So long and thanks for all the Flash

Back in ye olde ancient days of the computer, there was Mac and Windows and all that server room stuff.  If you wanted to create video or most anything else that you shared (that wasn’t on paper) that looked like hiring programmers, testers and so on for Windows and Mac and having a multi-year development plan. Then we got email and the web. And they were kind of cool. All of a sudden you could share words and simple images. You didn’t need a paper phonebook anymore! But, HTML couldn’t do anything complicated and it couldn’t do video or sound. Then Adobe invented this thing called Flash. YouTube was build on top of that. Almost all of the silly games on the web were built on top of it. And people built entire applications in it.

And people built websites on top of it. Except, Flash is proprietary. Those flash files are little sealed boxes and the almighty google can’t see in side those boxes. We spend a lot of time explaining to people that they’re Flash website is very pretty and all… and no one can find it on Google. Ain’t gonna happen. That’s the nature of Flash.

Since then, html (especially the latest rev html5) has steadily taken on the things Flash used to do. I can’t remember the last time I created something in Flash. And, it’s always been demanding and buggy with a never-ending history of security problems.

Over the last ten days, Adobe had what amounted to an extended funeral for Flash. First, they announced they’ve  dropped development of Flash for mobil devices.  While the tech press ( picked it, it spilled over into the wider media (the Financial Times of London with headlines about Steve winning another one (from beyond the grave). Adobe’s stock got pummeled.

They’ve confirmed to reporters that they’ve also stopped work on Flash for embedded devices (e.g. TVs and set top boxes) and a few days ago they announced they were giving Flex(aka Flash used to create freestanding applications) to an Open Source Foundation. But, why would anybody donate a ton of time to keeping the undead around?

Those headlines that have said that the death of Flash is a case of Steve Jobs winning a battle from beyond the grave missed the real story. Yes, he did. And thank you Steve. Flash is buggy, bloated and Adobe has yet to make it run well on any of the mobil devices. Yes, you can do applications in it, but who wants their phone going to a crawl and crashing left and right?

From when we opened our doors, we said the future was about being able to do what you need to do from anywhere with any device. That means everything solutions have to work in web browsers on mobile devices first. People love their iPhones, their Android phones and their tablets. And they’re bringing those into their jobs. Or, if you prefer, they’re getting their jobs done wherever they are because they’ve got great tools that let them do that. That process is called the Consumerization of IT. That’s where we’re going, that’s where the world is going. And, around the Flash funeral, Adobe has been saying their focus is on html5. Adobe, welcome to this century. It’s good to see you’re going to hang around for a while longer.

But even that is just part of the story. People buying their own tools is going to save business a ton of money and the real change is much bigger. It’s really something that’s been developing since before Windows and the Mac OS. The same lab (Xerox PARC) that came up with the Folders, Icons and so on that Mac and Windows are built on, also created a system of palm-sized, tablet-sized and whiteboard-sized computers that allowed you to not just walk down the hall doing work on something in your palm or sit with a tablet and do the same thing (so far so –decades later– old news) but it allowed you to toss your work back and forth between them. The future is going to look like whatever you’re doing flowing seemlessly between all the gadgets you use. We’re adding in the ability to grab bits and pieces and fling them around (copy and paste and windows are really just a start), the ability to use plain old English to make things happen. It’s cool telling your computer to create a contact and seeing it happen. The future is very cool.