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Flash Wars: Adobe in the History and Future of Flash [Part 1 of 3]

post #1 of 71
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Pitted against Microsoft's efforts to crush Flash using its own copycat Silverlight platform, open source projects seeking to duplicate Flash for free, and Apple's efforts to create a mobile platform wholly free of any trace of Flash, Adobe has scrambled to announce efforts to make Flash a public specification in the Open Screen Project.

Will it help get Flash on the iPhone? Here's the first segment of a three part series with a historical overview of the wars between Flash and Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, Apple, Google, and the open source community, the problems Flash faces today, and what future Flash can hope for as an open specification.

A Brief History of Flash

Flash originated at FutureWave Software as SmartSketch, an innovative drawing tool. In 1995, the software was repositioned as FutureSplash Animator, with support for cell based animation. It was pitched as a way to quickly draw and animate vector-based graphics for efficient delivery over the web, as a direct challenge to Macromedia's heavier and more complex Authorware and its Director-created Shockwave content.

FutureWave pitched the product to Adobe, but it was Macromedia that bought it in 1996, hoping to integrate it as an approachable, entry level member of its content production tools as the company's business was rapidly pushed from CD-ROM oriented products to the web. Macromedia abbreviated the name from FutureSplash to Flash.

It turned out that the easy to use Flash rapidly sidelined Macromedia's existing Authorware and Shockwave. Flash made it easy for designers to create interactive content with only minimal development knowledge. The real break for Flash came when Macromedia lined up a bundling agreement with Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5, which resulted in the Flash player software being widely distributed.

While Microsoft embraced Flash, it actively worked in parallel to stop Sun's Java and Netscape's web browser as threats to Windows. Microsoft's efforts to sideline Java into a Windows programming language and its strategy to embrace and extend standards-based, platform agnostic HTML into web pages that only worked in Internet Explorer gave Macromedia's Flash fertile ground to grow as a quick and simple alternative to the more complex and resource intensive Java as a way to create simple, interactive applets on the web.

Adobe Hates, Then Buys Flash

Adobe purchased Macromedia in 2005 largely to obtain Flash, the crown jewel of Macromedia's web development tool assets. Prior to owning it, Adobe unsuccessfully worked hard to kill it as a competing product.

In 1998, when Macromedia and Microsoft submitted VML to the W3C as a potential web standard for vector graphics (based on Microsoft's RTF), Adobe teamed up with Sun to push the rival PGML specification (based on Adobe's PostScript). The W3C developed a new standard that drew from both, called SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).

Adobe pushed SVG as a competitor to Flash right up until it bought Flash, distributing the Adobe SVG Player as a free web plugin. Microsoft continued to push its own VML, which it built into Internet Explorer. This prevented either VML or SVG from making much progress, as other browsers didn't support VML, while the SVG open standard saw little adoption given Adobe's weak presence in web development tools. That let Flash easily win out over both as the way to develop and present animated vector graphics on the web.

Flash continued to develop at Macromedia, gaining a scripting language based on JavaScript and other features that turned it into a full presentation development tool rather than just a way to distribute small interactive graphics. Macromedia even took swipes back at Adobe, introducing FlashPaper as an alternative to Adobe's PDF as a way to distribute electronic documents in the Flash format.

After buying Flash, Adobe gave up support for its own weak SVG Player rival and has apparently discarded FlashPaper as a PDF competitor. However, the rest of the industry has plenty of reasons to still hate Flash, as will be presented in part two: The Many Enemies and Obstacles of Flash.
post #2 of 71
1st comment w00t. Wow, 1995? Jeeez... I'm going to be 30 in September... THIRTY!

Anyways, I hope the article talks more about Adobe AIR. Because what we'll have going into the next five years predominantly duking it out for the end-user side is AIR/Flash, Silverlight, Java, and Cocoa.

Who will be left standing by 2012?
post #3 of 71
I am sure there are some sites that use Flash appropriately, but more often than not, it is an annoyance, usually in a banner ad. Either the banner strobes or you hear a sound, usually a fly buzzing until you mute it which requires you to look at the banner to find the button.
post #4 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by troberts View Post

I am sure there are some sites that use Flash appropriately ....

I'm not sure if you will have heard of it but there's a small site called YouTube that uses Flash quite sucessfully
post #5 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by commenter View Post

I'm not sure if you will have heard of it but there's a small site called YouTube that uses Flash quite sucessfully

But he said appropriately. Flash is not a good video delivery tool.

/Adrian
post #6 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zandros View Post

But he said appropriately. Flash is not a good video delivery tool.

/Adrian

I have to respectfully disagree. Flash is a plug-in that pretty much every computer has. Not everyone has QuickTime, RealPlayer, or Windows Media Player. In order to reach the largest audience possible, Flash is the way to go.
post #7 of 71
I loved FlashPaper. Macromedia Studio 8 included it as an extra or Contribute. It is a great concept. Allow developers to embed a document formatted in Flash. You can embed a PDF file but it just doesn't look as good.
post #8 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by dabrace1984 View Post

I have to respectfully disagree. Flash is a plug-in that pretty much every computer has. Not everyone has QuickTime, RealPlayer, or Windows Media Player. In order to reach the largest audience possible, Flash is the way to go.

Actually, not everyone has flash. It's not "pretty much everyone."

-=|Mgkwho
post #9 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgkwho View Post

Actually, not everyone has flash. It's not "pretty much everyone."

-=|Mgkwho

Then I guess those people don't like browsing the Internet.
post #10 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by dabrace1984 View Post

I have to respectfully disagree. Flash is a plug-in that pretty much every computer has. Not everyone has QuickTime, RealPlayer, or Windows Media Player. In order to reach the largest audience possible, Flash is the way to go.

True indeed, but that doesn't make it good, merely ubiquitous.

/Adrian
post #11 of 71
you guys spend your time arguing over the pettiest shit.
makes me laugh.

also makes me come back to the comments portion again and again.
post #12 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgkwho View Post

Actually, not everyone has flash. It's not "pretty much everyone."

-=|Mgkwho


Just an FYI, Flash is on 99% of all desktop browsers.

w00master
post #13 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgkwho View Post

Actually, not everyone has flash. It's not "pretty much everyone."

-=|Mgkwho

Actually, it is 'pretty much everyone'.

http://www.adobe.com/products/player...netration.html

I don't understand why people get so mad about Flash. Javascript opens pop ups .. GIFs can animate. If you don't like Flash .. uninstall the player in your browser and see how much you enjoy the interweb.

Flash is good because it is lightweight, widely supported, doesn't break in certain browsers, offers the best video deployment on the web, it's safe for the end user .. the list can go on and on. I think people who don't really know what Flash is are the people that hate it the most. In my opinion, poorly implemented Javascript is way worse than poorly implemented Flash.

noooodles!
post #14 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by dabrace1984 View Post

Then I guess those people don't like browsing the Internet.

lol

->Flash can thank porn for delivery to the masses. Flash started getting a workout the minute designers started using Flash to create the billions of banners.
post #15 of 71
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post #16 of 71
Are you tired of using Flash to watch YouTube videos? Do you want to be able to watch YouTube videos in higher resolution? Do you want to be able to save YouTube videos locally?

Now you can with QTYouTube. Once saved you only need to access the bookmark when on a YouTube video page to get it to play in QT (Does not work for every video).
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post #17 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodleguy View Post

I don't understand why people get so mad about Flash. Javascript opens pop ups .. GIFs can animate. If you don't like Flash .. uninstall the player in your browser and see how much you enjoy the interweb.

Javascript and GIFs don't send your CPU utilization to 100%.
Javascript and GIFs aren't huge memory hogs.
Javascript and GIFs work perfectly well on slower machines.
Quote:
Flash is good because it is lightweight, widely supported, doesn't break in certain browsers, offers the best video deployment on the web, it's safe for the end user .. the list can go on and on.

HA HA HA HA! That's funny. Flash may be widely supported, but it is unstable, bloated, a memory and CPU pig. It's horribly inefficient. Safe for the end user huh? Like keeping a private history that isn't cleared when you remove your history or empty your cache?

Flash is a multimedia authoring environment shoehorned into a web browser. If you need that fine, but very few sites require that - especially YouTube. Maybe QuickTime isn't as ubiquitous but so what - throw up MP4 files and let the user download their own plugin be it QuickTime or something else.
post #18 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Are you tired of using Flash to watch YouTube videos? Do you want to be able to watch YouTube videos in higher resolution? Do you want to be able to save YouTube videos locally?

Now you can with QTYouTube. Once saved you only need to access the bookmark when on a YouTube video page to get it to play in QT (Does not work for every video).

Thanks for link. I assume this is related to the ATV access too? I am hoping they go wide screen aspect ration too.
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post #19 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

Thanks for link. I assume this is related to the ATV access too? I am hoping they go wide screen aspect ration too.

AppleTV, iPhone and iPod Touch all use MP4 via QT. This clever JS script allows you too access it. I think it's the slightly higher-res AppleTV and iDevice over WiFi video that you are getting. While the video of some look better, most look about the same to me. Th real benefit to me is having the option of saving the video locally.
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post #20 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by dabrace1984 View Post

I have to respectfully disagree. Flash is a plug-in that pretty much every computer has. Not everyone has QuickTime, RealPlayer, or Windows Media Player. In order to reach the largest audience possible, Flash is the way to go.

Flash Player 7 may have 98% market penetration but Flash Player 9 certainly does not.

Quicktime 7 now has 80% market penetration thanks to iTunes and iPhone.

As far as video quality, Quicktime H264 beats Flash's VP6 hands done. Also VP6 is much more processor intensive than Quicktime. There is hope for Flash's use of H264. But currently you can only NetStream it with some playback issues.

Microsoft and Balmer are idiots so I could care less about Silvercrap.

For Video including banners I use Quicktime. It is the best. Quicktime plays on iPhone, Flash does not.

Ed
post #21 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by HVMediaSolutions View Post

Flash Player 7 may have 98% market penetration but Flash Player 9 certainly does not.

Quicktime 7 now has 80% market penetration thanks to iTunes and iPhone.

As far as video quality, Quicktime H264 beats Flash's VP6 hands done. Also VP6 is much more processor intensive than Quicktime. There is hope for Flash's use of H264. But currently you can only NetStream it with some playback issues.

Microsoft and Balmer are idiots so I could care less about Silvercrap.

For Video including banners I use Quicktime. It is the best. Quicktime plays on iPhone, Flash does not.

Ed

It would be nice if QT were the platform of choice by google for sure.
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post #22 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by dabrace1984 View Post

I loved FlashPaper. Macromedia Studio 8 included it as an extra or Contribute. It is a great concept. Allow developers to embed a document formatted in Flash. You can embed a PDF file but it just doesn't look as good.

With Studio 8 came FlashPaper where in MS Office you had an additional toolbar for it. It allows you to export your documents as PDF or SWF. For a Flash-based project I'm working on we has to embed documentation in it. Thinking how could we do this there was talk of using XML, importing it then positioning text and images.. etc. Talk about what would have been a headache. Using FlashPaper we were able to export a SWF of our documents. Load that SWF and it displayed perfectly, just as the original. Not to mention it also offered zooming, searching, and printing capabilities.
post #23 of 71
I agree with almost everything said here. Flash is ubiquitous and convenient but often also annoying and a cause for hangs or processor spikes.
The best way to browse the Web is therefore to use a flashblocker (Camino has one build-in). Some sites require a few additional clicks to get to the desired content but on most sites it just cuts down on distracting animation (and ads).
post #24 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

It would be nice if QT were the platform of choice by google for sure.

There's no QT for linux though is there? There is Flash though. Also what about stuff like the Wii, the PS3 etc, you can't "install" QT on them, but they come with Flash because Flash is a "standard" for web browsing.
post #25 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

It would be nice if QT were the platform of choice by google for sure.

Well it is for iPhone users. 80% of moble Google searches are made by iPhone.

I think web designers should use more CSS than Flash for website design. Flash is cool and all but for SEO it's no where to be found. Displaying video and audio content via Quicktime is a much better approach.

Well see how far the iPhone pushes designers. I think it's a huge market that can not be dismissed. Almost all of my client request that their sites be compatable with iPhone. That means no Flash. I hope Apple keeps it that way.

Ed
post #26 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post

There's no QT for linux though is there? There is Flash though. Also what about stuff like the Wii, the PS3 etc, you can't "install" QT on them, but they come with Flash because Flash is a "standard" for web browsing.

The Wii has only Flash Player 7. Try viewing a new modern Flash 9 site. so much for "standard".

Ed
post #27 of 71
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post #28 of 71
People who criticize Flash almost always ignore the fact that Flash is a totally integrated programming environment with virtually no limitations. Actionscript 3 is sort of like having php built into a graphics animation package. With all that power, of course it is going to be a bit bloated, but the swfs are remarkably small for what they can do.

Maybe it doesn't belong on an iPhone but I have say that I find it quite useful and will continue to develop with it until something better comes along.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee.

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post #29 of 71
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post #30 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gustav View Post

Javascript and GIFs don't send your CPU utilization to 100%.
Javascript and GIFs aren't huge memory hogs.
Javascript and GIFs work perfectly well on slower machines.


HA HA HA HA! That's funny. Flash may be widely supported, but it is unstable, bloated, a memory and CPU pig. It's horribly inefficient. Safe for the end user huh? Like keeping a private history that isn't cleared when you remove your history or empty your cache?

That's all bad implementation. It has nothing to do with Flash itself. That's like saying you don't like hamburgers cause McDonalds gives you a tummy ache.

If anything, you hate all the idiots that develop with it. Which I agree with.
post #31 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slewis View Post

No, users who don't have a vested interest in Flash like you apparently do pay more attention to the fact that it's bloated, a memory hog, usually gets my Macbook's fan spinning fairly quickly and is just downright annoying.

Sebastian


You should probably turn off Flash and enjoy what's left of the internet.

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post #32 of 71
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post #33 of 71
Looks like you guys are turning around which is a good sign. I usually think these three part articles are kinda hokey but I'm looking forward to finishing it.

I have no idea what to predict on this one. Flash is a powerhouse environment but it is also a hog. Hopefully in the next couple years html5 css3 and advanced javascripting like jQuery or mootools will take the place of flash, but we'll have to see. Although by that time (especially if Intel can deliver 80 core processors) Flash may not be that big of a memory hog in comparison.
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post #34 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by commenter View Post

I'm not sure if you will have heard of it but there's a small site called YouTube that uses Flash quite sucessfully

He wrote "sites" youtube is just one. Now can I have a new Cinema Display?

I watch a tiny, shitty little video on my 2.16 Ghz MBP and my CPU goes balistic and my lap gets hot!

Now... How can flash move us past a 2" low res video??? I would never run that on a mobile. We're supposed to
be advancing to High Def. I have no idea what the solution is, I'll leave that to others, but Flash is not it.
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post #35 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by 8CoreWhore View Post

Now can I have a new Cinema Display?

With IR receiver, 2.1MP iSight camera and DisplayPort.
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post #36 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgkwho View Post

Actually, not everyone has flash. It's not "pretty much everyone."

-=|Mgkwho

95% of all browsers is Pretty Much Everyone!
post #37 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlashmanBurgess View Post

95% of all browsers is Pretty Much Everyone!

95%? Maybe for Flash Player 7. I went to an interview in NYC and was excited to show my "modern" Flash 9 portfolio. It did not go as well as I had planned. The company was still using Flash Player 8. something. I had to pull out my laptop to show them my portfolio.

Ed
post #38 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by HVMediaSolutions View Post

95%? Maybe for Flash Player 7. I went to an interview in NYC and was excited to show my "modern" Flash 9 portfolio. It did not go as well as I had planned. The company was still using Flash Player 8. something. I had to pull out my laptop to show them my portfolio.

Ed

If you had done your embed code correctly, it would have automatically updated the plug-in. At least it would have prompted you to do so.
post #39 of 71
It'll be interesting to see when Jobs buys Adobe, whether he kills Flash over time or tweaks it.
post #40 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasthead View Post

It'll be interesting to see when Jobs buys Adobe, whether he kills Flash over time or tweaks it.

You think Apple will buy Adobe? I don't think so. Their market value is $22.1B according to NASDAQ.com. But most importantly, Cringely thinks it's going to happen.
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