postheadericon R.I.P. Flash for Android


This week Adobe Corp officially laid to rest one of it's elderly technologies that has grown long in the tooth over the years and is now finally being retired, at least on Android devices. Adobe announced that Flash will no longer be supported on Android devices newer than 4.0. That means that the next generation of mobile devices that will have "Jellybean" - won't have Flash.

Some of you may be wondering, "What is Flash, and will I even miss it?"

For those of you who play games on the web, or visit rich multimedia websites like wechoosethemoon.org or moodstream.gettyimages.com, you were using pages developed on the Flash platform. But for most all of us, we have been using bits of Flash on websites for years (animated buttons & banners, videos in the .swf format, and other eye-poppers on web pages for example) and it's been ubiquitous to all but the geekiest of us.

Personally, years ago I used Adobe's Flash editing suite to create museum walkthroughs and other engaging sites where multimedia was needed along with a way to pull in data from different sources and display all of that (to include audio) onto a single browser screen. Those sites were fun to develop, but a bear for users to view unless they had a super-high speed Internet connection, as they do in America.

Even large familiar sites like YouTube and Facebook's Zynga gaming pages were using Flash to deliver videos with overlays and lot's of interactivity. But over the past year or so, developers have been hard at work porting all their Flash bits over to the new kid on the block, HTML5. For example, when you upload a video today to YouTube, it is no longer converted into a Flash movie, but instead into a HTML5 wrapper that your newer browser will understand. And back about a year ago, Zynga purchased the German game engine developer Dextrose AG, in order to get in-house help for porting popular games like Cityville into HTML5.

Steve Jobs rightly predicted Flash's demise years ago, and refused to allow the Flash player to be used on Apple's mobile devices going back as far as the iPad 1. He caught a lot of flak for that decision then, but now in hindsight, it appears to have been the right one. His major objection to the Flash platform was that it was closed (owned by Adobe) and was unreliable, a poor performer, and a security threat. In addition, it was a battery killer for any mobile device and not "touch friendly," as for most Flash applications, you need a mouse to make it go.

And now it seems that Flash's creator Adobe agrees...but just because Adobe has decommissioned Flash for the Android market, that does not necessarily mean that your Flash player on your PC or Mac is now dead in the water – but it's days are certainly numbered.

For common folk, this should not be an issue, but a blessing, as soon you won't have to worry if that "Update Flash Player?" message on your computer is a virus or not (google Flashback for info on that) and getting "missing" Flash Player errors in your browser is soon to be a thing of the past. But for developers of websites, this is a big deal. It means retooling back at the office, and a bit of retraining as well.

Web developers are going to want to look at Adobe's own Edge for creating Flash-like content, as well as Hippo Animator and Hype (for Mac developers). These tools provide a GUI that will help you do what you used to do in Flash, in HTML5 clean code. Other tools of note are initializr.com, which says it will get you going on a HTML5 project in just 15 seconds, and of course the official website for the HTML5 standard at html5.org. Another cool page for those starting out is switchtohtml5.com, which will take your HTML4 coding and create a new framework for you to get started with, based on your old pages.

So what began as FutureSplash back in 1995, 17 years later we can finally put Flash to rest, and move on to something more lightweight and easier for all to experience.

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Jiggy Gaton
lives in Kathmandu and is an aging technologist - has been since the days of Woodstock - so in the words of Roland The Gunslinger "he is from a world now gone by." However, Jigs is extremely up-to-date on all things tech and is also available for hire.
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