Is Flash Evil? Will it ever end!

This was inspired by a slashdot article the other day

I’m so tired of Flash bashing on slashdot. I find it funny that an audience that generally doesn’t care about a user friendly UI can comment so much about a product aimed solely at that market. The reality is that 99% of computer users are not software development geeks like us, until software developers understand that they will keep bashing Flash and i’m tired of it. I’m not obsessed with Flash, I just think that there is a proper time to use it and a proper time not to. Here are some realities that people who don’t have extensive experience with Flash need to keep in mind

  1. Flash is not Java. It’s much faster to build UIs in Flash, much faster to prototype them and produce a result. It might not be as “powerful” but that doesn’t always make business sense.
  2. The SWF format is an open standard. Yes Macromedia owns it, but they haven’t stopped anyone from building a compiler to output swf files. There are many out there already and the number seems to be growing. If you have a problem with the fact that currently Macromedia produces the best tools to produce SWF files, why not complain about why 99% of .Net developers use VS.NET.
  3. Flash has succeeded where others have failed. Java applets were slow loading, crashed the browser and at one point every corporate website a few years ago set a rule of no java because too many browsers crashed or security concerns were up in the air. Flash hasn’t had these issues and Macromedia has been very careful not to repeat that mistake (I don’t know this for a fact of course). Even today, you are starting to see more and more Java applications built with a Smart Client written in .Net talking to a Java back-end, why? Because no one seems to like building UIs in Java (I’m sure someone is going to tell me about product x that kicks ass, no need IÂ’ve seen many that look cool but haven’t seen anyone produce a product with it)
  4. Given any tool people are going to produce bad and good products with it. So yes, most Flash websites are crap, but thatÂ’s not what I produce and what most professional Flash developer produce either. And when Flash gains a new market like embedded systems, trust me Flash will gain momentum in that market very quickly.
  5. My favorite, the SVG argument. Ok, so I would love to use SVG, but does it offer all the features of Flash, NO, is it catching up, NO it is not. Anyone notice that SVG hasn’t gotten anywhere in years. ThatÂ’s where Flash is different, because Macromedia is the sole person responsible for the Flash player they can move faster than a group of companies that could care less about SVG other than having something out there for people to think there is an alternative.
  6. Flash is cross-platform. I repeated it is cross-platform. It runs on most major OSs, has a slimmed down version on smaller devices and is growing daily. Avalon wonÂ’t be, as long as Microsoft wants to sell windows.

Hopefully one day Flash will stop getting such a bad rap by the industry as a whole. It no longer is an animation tool, there’s really a lot more there and if you can’t see why then you most likely are not interested in building user interfaces. I’ve been working on a real-time mission-critical examination system used at university hospitals, and you know what, almost all the interfaces are Flash based, this allowed us to go much further than can be done with HTML. In real-time exams where doctors are not tech savvy, we were able to make the whole process so transparent, no training is required to administer an exam. We’ve even had users who didn’t know what a mouse was run through an exam (After showing them how to click of course)

For the people who want to argue, right now there is no mature alternative to Flash and it doesn’t look like there will be for a long time. If you hate Flash so much, why not built an alternative you think people will adopt.

9 thoughts on “Is Flash Evil? Will it ever end!

  1. Very well said!!

    Oh ho ho… the comment on SlashDot about hardware manafacturers using Flash for UI’s, which apparently will mean that it would take 10 mins to change the contrast on your monitor! Time and a place people, Flash can’t be beaten in certain markets, stop being put off by bad design and banner ads ;) Haha.

    It seems it’s really only the “über-l33t” script kiddies that never got past Flash 101 shape tweening that put it down so.

  2. Great post. I truely believe that the mark of a good programmer(which i enjoy working with everyday) is that they actually see their work in relation to the end user. My biggest issue with slashdot is that for all the intelligence of the community they can’t get beyond there own personal sphere. There are posts in there that boil down to being annoyed that dreamweaver allows less experienced developers do advanced stuff and thus take work away from them-really welcome to the modern marketplace. Other posts are obsessed with the “open” thing-ooooooh that has really helped SVG. Others are irritated by the quality of the designs-blame the tool rather than the bad designer using it. Simply put these intelligent people are simply “thinking” dumb when it comes to this topic.

    My main arguement has always been: show me a workflow that outputs something that has all the capabilities of a flash app and not increase the hours it takes for me to get there. I haven’t seen one.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this post. They have a fear of the unknown or intimidated by Flash. Some of the work interesting UI work is done with Flash. In addition to the issues you mentioned above, some the most innovative Internet UI work has been built with Flash connected to a database using Flash Remoting. One of things I preach most often is that, “user-focused task completion can be achieved with incredible efficiencies using Flash RIA.”

  4. Well, just let it be some comfort to you to know that indeed THEY are the morons.

    If they dont like it now they better pick up some tutorials and try to fit in, because Flash is just getting started still.

    Were coming and we wont stop!

  5. A very inspirated post Chafic,

    I think the first problem with flash adoption is that people out there speak without knowing of flash’s capabilities and only watching the bad crafted sites…

    Well, it’s a matter of time that people starts to change their thinking about Flash when they start to know the technology much better…

  6. look at the jerk that said:

    “(with flash) You can’t go back. You can’t bookmark.”

    the last version he saw was flash 4?

    Flash rules!

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