Flash has always had an interestingly evolving job. It wasn’t that long ago when if your web site needed a cool drop down menu you’d use Flash, until HTML and web browser improvements made that unnecessary. And it wasn’t that long ago that developers who wanted pop-up calendars or controls in our web forms used Flash, until DHTML made that just as unnecessary. Then Flash powered the in-browser video revolution, and Flash remains the dominant web browser video player, but now there are alternatives there as well. Even transitions and visual effects, once exclusively the realm of Flash, now have alternatives.
You see, Flash’s job has always been to pick up where the browser left off, with the understanding that the line between them was a grey and moving one. As HTML and web browsers have evolved and improved, Flash gets to back-off from specific use cases, handing them off to the web browser itself, and thereby freeing itself up to tackle the next challenge.
Or another way to look at it is this, Flash exists because browsers didn’t do enough, and as they do more Flash willingly cedes responsibilities to the browser.
Where things get interesting is on devices. Unlike on desktops, where older browsers still reign supreme and where browser innovation has faced slower adoption, device browsers are actually really good and really current. The fact that there are fewer browsers and better browsers, ones that support HTML5 innovation and standards and specifications, in many ways makes Flash far less critical for an optimum web browsing experience. That coupled with the fact that Flash is excluded from the browser on many devices means that web developers already need to code for a non-Flash experience, and that then makes Flash even less compelling for in-browser uses on devices.
Which is why we announced today that we will no longer continue to develop Flash Player in the browser on mobile devices. For in-browser experiences on devices, browsers can finally do what they really should do, and we have HTML5 to thank for that. So that’s where we are doubling down, and we’re hard at work on making HTML5 better (as we showed at MAX) as well as on tooling to support HTML5 development.
But just to be clear, this announcement pertains to the browser plug-in on mobile devices only.
The Flash browser plug-in on the desktop remains important and viable and even critical for many use cases, and we’ve publicly committed to adding value and features and functionality to better address just these use cases, primarily gaming and video. (And at the same time we’re aggressively driving in-browser HTML5 enhancements, including web motion and interaction design, another area where Flash used to be the only game in town).
Similarly, Flash based apps on mobile devices remain highly compelling, and AIR thus remains a great way to use Flash to build apps for Android, iOS, and RIM PlayBook. And with the recently released support for native extensions, the scope of what is possible in Flash based app has grown incredibly.
So, yes, in-browser Flash on mobile devices is reaching the end of the line. Flash on desktops continues to deliver in ways the browser can’t (yet). Flash is one way to build apps, and HTML5 (using PhoneGap) is another. You, as a developer, have options.
While the delivery mechanism changes as technology and platforms change, our commitment to providing the right tools and services does not. Our job has always been to empower developers and designers to create the most engaging and compelling experiences. That’s one thing that does not change at all.