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There are a couple reasons Flash was well ahead of both java and html for many years.

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.

4. Many new devs don't realize this, but even as recently as 2005 there was a significant amount of online geeks that were very anti-javascript. If you wanted to build something interactive, Flash was always your best bet for the first half of the decade.

5. Absolute layout. While html developers were complaining about box models, flash developers were building things to look exactly as they wanted them to.

Re point 1: see http://www.tumultco.com/hype/ for html+js+canvas equivalent (nearly).

4 I still disable js by default. Even still it usually doesn't add much to my browsing experience. It could, but I've rarely met a web designer who actually cared about the user's goals - almost every one of them was intent on using their favorite flashiness with no regard usability.

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.

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