I wouldn't want to be a flash developer right now

March 18, 2010

As a web developer, I've always been somewhat embarrassed by my limited flash skills. Somehow I felt that I wasn't a complete developer if I wasn't a flash guru, and on several occasion I bought books and made a half-hearted effort to learn Flash, but never really raised my skill level all that much.
But as of this year, it looks like that creative procrastination is really starting to pay off. Adobe flash is being attacked on at least three major fronts and might soon fall out of favor with many web developers.
The initial threat came from Microsoft a few years back when it launched a direct attack with Silverlight. Although they scored a few high profile deals with major sites, and reached a very respectable install base, many pundits dismissed it as just a flash knockoff that provided no real reason to jump ship.
An indirect, but more effective blow, came from Apple when it announced it would not offer flash on the iPhone. Of course the device was a huge hit and many website owners found themselves viewing broken or inaccessible sites.
But the real flash killer looks like it's going to be HTML5. It is already available on all major browsers (Opera, Google Chrome, Firefox and Apple Safari), but until now Microsoft was holding out. No more. Microsoft announced that its next version of Internet Explorer, version 9, will fully support HTML5i. Some pundits speculated that they would not support it due to its Silverlight effort, but it seems it could not longer fight the trend and would not risk losing users. Or maybe it felt Adobe would suffer the most damage. Whatever the reason, Microsoft has officially made HTML5, with it's “canvas” and video playback capabilities (two of flash's most attractive features), a serious built-in competitor to flash.
So let's fast-forward a few years and assume HTML5 has become the de-facto standard for “flashy” websites and video playback. The user base slowly wastes away and very few new applications are being developed on that platform. With any other programming language or platform, more experienced programmers would keep their jobs by maintaining legacy code, and younger programmers learn one of the more popular languages.
The problem with flash is that essentially nothing of any importance has ever been written in flash. Nothing. The harsh reality is that no one is going to get paid to maintain a flash intro. They're going to start over from scratch; and they're going to do it in HTML5.
I wouldn't want to be a flash developer right now.

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