This weekend I was at FITC Edmonton, where I presented my Programming Art session for the last time. I’ll be working on something new for next year. It was a fun conference. Very relaxed, and for the first time ever, I actually attended every single session in the entire conference.
In addition to my own session, I was part of a discussion panel entitled “Staying Lithe in a Changing Rich Media Climate” along with Skye Boyes, Mike Chambers, Grant Skinner, and moderated by Owen Brierley. The description of the panel was:
BIFF, POW, BAM! “Holy Shifting Platforms, Batman!” Just when we thought the ubiquity of the Flash Player was strong enough to keep the evil chaos of various mobile at bay, on the eve of the launch of one compiler to rule them all, Flash developers everywhere get a punch in nose that shocked a lot of us. Much has been said about this. Now it is time to look forward. This panel will discuss the strategies we all need to keep our heads above the rising tide of increased challenges and varieties of platform choices. How does Flash fit into your future? How can we learn from Sitespring? Central?
It was rather fun to air a lot of the feelings we had about all the recent controversy over Flash, HTML5, iOS, Android, etc. But one thing Mike Chambers said blew my mind to some degree. It really changed the way I see Flash. Up until now, if you had asked me what Flash (on the web) is, I would probably come up with some kind of canned statement like, “Flash is a browser plugin that allows you to do vector graphics, animation, sound, and video. It’s very useful for creating online experiences, games, and Rich Internet Applications.”
But Mike gave a definition something like (probably paraphrased), “Flash is what drives innovation on the web,” and went on to explain that more. What I got out of it is as follows. This expands a bit on what Mike said probably, so I may be going beyond what he meant by it, but I think I got the spirit of what he meant.
Eventually though, the native browser capabilities will catch up to the capabilities that Flash has established. HTML5 may eventually be able to do many of the things which, up to now, were best done in Flash. Vector graphics, animation, video. And that is fine. That, too, is a good thing. It is expected – not something to freak out about or get defensive about. Flash has gone out into the wilderness and blazed a trail. HTML can come along a few years later and build the cities. If Flash stays where it is, sure, it’s going to be crowded out and its users are going to feel defensive and argumentative.
Flash’s job now is to be back out in the wilderness blazing more trails. As Mike also said (again paraphrased), “Flash will either keep innovating or it won’t. If it does, it will be fine. If not, it will die. We think it will continue to innovate.” Thus, what Flash is 10 years from now may be so different than what it is now that you may not recognize it. But think of it – if someone who was using Flash 4 back in 1999 fell into a coma and woke up in 2009 to see people creating Flex apps using MXML and AS3 classes in Eclipse, would they recognize it as Flash? I don’t think so. So I can’t imagine what Flash might look like or be used for in 2020.