Friday, March 26

My prediction for the next couple months...

One member of my family, who frequently posts to this blog, will find himself buying an iPad somewhat despite his own best sense, but will love it. And a year later, when newer models are out, he will vaguely wish he had waited but then shrug his shoulders and either upgrade or continue to use his original one, since it will read books and do most of what he need pretty well and be fun and cool to use. My confidence in this prediction: 85%.

My other prediction: Adobe Flash will hang on for quite a few more years, but it will go from being the dominant way to serve of video and lightly-interactive content to just a small player in the next year to two years. Despite the image you would have formed in your mind of mighty Flash vs its many small market-share competitors, and how HTML 5 is doomed to live in limbo for many years because of politics coming from Redmond, there are lately signs that the tech press are all wrong and HTML is rapidly gaining favor in many key areas of the Net - especially site which fancy themselves as residing in the so-called 'Web 2.0' space.

For example, YouTube is already offering (in beta) nearly all their videos simply converted from Flash to HTML 5 plugin-free video, and will soon be rolling out the option to use either, or, more likely, will detect what your browser is capable of and will run what it thinks will work best on your machine. This is a huge win for the HTML 5 crowd - As we all know YouTube is a dominant force on the internet. And guess who owns it? Google! And Google makes the Chrome browser, which fully supports HTML 5.

Apple, for it's part, supports HTML 5 in its Safari browser and is betting a lot on the iPhone/iTouch/iPad OS's ability to parse HTML 5 but NOT Flash (which they say is outdated technology as well as slow, buggy, and a CPU hog, all of which are true), and being able to get away with it without losing too many prospective customers over it. It could improve battery life, real-world performance, and help (like YouTube) to clear the way for HTML 5 by having a semi-large user base using devices that require HTML 5 for video (no work on weather Apple will in turn ditch QuickTime plugin support! Just kidding, they'll never do that, and besides, QT offers H.264 MPEG-4 compression decoding, so it's a different animal to Flash. Flash only runs its own proprietary files. QT does that too (.MOV) but is rapidly becoming more of an HD standard - just go to Apple's movie trailer page and see all the 720p and 1080p content that is available, and all of which runs great on QT. So no, QT will not be going away, just as support for WAV files, MP3s, WMV, and DivX aren't going anywhere. Unlike all those standards, Flash was never meant to play movies or music videos; it was originally designed to playback animation, like a GIF image on steroids. It's been overworked for years, and it's end could well be night.

And outside of Adobe, I don't think anyone would mind seeing the last nail smashed into its coffin lid. I've got a nice, capable computer and a very good internet connection, yet some of the simplest flash apps on Facebook, if they aren't coded very carefully (i.e., don't clear their stacks or perform garbage collection right when I'm balancing a marble on a wooden surface, causing the jitters) are frustratingly almost unplayable on certain browsers with certain version of the Flash plugin and you can't always just fix the problem by updating to the latest of everything. Like video drivers and beta browser versions, sometimes the newest build out there is worse than a previous one, forcing you to try to match your setup to that of the guy who developed the game. Commercial games never use Flash, and that should tell you something.

So while I love Adobe for Photoshop and many other products, I feel that Shockwave and Flash are yesterday's tech and should be phased out quickly to let other, better performing standards onto the web to do their thing. Go to Vimeo or a site like that and compare the quality (at the same filesize) of one of their newer music videos, say, to a Flash-bound video on YouTube, and you'll see exactly what I mean.

When even Apple (a long-time bed buddy of Adobe) and Google (who may have the largest collection of Flash files in the world with their YouTube and Google Video services) start to badmouth flash and hype HTML 5, it's probably time to listen. And as a wannabe web designer, I'd rather learn HTML 5 and CSS period than have to also learn yet another product/plugin. No one's saying HTML 5 is the solution that will do everything - you still need style sheets, you still need OO-programming languages to do any serious forms which require that data be stored in any kind of backend database, and so on... but for simple video decoding, live drawing (think playing squiggles against another person online), and even music playback of common file formats (which ones? That's still being hashed out), why not roll that into HTML and let the browser do it rather than farm it out to a plugin that every user is going to have to install anyway?

So a few toes get stepped on and Adobe loses this battle. They never made a lot of money off flash to begin with. I'm sure they can get by quite nicely on $1500 bundles of their graphics apps and even more money for all the training they offer, books they sell, and so on. They didn't even invent the technology: Macromedia did. So please, Adobe, stop complaining and work with other web companies to migrate Flash out of the internet, and replace it gracefully with the much better video implementations that other companies offer. In the interest of the consumer, and to engender goodwill, if nothing else. We're not asking you to abandon Photoshop or Dreamweaver.


billybytedoc said...

Regarding your first prediction, you're close. The only difference is he won't wish he had waited, he will just upgrade and get on with it.

I support your ideas on Flash. Lets move on to HTML5

Metamatician said...


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