The Associated Press just published an article by Barbara Ortutay stating that Adobe Systems is eliminating Flash on mobile web browsers. Instead, they will pursue only HTML5 for rich media display in that context. That should worry a lot of web conferencing software vendors.
Don’t get the wrong impression… I am not running around shouting “The sky is falling!” Adobe says it will continue to support Flash for PC-based web browsers and that Flash will still work on mobile apps. So it’s not like Flash is going away tomorrow.
But we have to be realistic. Web conferencing vendors would far prefer to have a single code base to develop, support, and document. They may have been forced into separate apps to support display on iOS devices (which have never supported Flash), but they can’t enjoy being backed into that requirement. A cloud-based web conferencing system should be able to promote a web link to any user and let them join (and ideally, present) from any web browser on any computing device.
A few years back, before iPhones and iPads became ubiquitous, Flash seemed like the answer to the web conferencing manufacturers’ prayers. Flash didn’t care whether you were on a Mac or a PC. It didn’t care whether you were on Internet Explorer or Firefox. Adobe was going to take care of all that. You make your web program work in Flash, and it simply works. No downloads, no program installation.
But over the years, several problems emerged. Flash turned out to have security vulnerabilities that needed lots of versions and updating of the underlying player. Some end users upgraded, some didn’t. New features and capabilities came along in Flash forcing vendors to make choices between increased functionality and backward compatibility.
Some organizations have simply banned Flash from their employees’ computers (either as a security measure or as a misguided attempt to prevent work distractions such as YouTube and web games). It’s no fun advertising a public webinar and then finding out on the day of your event that desirable registrants from major banks or government agencies can’t connect!
The AP article has an interesting sequence of recent events. Less than two months ago, Danny Winokur (VP and General Manager of interactive development at Adobe) said that Adobe was equally focused on both Flash and HTML5. Today he blogged that “HTML5 (is) the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across multiple platforms.”
With the accompanying announcement of personnel layoffs and “concentration of focus” at Adobe this week, I can’t imagine they are going to be dumping a lot of resources into pursuing and expanding development of a technology that a chief executive thinks is inferior to a competing in-house development program. In other words, Flash may be here today and tomorrow, but don’t bank on a long-term strategy for it.
And that means the web conferencing vendors who spent so much time and effort developing their products to work well on Flash better start looking ahead and planning for a complete re-write from the ground up. Sounds fun.