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YouTube – the death of Flash

Tweet Following on from my post about the iPad & while I’ve time to write … There are a number of posts around at the moment talking about the ‘death of flash‘ many that have come out in the past 48 hours (like this one) talk about how Apple will be the death of Flash. [...]

Following on from my post about the iPad & while I’ve time to write …

There are a number of posts around at the moment talking about the ‘death of flash‘ many that have come out in the past 48 hours (like this one) talk about how Apple will be the death of Flash.

Apple’s closed ecosystem will be the death of flash

They base their thinking around the fact that Apple’s mobile Safari browser doesn’t support the flash plugin. This is true and it would seem Apple leveraged this fact to give a big ‘finger’ to Adobe on the public stage with the launch of the iPad.

As Daring Fireball pointed out, “If you think Apple didn’t expect that, you’re nuts” (link). Apple new it, I’d almost go as far to say as they planned it.

However Apple, in my opinion are NOT going to be the death of Flash.

Sidenote: Adobe haven’t helped themselves here – some of us have been calling for massive improvements in Flash on the OSX platform for years. Flash is not as good on OSX as it is on Windows, AIR is terrible on OSX – why should Apple willingly inflict this experience onto mobile users?

Youtube, the saviour and executioner of Adobe Flash

If you ask anyone what was the number one driver in the uptake of Flash, YouTube has to be very high on their list. Sure for those of us who started with Flash back in the day (I started working with it when it was called Future Splash – before Macromedia bought it) it was probably something to do with animations, the ability to show an idea, or maybe to play games? There was a lot of thinking for a while around Flash being used for form data capture to improve User Experience, but really, think about it, what really propelled Flash to the dizzy hight’s of success? The answer has to be video. Yes there is more to Flash than video, but really what is it that people are concerned about?

I want my rich media content – or – I want my online videos to play on my device.

Video really became the saviour and champion of Flash. Sure Flash is great for gaming, it can be good for simplifying user experience (sometimes) but really, it triumphs in the area of Video delivery. It is the KING for this and is used by everyone from YouTube to NYTimes. YouTube wouldn’t be what it is today without Flash

However, while people are saying Apple is the death of flash, they don’t realise that YouTube (and Vimeo) have just nailed a significant nail in the coffin of Flash this week. Both video sites announced the roll out of HTML5 inline video support & YouTube.

The shift to HTML5 signals some interesting changes in the life of the internet:

  • YouTube has the potential to be a game changer in the browser market (Internet Explorer doesn’t support HTML5 video)
  • YouTube has the potential to be a game changer in the rich media market (no more dependency on Flash)

Think for a moment. When was the last time you engaged with any Flash based content in your browser? I’m going to hazard a guess that content you interacted with was video based.  You had to wait for the controls to load, you had to wait for the video to buffer and then you had to play it.

What if you didn’t need too? What if the video was just there, and it played natively?

This will be the death of Flash – if we no longer need Flash for our rich media (video) content, then .. what is the future of Flash?

What about games & rich content?

I hear you. I’m not necessarily saying that this shift to HTML5 is going to kill flash overnight. Hell, it’s going to take time – YouTube are not about to instantly switch from Flash to HTML5 and loose the hundreds of millions of Internet Explorer visitors – but you can bet they will PUSH Google Chrome to these people and set too, migrating them away from Internet Explorer.

I also hear you saying “Flash is more than video” – and yes, trust me, I’ve been in the Flash community long enough to know this. I experimented with very early interactions between Flash and databases, I built visually rich, content rich web solutions for the likes of Toyota, and many other large companies. However it no longer makes sense to do that today. AJAX gives you much greater user experience than Flash, an experience that is more natural and fluid. HTML5 builds on this to give the browser back the power it was intended to have all along.

Flash is an incredible platform, and it will continue to be that, for games. But I’m really struggling to see any real future for Flash outside of “in browser gaming”. Even Adobe’s own AIR platform provides the ability to build in HTML and AJAX … why would you build in Flash?

What about rich content & graphs? Google Analytics is probably a great example of Flash used well, however, show me almost ANYTHING in Google Analytics that the guru’s at Google couldn’t do with HTML5 and AJAX? They use Flash simply because it works in the current Internet Explorer versions (5, 6, 8 etc), the same as it does in Firefox, Safari or Chrome. You do realise Google could simply say “To get the best from Analytics, you should use Google Chrome” and once again, we hear the death null of a nail in Flash’s coffin (not to mention a big wakeup call to Internet Explorer – 9 btw: is supposed to be very good!).

Seriously, can you really think of a reason to use Flash – outside of a Game in the browser? Maybe the odd speciality thing like TinyChat or Adobe Connect … okay, I’ll give you that.

Games in the browser on mobile? Are you really going to play a game in the browser on your mobile phone? No, you are going to download the game and play it as the developer intended. Besides, any Flash developer worth their salt now knows that you can render Flash content to native iPhone and iPad apps – they’ll get a much better user experience by delivering their game to the device, than to the browser.


Sure, Apple’s closed ecosystem has it’s draw backs, but it’s not Apple’s closed ecosystem, nor Mobile Safari’s lack of Flash (am I right in thinking that ONLY Andriod and SkyFire mobile browsers support flash, none of the rest do) that will be the death of Flash.

The iPad and iPhone won’t kill Flash, infact the ability to build in Flash and deliver rich content to the iPad and iPhone could continue to keep Flash developers in money & work for a long time yet.

If you want games on your iPad or iPhone, you’ll download them
If you want voice chat, or Video chat, you’ll get an app that does it smoothly and simply

No, I think that it’s Youtube that will be the death of Flash, at least the death of Flash as we know it. Flash will be relegated out of prime time and off into the murky world of “browser plugins” and “game platforms” – the return & rise of the “click here to install flash” link is nigh.

So long Flash, and thanks for all the fish


I was for a long time Flash developer & champion, Studiowhiz used to be a large Flash focused community. I have been involved in the past with Beta testing Macromedia & Adobe products. I’ve always said, and still maintain, Flash has a place in the web, as a solution to a need. YouTube is a perfect example, Flash for media, html for content. This is the game that is changing, it always changes, Flash needs to change if it is to survive.


2 Responses

[...] Flash technology) – but to me Flash has done it’s job & it’s being replaced (more on that in “Youtube – the death of Flash”). Don’t get me wrong, Flash is great for Games and it was great for video, but both Youtube [...]


I think @joehewitt sums it up best: the thing that will kill Flash is MS supporting HTML5, not Apple.