Flash Player Mobile, a Post Mortem.

By now, you’ve likely heard that Adobe has ceased development of the Flash Player for mobile browsers. It’s hard to miss – it has whipped the usual rabble of ill-informed techno-zealots into a screaming mass of vindictive idiocy. Sadly, this frenzy is being led by sensational headlines in the media, and snarky, self-congratulatory posts by leading tech pundits.

I don’t think I will ever understand the joy that apparently comes from dancing on the grave of a dead technology. One less technology means one less choice, and one less branch from which new innovation can spring.

And let’s be honest. A LOT of innovation has sprung from Flash. It opened a whole new class of web experience, birthed online casual gaming, defined rich UI, and heavily influenced many of the features that comprise HTML5.

Yes, Flash is proprietary, but that allows it to be agile. Yes, there’s an abundance of truly horrible Flash content out there, but that’s more a testament to its ease of use than its failings as a technology. I guarantee that if creating HTML5 content ever becomes as simple as with Flash, you will see a plethora of horrible HTML5 content (though hopefully some lessons will not be forgotten – RIP Skip Intro).

Flash is deeply flawed, but so is every technology. Hating it is popular, but seems to be based less on any rational analysis, and more on a self-sustaining anti-fanboism, and the sheep-like re-bleating of Jobs’ proclamations.

See, Steve Jobs was right. But then he was wrong. Very wrong.

As an iPhone user, I was initially in full agreement that Flash had no place on my phone. Flash Lite was crap, and there was no evidence that the full player could be made to run well on a device. I also didn’t have a burning need to view Flash content on my phone.

Then two things happened that shifted my thinking.

First, Adobe (eventually) proved that the Player could be viable on mobile with the Android plugin. They also made it optional. In my mind, that was ideal. It gave people a choice. I could choose not to enable Flash, or I could choose to only enable SWFs that I wanted to view. It seemed like the perfect compromise, and made me wish I had the same choice in iOS.

Unfortunately, Steve wasn’t known for compromise, so rather than either embrace this proven approach or simply maintain the status quo, he chose to lash out. His famous open letter on Flash was a mix of half-truths, hypocritical misdirection, and outright lies. I lost a lot of respect for Mr. Jobs that day. Withholding a choice from users to maintain a “perfect vision” is classic Jobs, but engaging in FUD wasn’t.

His biography indicates that this act was driven not by evaluating what was best for users, but rather by a personal vendetta against Adobe for past slights.

Regardless of his motive, it worked incredibly well. Companies cancelled or froze Flash projects while they waited for the dust to settle. Flash lost a ton of momentum, despite there being no viable replacement yet. Without iOS, Flash’s “write once, deploy anywhere” story became a lot weaker.

Given this climate, I think Adobe made the right choice in killing off mobile Flash. The mobile player requires a huge ongoing investment to support new devices and OSes, an investment that has no (obvious) financial benefit for Adobe.

Further, the type of content that Flash enables doesn’t make a ton of sense on the mobile web. People use their browsers for quick look-ups and fall back to apps for rich content. This will change over time, but the reality is that virtually no one is creating mobile version of Flash content for the web, there simply wasn’t enough demand to justify the expense, especially without iOS support.

If this decision allows Adobe to focus on increasing innovation in the desktop player, significantly improving their app packagers, and investing heavily in HTML5 tooling, it’s got my vote.

Jobs was right, but he was right for the wrong reasons.

Grant Skinner

The "g" in gskinner. Also the "skinner".



  1. I think it should be title Flash Player, a Post Mortem, and reposted within 12 months

  2. Finally, a useful post that is not full of bull****

    Why is everyone twisting it to being the whole player being and Flash itself discontinued. I am not surprised with the usual media outlets as these always spin everything for free noise, but I see way too many renown guys doing this regarding this recent announcement.

    Flash plugin for mobile browsers != Flash player / AIR

    Great post, Grant!

  3. First thing I read today that wasn’t link bait.
    Great post Grant.

  4. I agree with you 100% Grant.

    Irrational opinions are chirping in from all corners of the internet, it’s astounding how little critical or even logical thought there is on this. I can’t quite understand what there is to be gained from all the “told you so’s” – it’s as if everyone had a personal financial stake in the death of Flash, was there a bookie taking money somewhere?

    The reality is, like it or not, the iPhone spelled the death of Flash, probably initially for the wrong reasons, but there you go. Regardless of Flash performance on Android, iOS was the first platform for which the telcos had to provide large data allowances, the astoundingly good browsing experience means it dominates browsing stats for any sites I’ve been involved in. It has popularised mobile web browsing because the experience is just so damn great. Without Flash.

    None of this means Flash was completely without merit.

  5. (cross posted from G+ comments)

    I’m far from being a flash fanboy but I agree with you on this one.

    However I think you’re dismissing too quickly the reason why so many people hate flash to that level. I personally think it comes from proprietary technology, lack of transparency on the way the platform evolves (today is another – surprising – example), tools full of bugs (no day without one of the people at my company shooting at crashing Flash IDE), and poor developers support (although that has been improving recently)

    Adobe just don’t get it when they have to talk to web developers, they are not being in the “cool companies” camp, and thus get (and somehow deserve) the same over-hate that microsoft got – and still has.

  6. Thanks for this great post. However I fear that this decision by Adobe will have direct impact on the whole Flash Platform, especially including the desktop player. While one could now make a Flash application for the web, and expect it to work on (nearly) every desk, as well as many mobile devices, it will be even harder to justify the Flash web development now.

    People are moving away from desktop computers; the future for “normal people” is definitely in the more-mobile area, including smartphones but especially tablets (and similar devices). Even Microsoft decided against the Flash plugin for their Metro interface. So the device share on which Flash can directly run in the browser is getting smaller, and with it any good reason to develop for it.

    While I really liked AIR from the beginning, I doubt that Adobe will be able to make it into such an attractive platform that it will keep enough focus on the Flash platform to keep it alive. While it was easy for Flash developers to get into AIR because of their previous knowledge, it will be harder to get people into it when the web focus is missing. And from a consumer point, I generally have problems with installing a runtime environment just to get an application running. Looking at the comments for AIR applications or the runtime itself on the Android Market shows that most people don’t understand exactly what it is. And confusion is never a good thing for such things.

    I started my programming life with the Flash platform, and I would be extremely sad to see it die. I just hope that Adobe didn’t make a huge mistake with this decision; but I don’t really see a bright future…

  7. Android has an ever increasing market share versus iPhone. Why would killing it now make sense ?

    “First, Adobe (eventually) proved that the Player could be viable on mobile with the Android plugin”

    Really? I’ve never ever seen it work correctly. It would work on a random site, fail on sever others, etc. If the entire promise of Flash is you write one thing and it runs well everywhere Flash runs, doesn’t that defeat its main reason for being?

    Isn’t it simply more likely that Adobe knows Flash will never, ever run properly on mobile devices? It has killer tools, why not just make those tools export to HTML5 instead of its clunky underperforming flash engine.

  8. Great post, Grant. As always, the voice of reason.

  9. I am a Flash/Flex developer currently learning native mobile development for both iOS and Android. I hope that Adobe continues to support AIR and works on streamlining the underlying VM for AIR so that I can still build mobile apps in Flex and deploy them cross platform with AIR but with less of the 6mb – 8mb file overhead the AIR VM requries.

  10. Ben Clinkinbeard November 9, 2011 at 1:52pm

    You make it sound as if Jobs, the tech press, etc. killed Flash. The truth is that nobody is more to blame than Adobe. Their executive leadership, PR and marketing are 99% responsible for today’s events and the impending future failures. That they could so thoroughly run an industry leading technology into the ground is frankly astonishing.

  11. I like that I can watch videos and view Flash content on my Android, but I agree with Adobe’s decision. Flash Player 11 is mature enough to let users access on their devices sites that don’t have a mobile version.
    Mobile websites should be (as they are) made in HTML. Desktop websites can be built with HTML and Flash. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of ‘Flashy’ desktop sites built in HTML, supposedly under the argument that they also run on iOS, but their performance on devices is terrible. In my opinion the best approach is to choose the best technology for each platform and develop two separate versions. In that sense knowing that Adobe will focus on Flash for desktop is great news.

  12. Ben – this article was about mobile Flash, and Jobs undeniably had a major impact on it’s eventual demise. There is a much larger discussion on what Adobe could have done better in general with Flash, which is relevant here, but wasn’t the primary focus.

    As always with these types of posts, there was reams of related content I would have liked to include, but I had to keep it to a readable length.

  13. OSMF slow on Mobile, OVP is fast. Flex Spark slow on Mobile, pure .as fast. CS5.5 (FlashPro) is slow on mobile, Haxe developed SWF is fast.

  14. Jobs wasn’t right.

    The mobile flash player has not been killed off: Adobe didn’t pull it from the market. They are still going to do important fixes to it and any content targeted for FP 11 or less with still be fine. I think your post fails to point that out. Otherwise I agree with it.

  15. I prefer choice over magical perfection, for the most part Apple can kiss my butt. Great post, but Flash being dead.. not yet.

  16. Excellent commentary. Your prediction about HTML 5 eventually leading to bad design is especially insightful.

  17. Ben Clinkinbeard November 9, 2011 at 2:13pm

    Right, but my point is that the only reason Jobs and company were able to sway public opinion so thoroughly is because Adobe’s response was about as bad as one could possibly imagine. If, within any sort of reasonable timeframe, after the initial iPhone launch, Jobs’ letter or the iPad launch Adobe had simply shown Flash Player running beautifully on an Apple device, it would have been a different story altogether. Instead they said “We Love Apple”. They may as well have said “Steve is right. Sorry. Pals?” It was pathetic, and it did as much if not more damage than anything Jobs or the press could have done.

  18. Amen Brotha!

  19. It only makes sense to discontinue flash mobile when Adobe has invested so much in adding the ability to package native iOS and android apps using the same development tools used to author flash.

    This is a fact that I have yet to see mentioned in any of the news reports about this issue.

  20. Maybe almost no one is creating mobile-specific versions of Flash content, but in a lot of cases you don’t need to because the desktop version works just fine.

  21. Your chronology is curious.

    First, Adobe (eventually) proved that the Player could be viable on mobile with the Android plugin. They also made it optional.

    Then you say:

    Unfortunately, Steve wasn’t known for compromise, so rather than either embrace this proven approach or simply maintain the status quo, he chose to lash out.

    As at the time of Jobs’ “Thoughts on Flash” letter, Adobe had not proven that “the Player could be viable on mobile.” That was half of the problem – there was no proven approach for him to embrace, despite continued promises from Adobe to deliver within timeframes it failed to meet over and over again. Even today, many feel that the mobile Flash player is of mediocre, inconsistent quality.

    The problem with Flash is Adobe. The problem with Flash has been Adobe since Adobe bought Macromedia. If anything, Flash poisoned Adobe, turning it from a company that made best-of-breed tools into a company that sought to control the most exciting new platform/frontier in the world – yet also one unwilling to do the hard work to make its proprietary homestead a truly nice place to stay. The Flash player still has a single execution thread. The Flash player still times out your response/event handlers and other methods because it has a single execution thread. Adobe didn’t rewrite the ActionScript VM to accommodate these routine needs, forcing developers to contort their code instead. Adobe claimed to need special APIs to perform hardware accelerated video rendering on OS X, even though multiple other applications did it just fine (probably because Adobe never rewrote the Carbon core of the OS X Flash player).

    I don’t think I will ever understand the joy that apparently comes from dancing on the grave of a dead technology. One less technology means one less choice, and one less branch from which new innovation can spring.

    People dance on the graves of dead technologies that have been superseded by superior alternatives. People particularly dance on the graves of awful dead technologies; good but outmoded technologies inspire nostalgia. Yeah, I really miss having RealAudio as a streaming option. What’s that? Linear addressing modes on 32-bit and greater CPUs? Pfft, give me DOS4GW and memory extenders! Hey, I liked bank switching mid-pixel when doing graphics on the CPU in 24bpp VESA modes!

    What you hear is the complete lack of nostalgia for the monster Flash had become. What nostalgia existed for Flash was expressed years ago, as animators mourned the technology’s shift away from them to purporting to be a “rich internet application platform.” Good riddance.

  22. I have no idea why my post is formatted like that. Sorry.

  23. thanks Grant. An excellent analysis. I agree with you. And, It’s sad to see it happen, but we’re only talking about the plugin within mobile browsers, right? This doesn’t mean the death of avm runtimes on mobile devices. Also, don’t forget that in the mobile world, its all about ARPU (avg revenue per user). Content/Apps is where the money is (not in selling minutes or gigabytes). The Flash platform on iOS would have meant a market-penetrated competitive runtime environment to the iStores. people would have been able to buy games etc. outside of the Apple’s control within the browser. that would mean lost revenue for Apple and the Carriers. It served Steve’s vendetta towards Adobe, but it also protected their revenue stream. And unfortunately for Adobe, that was Flash’s most serious threat to the iOS. Adobe should have been doing better to partner with mobile device vendors years ago to get Flash on board early in the game, and FlashLite should have never seen the light of day.

  24. Thanks for the clear-headed analysis. If anyone has a right to eulogize the Flash golden age, it you. That said, I just feel like sharing here how all the trolling has been affecting me.

    Flash made me a developer. Two years ago I was a fresh out of college, half-trained animator who’d been left in the cold when the studio where I was interning/about-to-be-hired-at was one of the first casualties of the Crash.

    I scrambled for a gig, found a low paying one doing Flash content for educational sites, and that’s where I’ve been since. I learned OOP because of Flash (and much of the basics from this blog). Two years straight of hard work and studying nights, plus the day-job. It gave me confidence again. It made me good at something again.

    I know there’s other technologies out there, and I’m pursuing them, and that Flash isn’t just going to disappear in a puff of smoke. But I know a lot of other people must be feeling the hate and the stupid pretty acutely. This stuff affect people’s livelihoods and their dreams.

    I’ve just gotten to where I was ready to leave this low-pay, zero-respect job and it just hurts to see the kind of work I’ve poured myself into get drug through the mud by a bunch of ditto-heads.

    We’ll all dust ourselves off. Yeah, web standards are a mess right now and will be for some time, despite the kool-aid. But we’re up to the task, the alternative is too soul-crushing to contemplate. There’s hard work to be done, and the web won’t un-ugly itself.

  25. Martin Jourdain November 9, 2011 at 2:34pm

    Totally agree with Mr.Skinner.
    Those who believed that mobile devices would deliver the same experience as desktops were still believing in Santa Claus. Santa Claus was going to get them flashy web pages on their mobiles!!! Now that they have been disillusioned, they demonize whoever they perceive as responsible for the idea of Santa Claus.

  26. It’s sad to see so many ignorant tech bloggers and enthusiasts only read half the story and ignore the rest. I think this is a failure on Adobe’s part to properly PR this thing.

    With AIR 3, Flash has become clearly the best mobile development platform there is. Period. They should have pushed the “Flash as a dev platform” concept harder, because I don’t think many people-even smart people-grasp the concept as Flash existing outside of a browser plugin.

    As I told my friend, I’ll eat my words the next time I open up my phone’s web browser. Which will likely be never.

  27. @Ben:

    «Also, don’t forget that in the mobile world, its all about ARPU (avg revenue per user). Content/Apps is where the money is (not in selling minutes or gigabytes).»

    This conventional narrative is not supported by data. Apple makes its money from selling hardware. Apple facilitates the creation and delivery of apps in order to make its hardware more attractive. Apple built out a cloud infrastructure for data sync and OS update in order to eliminate the dependency of its hardware on other devices, making its hardware more attractive again. But don’t take my word for it; go look at Apple’s annual and quarterly earning statements.

    The Fiscal Year 2011 10-K filing states on page 30 that the line item that “Includes sales from the iTunes Store, App Store, and iBookstore in addition to sales of iPod services and
    Apple-branded and third-party iPod accessories” amounts to $6,314 M; in contrast, the line item that “Includes revenue recognized from iPhone sales, carrier agreements, services, and Apple-branded and third-party iPhone accessories” totals $47,057M. These are net sales figures.

    We can thus discard any claims that Apple was trying to prevent Adobe from muscling in on app sales, as they’re a comparatively irrelevant figure. We can also infer that Apple’s concern was with ceding control over the platform as a whole, not wanting a third party to dictate uptake of features (because developers target that third party’s APIs rather than Apple’s native SDK) and determine the direction of the ecosystem as a whole.

    Follow the money.

  28. I agree with you 98%

    But there is a major reason to keep the Flash Player alive in all instances, and that is to use it as a huge gaping pipeline for their new marketing and digital solutions they announced. Why kill something with 99% market penetration.

    By closing mobile web, you close desktop web as well. By not supporting the mobile version of the plugin, you are telling businesses and their clients that the Flash plugin is not a viable distribution channel for their products / services. Adobe now looks unstable, and businesses don’t like unstable, so they will reach out and grab the next closest thing. Which in this case is using HTML5 for all web experiences, even if the tooling sucks.

    I will continue to use the Flash platform in other ways, but sad is the day I can no longer cry… “write once, deploy everywhere”



  29. Way to turn the other cheek Grant.

    You made a lot of good points, but they have all been made many times in defence of flash yet these arguments only fall on the ears of flash and flex developers, not the broader market in general.

    Until a few weeks a go I was a flash/flex developer, btw. In my eyes the technology stack has been dying slowly for a few years and we have all been in denial.


  30. Well written. The bottom line is the bottom line. A for-profit company needs revenue and there is none in the mobile space with Flash. The writing was on the wall when the announced the acquisition of Phone-Gap and lending huge support to jQuery Mobile. Makes me wonder if they planned to tell us at MAX, but when Steve Jobs passed during the conference they chose to delay the announcement.

  31. Sorry kids, Flash killed itself: http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/09/schadenfreadobe/

    Of all the things people wanted to do in Flash, barring viewing web video (an activity that is better in dedicated apps anyway) – play Flash games, view flash animations (why?), and, I assume, see Flash advertisements – are poorly served by these laggy implementations. Flash made Flash look bad.

  32. @Oluseyi: yeah, You make some really good point(s). I may have not been totally clear. I agree Apple does rake in the cash on hardware for sure.

    However: My point was not just about Apple making money. I said Carriers ARPU, (i mean network operators like Cingular) – not Apple’s ARPU. I never said Apple made all their money selling content.

    Truth is, unless you can show a wireless carrier a way to make some recurring money from each user, along with you and your cool runtime (and also guarantee that you can protect the revenue stream)… they will never ever, never support putting your runtime on their device.
    they would receive only risk with little or no revenue reward. (what does investing in putting the flash player plugin into a mobile browser really give you if you are ATT or Sprint or Verizon? it does not directly provide you any more access to content dollars)

    In Apples case, they provided the hardware, the operating system and the storefront, and that meant a hardware software vendor who was also interested in protecting content revenue stream dollars as much as the carriers were. Cingular was smart enough to see the bigger picture that apple provided. Then ATT was smart enough to see what Cingular saw, or they were in the right place at the right time.

    Adobe wasn’t ever able to provide any carriers with a solid flash solution that was compelling enough to accept the risk for. that’s why there are no flash avm based competitors to iphones and droids. Flash is a great platform, I’ve been developing on it for years. I’m not arguing against it. I’m saying that Adobe failed to offer any good monetary opportunities to carriers with their platform.

  33. Grant, i like your post and agree to most of it, but i disagree heavily where its about your bottomline. How can you think this would help flash´s future at all?

    All things are connected, people (clients/developers/designers) will not have more trust in a technology when the company behind it shows less trust in it.
    This will lead to a further decrease in flash´s reputation, which one can already see on all the blogs etc.

    Also: If they give up further development on the browser plugin for phones, does that not imply they also give up the development of it for (ARM) tablets?

    In either case more and more users are using smartphones and tablets to browse the web hence not having support for that besides native apps essentially the death approval for the flash plugin in general.

    Also creating tools for content creation for flash´s biggest competitor won´t help flash either, it will accelerate flash´s downfall.

    Me personally i use all sorts of languages and middleware, sad to see one go but yeah, exceptionally disappointing to see it go in that way, first smashed by the world (and this is not just due to Job´s, its also heavily due to Adobe for many years releasing players without propper full on hardware acceleration hence weak performance), then killed off by its own creator (even if Adobe only bought Macromedia and that way got flash).

    I´m sorry for allthe people who do nothing else than flash and flex work.

  34. Great post Grant, a great summary. I always knew Jobs had a vendetta against adobe, the whole hardware issue was always just an excuse.

    As a Flash Developer / Artist I have no worries for the future. Flash/Flex is still used to create apps across all platforms. The model of creating one app/game and deploying across multiple platforms is being taken on by many companies these days. I’ve always had many options for employment using the Flash Platform and get contact by recruiters at least once a month for the past 3 years.

  35. Oh, one more note:
    What kind of flash content would still be viable on the web in the future?
    -Websites/ Web Apps–>More and more a total nogo to do in flash
    -Advertising: sure, but hey, the advertising industry will like it even more when their stuff is viewable on all devices and can´t even be skipped easily on the mobile devices
    -Movies/ streaming stuff: Replaced where possible already for not using flash and hey, Adobe is jumping on that train, too, so..
    -Games: Can´t say they can be played back on most platforms soon anymore at all and when its about desktop web only then, hm, unity etc offer way better performance and/or more capabilities on many ends which are important for game dev.

    So, hm, flash on the web, in the future, for what?

    Also: why buy Adobe tools anymore for flash content creation or deploy?
    For deploying air apps only?

  36. Adobe did not kill Flash on mobile. They will simply not continue to extend it to other platforms or add new features (They will fix minor bugs and plug security holes in this last version, Flash Player 11). Flash (Thankfully) will continue in the market until Flash is actually “dead” and I can continue to enjoy inline videos and Flash games on Android dual core and above tablets… the only real place where Flash for Android seemed to work well at all.

    I saw several posts thanking the shift to HTML/JS content as there is no current way to protect DRM content using HTML/JS, and users were thankfully downloading free music (Pandora) and movies (from the brief Hulu switch this summer) from sites switching to HTML/JS tech.

    I thought Silverlight had died, but guess what’s keeping it alive? The Netflix website uses Silverlight as its web delivery platform for streaming movies. Until HTML/JS can protect content, plugin technology isn’t going anywhere on the web.

    Perhaps the browser will die or become just an e-newspaper, and we will only see “apps” in a future where the web is just a transport for data, to and from “apps,” on the various platforms.

  37. And I can definitely confirm someone else’s point, that I am more valuable (and have made more money) using AS/Flash/Flex/AIR/Mobile skills, versus my JAVA, .NET (C#), and HTML/JS/CSS skills that left me in a sea of people with those latter abilities. Whatever someone can do in any of those technologies, I can do better and quicker using AS/Flash/Flex/AIR/Mobile.

    Perhaps as tooling, browsers, and libraries evolve (Thank you for EaselJS!) then the best tools will be in HTML/JS/CSS but right now that just isn’t the case.

  38. Well said… without Flash corporate eLearning would probably still be delivered using CD ROM.

    Personally I don’t think Flash itself is dead yet. There are still plenty of content delivery problems that only Flash can solve.

  39. Your 100% correct and I’ve read almost all the posts.

    It’s the people we have to work for I’m worried about. They won’t understand this.

  40. Great post, !! Very sad to see Flash dies.. But, I’m glad it’s over and I’m going to blame Adobe managements for this… Look at what they did last two days, laid off bunch of smart people and announced that “Flash for Mobile is Dead”.. a classic example of how bad they are…

    RIP Flash!!

  41. well, it is a bit sad BUT! I am pretty sure this mobile flash player version 10.3 is gonna stay here for a while, for at least 3 years before being overtaken by any other technology!! I think it is all part of a strategy, relax, what we have now is about x20 times more powerful than HTML5… this is about browsers, we still have AIR. I’m pretty sure Adobe will come with something else later on… otherwise Macromedia might rebirth 🙂

  42. Opinion is not news. Hey, don’t spite me later because I wrote this, right?

    My opinion is not so important, so you can simply gloss the problem of not having a viable, write-once-view-anywhere alternative to Flash. Really, beyond that, what is the whole point of Flash-killing?

    Why kill Flash unless you can deliver a “write once, deploy anywhere” alternative? The divisions in HTML5 are the same that *caused* Flash to appear alongside HTML.

    Unless there is an alternate write once, view everywhere, why is this a good thing?

    Without it, we have a multitude of pockets that don’t talk to each other. Why is killing Flash a good thing without an alternative?

  43. @Ben:

    You turned right around and said the same thing again!

    «My point was not just about Apple making money. I said Carriers ARPU, (i mean network operators like Cingular) – not Apple’s ARPU.

    Truth is, unless you can show a wireless carrier a way to make some recurring money from each user, along with you and your cool runtime (and also guarantee that you can protect the revenue stream)… they will never ever, never support putting your runtime on their device.»

    Does Verizon earn a portion of monies spent in the Android Market by a subscriber with an Android smartphone? (No.) Carriers make their money from your service fee – talk, text, web, tethering. And that’s it. They used to operate app stores of their own, and they still pre-install crapware on the devices they provide to their subsidized customers, but no smartphone user today has to think about Verizon or AT&T when deciding to purchase an app.

    So why would carriers care about a runtime on a smartphone? Truth is, they don’t. They leave such checkbox jockeying to the OEMs, who want to list as many specs as possible to indicate that their device is “better” than the competition. Flash has never been relevant to the carriers, only to the OS and hardware vendors.

    Despite my providing data to show that “content revenue stream dollars” are negligible to Apple, you again asserted “that meant a hardware software vendor who was also interested in protecting content revenue stream dollars as much as the carriers were.” You’re trying to fit the facts to a preconceived narrative. What Apple wanted to avoid with Flash was having a third party dictate the progress of its platform.

    Maybe you’re not familiar with Code Warrior, but it was the development toolchain available for Mac OS prior to OS X (which introduced Project Builder, Interface Builder and, eventually, Xcode). Code Warrior was a third party product, published by a company called Metrowerks. It was also mediocre at best, which left Apple at the mercy of a seemingly disinterested and definitely disorganized tool maker to try to support developers for its platform. Compare with Windows, where Microsoft had realized the value of developer tools and pushed aside the Symantec, Watcom and Borland toolchains to provide the finest IDE for any platform in Visual Studio.

    Flash has never been a factor in mobile, because Adobe never made it one, and Apple took advantage of its weakness and staked it in the heart. Now it dies.

    As always, follow the money. 🙂

  44. Very nice post, Grant. I’ll cross-link from my blog post on the topic.

  45. Well said, Grant.

  46. I did a similar rant yesterday on a tech journalist article, when people cited flash couldn’t do a->b->c such as acceleratorometers and the like.

    People hate flash since as Gary points out, flash is a focal point of web development for the PR firms. Sales rep who sold flash solutions to those who didn’t need them. Designers who have fine arts background suddenly are tasked to doing interactive media design. Programmers who’ve copy and pasted onto on their blog serves as a CV for project managers who don’t know their arse from their elbows and have no respect or see no value in older, more seasoned web developers since we like to say “no” to their miss-conceived ideas of how “current” website is work (within timeframe/budget/resources…what you can’t do 3d or complex frame for frame hand animation, what ARE we paying you for!).
    You can’t surf the web with a flash debugger without a banner crashing your browser back to the desktop as some crappy programmer didn’t get his loaders sured up with error checks.
    ALL of that is just going to transfer over to the “next” buzz word, platform/language.

    And none of it, and no one has mentioned.

    Why are google and apple trying to sandbag a platform that has gps/compas/microphone/acceleratorometer/multi-touch capacity, that works OUTSIDE of their stores without certificates to track down the bad code (security issue/ performance issue making the phones looking bad)
    AND let’s face it guys
    does not pay 30% to them per download.

    Well their tactic worked, I’ve been layed of twice in the last 18 months, and I’m looking at a third – oddly enough, I haven’t put together a web site in 2 years, just applications and games.

  47. Right words for this hysteria. Good job.

  48. You misused ‘comprise’. The proper use would be something more like “HTML5 comprises many features that were influenced by Flash.”

  49. Well said. Your points made me have to go find a link to Jakob Nielsen’s post for “Flash 99% Bad” (http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20001029.html), which was posted in 2000. (I could swear the title was “Flash 99% Unusable” but that is memory for you.) Your point about Flash being easy to use and thus generating the ability for every capable person to create a terrible Flash site was arguably the biggest reason for Nielsen’s post — it is interesting that this is still a sticking point for many critics to date. Flash has been incurring the wrath of critics for 11 years or more, basically ever since it had more than “gotoframe” in its toolbox, and yet it has made it this far and has grown and spawned both a development culture and ecosystem.

    I’m not really a super fan and am probably as much a critic as anyone, but as someone noted above regarding Silverlight’s use by Netflix, as long as there are uses deemed appropriate (or maybe even uses at all), Flash will likely persist for some time. Flash continues to have a strong (and arguably leading) presence in gaming and interactive video applications — both of these are leading areas of growth right now, so it would be hard to say that Flash is going anywhere soon just because Flash has reached the end on mobile. It will be interesting also to see how their plans for continued AIR deployment to devices plays out (if I read the articles right, that is)…

  50. Eloquent and excellent post … wonder if it would be best to just open source that branch(s) of the player. Some pieces adobe can’t give out, which they may not own, but in today’s world there are open source substitutes/alternatives for just about anything. So just give out what is owned and describe the missing libs. no?

  51. For all the dorks who never coded a line in their life. FLASH isn’t dying…the MOBILE BROWSER is dying. It’s all about the NATIVE “EXPERIENCE / APP” via Air 3.0. LONG LIVE FLASH!

  52. Your argument instantly falls apart because you weight it towards fanboyism and parroting the opinions of Steve Jobs. If you truly think that’s the only reason people are happy about this, that reflects on your own fanboyism as much as anything.

    I have been using Flash since around 1997. I have enjoyed many great sites built using the ever-evolving technology, have worked on sites and products that use it myself, and have a lot of respect for what it offers over other technologies. I get it – web standards are behind in some respects, and due to browser vendors having differing ideologies, it’s hard to make some functionality truly browser agnostic.

    In that time, I have also seen the other side of Flash…

    1. Unlike the standards that are trying to replace it – HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript – you need to use Adobe’s expensive IDE to author SWF files. Oh sure, there are alternatives, but none of them is even remotely up to task, and they will always be behind the Adobe product as Adobe controls the introduction of new functionality.

    I can code HTML, CSS and JavaScript anywhere, on any device I own. With Flash I am limited by the number of Flash Professional licenses I have (and my devices have to even support it). I don’t need a paid upgrade of a program to experiment with and develop against new features.
    2. I always have fairly highly specified computers. Despite this, I have seen Flash Player chomping through huge amounts of memory, hogging my processor or just flat out crashing. It’s actually gotten worse since I moved to a 64-bit bit version of Windows 7. Why would I ever want to put a low-powered ARM processor and limited amount of memory through that?
    3. You’re right, it’s driven a lot of great innovation, but that has all been pushed by Adobe and their whims. Unless I’m mistaken (and I hope I am), the Flash standard hasn’t seen contributions from major third parties like Google, Apple, Nokia, Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera et al. While they don’t always agree on HTML5 and CSS3 (audio/video codecs, anyone?), it’s a far more collaborative process. Adobe clearly realise this – even they’re getting involved, like their excellent contributions to CSS shaders.
    4. While you excuse the existence of crappy Flash as just one of the pitfalls of it being so easy to develop, surely we all want to eradicate excess bloat on the Internet? There’s a lot of stuff that would be far lighter if coded in HTML and CSS with no discernible loss in visual quality. Not everyone has the time, money or man power to replace their Flash-based sites, but those who can will do everyone a favour.

    Since Apple introduced the iPhone, the quality of mobile sites has gone up considerably. I started surfing on a phone when WAP was a thing, I know how awful the mobile web’s past was. I would rather mobile OS vendors encouraged this sort of improvement instead of supporting Flash just to get one up on a rival. Google were worrying about Flash when silly things like the animated GIF didn’t work in the Android browser!

  53. @Oluseyi – i really don’t want to argue with you about where the revenue comes from:it’s fine, You can have that one. I think you and I obviously work(ed) on different sides of that equation and you haven’t observed what I have [with carriers and hw vendors and the platforms], and vice versa.

    However, you said – “…Apple took advantage of its weakness and staked it in the heart. Now it dies.”

    that’s pretty harsh man, and it’s not really accurate at all, but it is your opinion. Flash isn’t dying. Adobe didn’t kill Flash, neither did Apple. Sounds like you’d like to see it die though. Flash runs in lots of environments outside the browser, a lot of which you probably didn’t realize. Flash and ActionScript as a platform are always evolving like all other platforms. I’m not worried at all about Adobe’s decision to kill the mobile browser plugin. But i AM very excited for the future of the AS/AVM platform as well as others.

    enjoy chasing the money! 😉 ttyl

  54. Personally, at first I thought flash was clever, quickly I grew to hate Flash, not because Flash itself was at fault (I would argue it hogged WAY more CPU and RAM then it should of, but that’s me being fickle) or even really bad Flash (Flash that was slow, jerky, or otherwise poor in quality) My issue was EVERYONE was using Flash needlessly. When I want to check if my flight or cruise is on time, Why should I wait an extra 30 – 45 seconds for Flash to load some segalls cawing, and shiny buttons?

    Don’t get me wrong I don’t like technology dieing off, but I do look forward to Flash going away where it’s use simply makes no sense. Granted it’ll probably be replaced with HTML 5 but at least that tends to load more efficiently.

  55. Eric – Flash is roughly equal in terms of performance with HTML5 in our testing, and it is more efficient at loading – it’s a compressed binary, has much better (or more exposed) support for vector art, and has lossy alpha images.

    The truth is, when authoring HTML5 becomes accessible to the masses, there will also be some very poor uses, and at least with the present capabilities of the open web, some of the problems will be exacerbated. Hopefully some lessons will be learned from Flash, and at least the big sites won’t repeat their mistakes with HTML.

    This isn’t an argument against HTML5 or for Flash, just a response to your specific points.

  56. who’s with me in building a rich media interactive html5 site, with web-camera, how will this work on mobile without the aid of flash.

    Quick to the almighty Apple and google, please enable Javascript to access your hardware – open source AND free of charge via open WEB technologies, WITHOUT submitting the code it to your stores

    Now where was open letter about flash, something about security issues? performance issues?
    How can the almighty HTML5 suffer the same complaints issuing forth new “free” apps, outside of the app stores?

    This has 0% to do with flash platform, expensive tools, open standards etc etc,

    and 100% bad code, bad design, bad project management of the advertising agencies and others trying to make a quick buck of the internet – who’s bad practices, if flash or even a HTML5 solution managed to gain more than 10% access to the hardware would easily destroy the user experience, as well as being a huge security risk for hacks, and not forgetting
    chipping in 30% into the apples pockets.

  57. Well said. I agree with you that it was a good move for Adobe to end Flash for mobile web content.

  58. @Ben:

    I’m always looking to learn. If you have some information to share about how app sales on modern smartphone platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and if I’m feeling generous I’ll throw in BB OS 7) accrue revenue for carriers, please do!

    As for Flash, make no mistake, it IS dying. Sure, this announcement is only about mobile (though a parallel, lesser announcement was made on the end of Adobe’s Flash on TV efforts), but mobile is the single biggest growth vector in web and will soon grow to dwarf all desktop/laptop access. If Flash isn’t viable there, that disincentivizes developers to build Flash apps for the web as a whole, if they’ll still have to build an HTML 5 or native variant. Yes, it will be a drawn out death, and right now the prospects for Flash on other platforms appear vibrant, but this is a signal that Adobe is dropping its platform owner pretensions and returning to its core competencies in tools.

    I don’t chase money. I follow it to find the truth in the duplicitous statements of corporations and public executives. It’s a useful rule of thumb.

  59. 1. Problem is with Silverlight . Silverlight did’t doe’s presure on Flash player.

    2. Then Flashplayer: it end’s like Java in internet brovser’s . And it is here next apereance of microsoft. Java plugin for IE opera etc. was better as Flash. And it should be and it is need of some better graphics and new object in java plugin for browsers. And only Microsoft made java plugins for brovser death.

  60. It is stupid to think that HTML5 “doe’s and can do” what did not or would did “Java in internet browsers”

    High level language Java vs. stupid markup language HTML which is not more derived from SGML.. Ha Ha Ha Ha…

    It is symptomatic and I hope it is end of “Microsoft circle of stupidnes” that in Android is again using Java and Windows mobile is death.

    Without killing Java in browsers would never apear something like Flash .

  61. well said. I think flash is a good application, but crappy flash programmer will make the device looks crappy. its the same thing. Crappy cocoa programmer will make IOS crash and looks crappy. that is why apple control it and make the best device in planet.
    Adobe should sell flash to apple, and everything under control. problem solved.

  62. I’m sorry that Flash is dying. I used to be irritated until I’ve come across FlashBlock. Now I could watch moving crap only when I wanted to.
    I wonder if I’ll have this option when HTML5 takes over.

  63. I do no agree on the final optimism.
    Flash on mobile is just another technology for building video-games with an heavy runtime. Just one of many.
    SWF is a de-facto standard that should have been supported everywhere it was possible.

    The poor marketing strategy make this even worst. Our clients are now more sensible to html5 hype vs evil-closed-flash. And not only our clients but even our interns are more interested in other technologies more than in as3… finding a smart young programmer interested in learing as3 used to be painful, now would became nearly impossible.

  64. It isn’t really a case of Flash being bad but just the landscape of technology changing which happens continuously.
    HTML5 provides a rich cross platform environment so it makes sense for Adobe to embrace HTML5 over Flash as it does for Microsoft to embrace HTML5 over XAML in Silverlight and WPF.
    It makes sense for Adobe to make this transition now rather than in years to come when other companies will have established editors and design packages for HTML5. Adobe has always been about establishing heavyweight standard software and languages, whether it’s PDF, Postscript or Flash so I wouldn’t count Adobe out, just realigning its product range to tackle the market that exists today.

    I am a little tired at the many posts about this somehow being a victory for Apple, that line just doesn’t make any sense. It’s a victory for HTML5 which would have caused this change to happen if not now then within months and if anything I’m sure we’ll see a stronger Adobe with a stronger product line as a direct result.

  65. ExCodeMonkeyEnglishTeacher November 13, 2011 at 2:06pm

    Warning, metacomments ahead…

    1. I can’t help noticing that a large proportion of these comments are written in EuroEnglish. It makes me curious about the differences between the European and US marketplaces. Perhaps the Flash market is bigger in Europe for some reason?

    2. I’m fascinated that one announcement by Adobe leads to so many different interpretations by all you Flash users. Either Adobe PR has failed miserably, or for some reason they WANT all this confusion…

  66. Interesting;

    When I read the original article Adobe made, before I got to the end I was telling my co-worker that Adobe has something else in mind, something better than Flash Lite for the mobile market.
    AS3 has been around since 2007 (Flash CS3), and a bit earlier for Flex. It is more robust and I am constantly amazed by many of the custom, open source, code, classes, and projects available online. With Adobe choosing Air for the mobile market, it did not abandon Flash Mobile, it simply pushed the limits further out, giving developers additional resources and abilities that we did not have with Flash Lite.

    It’s not often I say change is good; this is one of those times.

  67. Juan Estevas Javier November 15, 2011 at 6:24am

    Petition created by Peter Elst:


    “Why This Is Important

    The announcements on November 9th 2011 around Flash Platform technology – and the way in which communication happened – have caused irrefutable damage to developers and stakeholders worldwide.

    As CEO, Shantanu Narayen has shown a complete disregard for customers and his lack of leadership has resulted in widespread chaos and uncertainty.

    It is time for Adobe to move on under a new CEO and regain the trust of its user base and community.”

  68. if you think flash dont matter on your stupid ipad, goto http://www.lucasarts.com – page is only accessible with flash. there are plenty more big sites like that. sucks i know…

    the fragmentation of video formats delivered via html5 is not cross-browsers – webm, theora, h264, etc. so is the performance of various benchmarks with html5 and flash. flash animations are 10 – 30 fps more in many cases than other implementations. if you think flash is a hog, wait till those animated effects are done on html5. then your mobile battery life is drained quicker.

    the people who made this decisions should be forced to step down by the majority shareholders. currently, adobe has the upper hands – tablet/flash is BETTER than a future with html5/ipad or html5/silverlight/windows8. if they played their card right, android will take the 90% share of handhelds and flash will be ubiquitous once again. if they discard their bread and butter, it will only levelled the plainfields for apple/playbook/windows8/android. if it is not for flash on linux, i might have gone freebsd or openindiana. to me underneath do not matter, what matters if i can access sites like http://www.lucasarts.com.

  69. rancidpicklefarts November 22, 2011 at 11:36am

    Ok, So I’ve read most of the comments, here they are in my own words,

    1=People will only use Mobile phones for internet access in the future and desktop surfing will be dead, (bull), Most of the people I know still use Home or laptop Computers for internet access and Probably will till the end of time, Phones are fine for looking up small bits of information, but a real pain for Shopping and Looking up large volumes of data. and Tablets, well typing on them feels like air drumming, just not as good as the real drum.

    2= Steve Jobs Stopped supporting Flash because it used up too much battery life or was a dog and he “was not” concerned about Cash flow being taken away from the Apple Store,
    (Even More Bull), Steve Jobs loved Cash Flow, SO Much SO he even threatened to sue Steven Wozniak, the inventor of the First Apple Computer for trying to start his own company in fears that it might reflect back on Apple (The company) and hurt Apples image and Bank Account. Trust me, I’ve been in the business since 1979. Jobs was truly an Ass. I feel if a Child stole 10 cent from this man he’d have him put in jail. And Woz was the true genius, not Jobs, he was a leech that fed offa other creative people. but damn!, was he a good leech.

    3= that Adobe had nothing to do with flash’s down fall, Just check out what it cost for the average Programmer to license anything from Adobe. HTML 5 free, Java Free, Adobe ( Crazy ).

    4= I’m always right in my own mind, I’m also a programmer, having been in this business since the dawn of the home computer I have seen how badly these CEOs can hate each other and just do the dumbest things to stop one and other from making a place for themselves in any market. Check out the history of computers and you’ll see back stabbing a plenty!

    And yes, Apple cares about Cell phone APP sales, just as a hotdog vendor cares about a 50 cent frank.

    and in the words of the genius Forest Gump, ” and that’s all I have to say about that”

  70. Grant, thank you for everything.
    I have never met you, but I have learned a *ton* from you over the years.
    I have always appreciated your clear thoughts on every subject I have read/heard them on.

    I have been working heavily with Flash since 1996 and did *a lot* of mobile Flash development.
    Your thoughts and voice in the Flash community has enriched a lot of peoples’ lives.

    Thank you for taking the time and doing such creative and amazing work and sharing it so freely with us all.


  71. Good words… Well said.


  72. Flash is how I learned to program. It’s how I learned to Love OOP.
    I would not be the developer that I am today without it.

    Thanks Flash… I still love you.

  73. As an iPhone user, I was initially in full agreement that Flash had no place on my phone. Flash Lite was crap, and there was no evidence that the full player could be made to run well on a device.

  74. I am looking for some good blog sites for studying. I was searching over search engines and found your blog site. Well i like your high quality blog site design plus your posting abilities. Keep doing it.

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