Flash here to stay or not? If Apple and Microsoft had their way, Flash will certainly be on its way out. After all, do we really need Flash anymore? For any new piece of technology to be successful, there needs to be a real problem that it can solve. That is exactly what Macromedia (remember them, before Adobe bought them out) did back in 1996 (yes!) when they launched FutureSplash Animator, quickly followed by Flash 1. Back then browsers (IE & Netscape) could just about manage pictures, let alone animation and sound. In 1996, Internet Explorer was at its infancy and Netscape wasn’t that much ahead, while we all had to use really slow modems! Browser rendering engines were limited to basic text & image positioning. Modems couldn’t cope with large amounts of data and scripting languages didn’t exist.
Macromedia had an idea, “what if we could make things move, interact and make sounds but still download quickly?”. And that is exactly what they achieved by building a client rendering engine (Flash Player) that could work inside browsers, yet at the same minimise data transfers by using a proprietary compressed binary file format. It was great, the web became alive. Suddenly we could all play games and watch movies. The arrival of course of home-made videos, YouTube and the cheap availability of fast broadband connections meant that Flash was more in demand than ever.
It wasn’t though only the connections and hardware that became better in all these years of Flash domination, the browsers became exceptionally sophisticated and capable at managing pretty much any type of content. New kids on the block (such as WebKit) made sure that browsers could really and truly tap in to the power of modern operating systems and their graphics stacks. This meant that suddenly there is no need for smaller downloads, nor the need for an extra layer (Flash Player) to achieve something that your browser can do pretty much better and straight out of the box.
As I said in the beginning, any new piece of technology is successful if it solves a real problem. Flash did just that for over a decade. Now that problem that does not exist anymore as browsers have natively taken over, therefore I think it is time for Flash to respectfully leave the party on a high!