
The browser plug-in crashes, frequently requiring a browser restart to restore it. Given that Flash is virtually always at best ancillary to my browsing session (where I use it it's almost exclusively as a video player), my preference would be to have an external video player (I have several excellent free ones at my disposal). The crashes are addressed in Chrome as tabs and plug-ins run as separate threads/processes, but this still affects Firefox/Iceweasel.
There are numerous security and privacy issues with Flash, for which we're wholly dependent on Adobe to please, eventually, maybe address these.
64 bit Linux support was a long, long, long time in coming (and IIRC it's still weak). Until Linux itself got 32/64 bit library support sorted (again, only in recent years), this was a significant PITA.
Given Nielsen's criticisms (which address Flash as a website UI element, not such things as Flash video and games), yes, Flash is at least 99% bad. Most use is still advertising (yuk) and idiotic slideshows (infuriating). Its valid uses (videos, maybe games) would still be better addressed through standalone utilities rather than in-browser plug-ins, IMO. I use my browser for work and information, not entertainment. I keep a lot of state in my browser sessions, and they tend to live for days if not weeks.
All in all, as a Linux user, up until 2008/2009, Flash was sufficiently a pain in the ass that I'd generally just not bother installing it. I install it now (it's gotten easy enough) but block the hell out of it, with my rare use-case being YouTube videos and the very occasional informational graphic which makes valid use of Flash.
But that is very much beside this article's point, which is kind of surprising - it's a very clearly written article.
Web designers mostly should not be doing the things that Flash/HTML5+Canvas make possible. Gratuitous animation and sound, non-standard UI, and the breaking of web fundamentals are not strictly Flash problems, but poor design practices that Flash does (and which HTML5+Canvas probably will eventually) seem to encourage.
Nielsen's point isn't that Flash is bad, per se. The problem is: unless you're producing a piece of pure entertainment (games, Homestar Runner, etc) then deciding to use (or emulate) Flash is, statistically speaking, almost certainly a design mistake. A big one.
The author explains that Flash breaks 3 fundamentals:
* it encourages design abuse
* it breaks with the Web's fundamental interaction principles
* it distracts attention from the site's core value.
Anyone who implements a fancy custom scrollbar, forgets an ALT attribute, or doesn't properly wrap their label tags is breaking these fundamentals all the same.
It's not like I don't agree that Flash could be better, but this argument could be applied to just about any technology at any point in time.
According to this "built with" site, use of SWFObject (which is pretty much what 99% of flash devs use to detect + embed their swfs) is starting to decline among the "top sites":
I'm the original creator of SWFObject, so I've looked at that chart a bit, and I've never seen the usage go down in the few years since that site's been tracking js usage.
Flash is a complex experience to create and generating two forms (mouse & touch) confounds the universal cutting-edge innovation expected from Flash.
They may just look at file names, like swfobject.js, or look for "swfobject" in the file path.
I think this bigger problem is a lack of true experience/interaction design knowledge. If you are only focusing on the visual aesthetic, and not spending time on thinking through the total experience, chances are you are going to make most of these same mistakes. The technology you choose is less of an issue, the real problem is how you employ that technology. That said, I always try to avoid flash unless it has a very specific benefit over css/js, thankfully I haven't needed to build something in flash in quite a long time.
Another significant limiting factor is the simple fact that there are still things that you simply cannot accomplish outside of Flash. Specifically, I'm talking about camera and microphone data access, which can't be done via HTML5 without calling a Flash or Java applet.
I'll wager the Flash you make today will still work in 10 years, and I'll wager the HTML5 won't.
The look of your HTML site 10 years from now may look more outdated than your Flash site does, but as long as we're all still around, I'd wager that they'd both still work, provided Flash player is still a thing.
That is, if you don't use the bunch of temporary CSS properties browser vendors are supporting (-moz-, -khtml-, -ms-, -o-, etc) that people often assume to be "ready" but that will be deprecated in the future.
For me blaming a technology, when the issue is people, is not very effective.
* Gratuitious animation
* Granularity of user control
* Non-standard GUI controls
* Back button
* Moving text is harder to read for users who lack fluency (haha this one made me laugh)
* HTML5 content tends to be created once and then left alone
* HTML5 content is typically superficial
* HTML5 is typically created by outside agents who don't understand the business
For designers, including Flash devs/designers, he's also still the same (a fanatical old coot determined to prove '96 browser text is superior to multimedia).
I don't have Flash installed at all, and Google Maps works just fine without it.
Youtube also doesn't require Flash to download the videos. I use a number of youtube downloader programs to get the videos, and then use a native video player to watch them. Of course that's not how most people watch youtube videos. But there's really no reason why the service couldn't have been built around an some open downloading/streaming technology instead of Flash.
"it served and still serves brilliantly for sites made by the advertising industry."
Yet another reason to avoid Flash for end users like me, who hate ads and despise the advertising industry.
The way I recall it, it said something along the lines of "OK, Flash is not very good, but now we are working to address the issues mentioned on this article". I checked in archive.org, but there are no copies of the page there.
Jacob Nielsen later added the summary findings: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20021125.html
And I bet Jakob N has 1tested this question extensively as well.
Oh and on his home page I stumbled on a link to a page with his own (better) explanation: http://www.useit.com/about/nographics.html
IMO, the problem is developers. Because of Flash's origins as a tool for designers to make animations, most ActionScript is atrociously bad. The lion's share of Flash is created by people who really don't know how to program. When you have a community where knowing what recursion is marks you out as above-average, it's understandable that the core technology gets a bad rep. The problem is self-reinforcing, as good developers want to use the new shiny HTML5 and don't want to tarnish their CV with Flash development.
A huge spectrum of really high-quality web apps are reliant on Flash. Streaming video is the obvious application, but projects like SoundManager2 are still reliant on Flash for audio in HTML5 apps. It's a very nineties word, but Flash is still the bottom line when it comes to multimedia. Products like Google Street View or Turntable.fm just aren't plausible without Flash and won't be for the forseeable future. Given the glacial pace of the W3C on HTML5 and the likely slow uptake of newer browsers, we're stuck with it. I don't see that as a wholly bad thing.
I am glad in fact flash exists. I actually can install Flash Block kind plugin and 99% of "design mess" disappears.. If there would be no Flash, all these "designers" star put introduction pages with HTML5/Canvas/etc. And this is harder to block. =)
Sure, there are Flash games and ads, but I think Unity is a much better game development plugin and many people block Flash ads these days.
Though I hate Flash websites as much as everyone else, the title is misleading and harmful for game developers.
Eg: check out www.pinklab.com -- I defy you to replicate this site in html5.
I don't like the tone of the article, but I have to hand it to Nielsen for creating something that likely had some impact on the web. In the hall of fame of inflammatory, overly-broad titles, I think it'll be next to Djikstra's "Goto Considered Harmful".
> First, Flash encourages gratuitous animation: Since we can make things move, why not make things move?
Good taste has prevailed. Once ubiquitous "intro animations" have almost disappeared, as have <marquee> and <blink>. Hype http://tumultco.com/hype/ and Sencha Animator http://www.sencha.com/products/animator/ are powerful animation tools that export HTML5/CSS3. We will have to hope HTML5 and Flash designers continue exhibiting restraint with gratuitous animation.
> Second, one of the Web's most powerful features is that it lets users control their own destiny.
It's hard to address this issue, since I'm not exactly sure what Nielsen is specifically objecting to. I think it might have to do with McLuhan's "Hot" and "cool" media theory where certiain media encourage participation instead of hijacking attention?
> Third, many Flash designers introduce their own nonstandard GUI controls. How many scrollbar designs do we need?
... the list goes on. There's nothing wrong with custom UI, so long as it conforms to users' expectations (a tall order). This issue is still in the hands of developers.
> Breaks Web Fundamentals
> The "Back" button does not work.
In the hands of developers. Many ajax-y sites have this problem now (see Twitter). Many libs exist for both JS and Flash devs to fix (or not) this issue.
> Link colors don't work.
> The "Make text bigger/smaller" button does not work.
This is a browser issue. All elements should magnify when a user Zooms In/Out (fixed on some modern browsers).
> Flash reduces accessibility for users with disabilities.
<img src="image.gif" alt="" />
> The "Find in page" feature does not work.
> Internationalization and localization is complicated.
Local websites must enlist a Flash professional to translate content.
Nearly all serious Flash projects separate content into XML or JSON files (especially if the website content will need to be translated). Some AJAX-driven sites do this as well.
> Also, text that moves is harder to read for users who lack fluency in the language.
In the hands of developers.
> Distracts from a Site's Core Values
> Frequently updating content (Flash content tends to be created once and then left alone).
Not true now (or then).
> Providing informative content that answers users' key questions at all depth levels (Flash content is typically superficial).
This is a great example of why I object to the tone of the article.
> Identifying better ways to support customers by task analyzing their real problems (Flash is typically created by outside agents who don't understand the business).
I'm trying to understand the implications of this statement, but I'm baffled. Maybe it made sense in 2001 when HTML sites were sometimes cobbled together by a favorite nephew close to the company. Either way, web development is sufficiently sophisticated/complex enough now to require developers to know what they're doing. This sometimes means hiring an agency/production house.