1 Reason Why Flash is Dead

It doesn’t run on mobile

Here ends this article. But I shall go into detail to pad this page out some.

The Malicious Attack of Steve Jobs

In 2010 Flash took a beating it would never get over when Jobs got his claws out and wrote of it being a redundant format. He was right, but he didn’t quite come clean, instead he rattled on about it being a nasty proprietary language that’s controlled by one All Seeing Eye (exactly like app development, which is even more of a closed product that’s controlled by one godly overseer, Apple), being incompatible with touchscreen devices (bollocks) and a few other muddled complaints that managed to make every ad agency the world over scream in terror and run for the nearest HTML parallax scrolling, creatively castrated web project.

The truth was, the iPad1 was a piece of shit. But being the marketing spin doctor he was he couldn’t come out and say “Flash wont run on my tablet, because my tablet is technically turd. Aesthetically it looks beautiful, but we’re not quite advanced enough yet to have it display more than a page of web text. Flash will drain the weakling battery in minutes and make the inadequate CPU shit its pants. I am sorry for my shortcomings.”

Either way, none of those excuses really mattered, Flash had to die because mobile was now here to stay and none of the devices were powerful enough to run the plugin acceptably. You could keep producing websites in Flash, but your audience kept getting smaller as more and more users took up smartphones and tablets. Flash was slowly strangled out of existence, in swf form anyway.

Years of Boredom

There then followed a massive exodus to the shrine of the parallax scrolling html website. Think of it as a normal website, but with layers in the background that move at different speeds. Exciting. But that wasn’t the end of web designs’ de-evolution, because we then saw an influx of sites that had 100% scaled background videos with a bit of text over the top. Again, you may think that’s similar to an old 1990′s HTML website, but you would be wrong, because these sites had a fucking video looping in the background. What we had invented was the TV advert in a browser window. Void of interaction and entertainment, bleakly barren of fun. The type of slick corporate video advert that if it were on the TV or the start of a YouTube clip, you would sigh and wish the time away until it had passed. Yet somehow studios expected an internet audience to cream themselves over this 5 second video loop that had a textblock overlay. Innovation had died.

Living the Lie and Empty Bedrooms

Same old shit, different brand. On and on the most boring websites were being produced without a second thought to making them fun, web design went from being the most anarchic, unpredictable form of creative design, to a cold dead turd that wore a soft drink’s logo. Even television adverts were more fun to engage with than modern websites, at least they might partially entertain you, rather than make you depressed that you’ve just waited 2 minutes to see yet another slickly produced video with text you’ll never read put over the top.

Things looked more promising with the introduction of WebGL and the like, 3D spinning objects that would take 10 minutes to load, that’s entertainment. Created by a team of 50 designers, 3D artists, 3D developers and all the other poor bastards that are needed to make a primitive object rotate within a skydome for the 5 seconds that a user will be moderately interested in sacrificing. At least studios were trying to move on to a more entertaining way of building sites, but they’d inadvertently killed the bedroom designer along the way.

The bedroom designer is a god to creativity. They’re young, packed full of creative ideas, have parents that bring them free food and most of all they can work through an idea on their own…with the right tools. Unfortunately what the new toolsets had brought was a need to have a large team of multi disciplined workers that combined their different skillets to make the whole. The chances of one kid being proficient in 3D mapping, modelling, programming, web development and most of all, being full of great ideas, is slim to none. Flash had always given the bedroom designer enough tools to pick up the basics of coding and to run with it. Those same kids were now faced with a wall of complex tools that could take them years to master. If I were that teenager, I’d fuck it all off and go and watch the telly. My career over before it began.

But back to the living lie. Remember, we’ve moved on to these new languages because Flash didn’t run on mobile. All of these new tools were now used as a direct result of a demand to please both mobile users and desktop. Simple enough problem, but we’ve completely missed it. Almost all of the alternative formats being used to create today’s interactive ‘fun’ websites, don’t run on mobile. How the studios sell this to the client is beyond me, using a language other than Flash that also doesn’t run on mobile, and will take a ton more development time to run X-browser. It’s the weirdest step sideways ever made. It has to run on devices, if it doesn’t, don’t make it. Save us all the confusion of trying to load your cool interactive site up on a telephone, only to see some static fucking page that apologises for showing you some shite afterthought.

The Future!

While we (I say we, but I mean you. We just stopped building stuff for a time) were all blindly panicking and making horrendously boring HTML sites, telephones and tablets were getting stronger. The iPad1 has died a long time ago, and with it the need to build sites that would run on something with the same spec as a 1995 desktop computer. The current gen of smartphones and tablets can pretty much compete with a desktop. More interestingly, while we were treading water trying to create engaging HTML sites with no tools, Grant Skinner was building CreateJS ( http://www.createjs.com/#!/CreateJS ). We stumbled on CreateJS after reading up on the Toolkit exporter in FlashCC. There seemed to be a way of exporting your timeline much as you would an swf, but having it come out as HTML5. The idea of using Flash to put a site together using JS to power it aroused us. We contacted the brilliant minds at CreateJS and set to work on rebuilding our very first Flash site in HTML. More of a test of what was possible with these new tools and what would run on iOS/Android. It didn’t take long for us to reproduce and add to the old site with a new HTML5 version, that would run on your iPhone.



For the first time since the mobile bomb went off, we can see a way of building interactive sites that aren’t incredibly fucking dull. Flash is back, but not as Flash, yet in a form that any bedroom designer could pick up and start working with right now. Innovation in web design has died, but by dragging young people back in it can be revived. Wefail believe that children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. For fuck’s sake, show them all the beauty they possess inside. Think Different.


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  1. Excellent post. It contains all my bitternes and contempt for what happened and ultimately led to a different design role as a motion designer.

    I will look into the create JS. If it manatins the promises and be back to have fun with webdesign.

  2. One thing that was great about Flash (as opposed to JavaScript frameworks that try to emulate it): if the plugin was there, it worked the same everywhere.

    Your current site does not work on my Firefox nightly builds. They do work on the “normal” build, so I am guessing there is some user agent sniffing going on? I get: “TypeError: b.noteOn is not a function”.

    While I am somewhat criticising your site: please fix the tabindex on this comment form’s inputs. When I tab from “Name” to “Mail”, I actually end up in the search box. Tabbing from “Website” to “Comment” teleports me to the “Wefail” link in the header.


    1. Mr.Hughes

      We’ve not run it through Nightly builds, FF is bad enough as it is without having to check it against a Dev version. :)

  3. Let’s get the history right before nobody remembers anymore how it really went.

    Not running on mobile did not kill Flash, neither did Steve Jobs. When iPhone came about, Flash had already been in agony, kept alive by its usefulness as a video player. People don’t remember this now, but by 2006 discussions whether or not Flash was “still ok” were commonplace. Flash-only websites were already a big no-no, it was only ok to use “flash elements” on a page.

    In 2007, when iPhone arrived, I worked as a front-end developer and hadn’t opened Flash in months. And I loved Flash.

    Why was it dying, if it was (possibly still is) the better technology? I’d say, it never fully integrated with the browser and never stopped being a foreign body in it. Never properly spoke with JS, kept breaking history, didn’t deep-link, had weird right-click menu and always opened a new window instead of a new tab. And was its processor heavy? It still spins the fans in my laptop and shrinks its battery time today.

    Add CSS Nazis who loomed over the internet then and a general distrust towards letting a single company control so much of the web (which wasn’t baseless, they are more ‘evil’ than Google and Apple together), and you get the picture.

    Another, and when I think of it, probably the main reason of Flash’s demise was that Adobe was so busy appealing to programmers and making Air the next Java, that they completely neglected the crowd who made Flash as big as it was: designers. Neglected? They just showed them the finger, because real money supposedly was in the Air. Most good Flash designers I know never picked up on AS 3.0, and many developers never bothered to.

    TL;DR: Jobs didn’t kill Flash, he only smelled its stench and noticed before anyone else that Adobe already drove it into the ground.

    1. Mr.Hughes

      But that’s sidestepping the fundamental issue of, how did we turn what was the most engaging form of design into something so incredibly boring.

      For all the issues you list regarding Flash, they’re all outweighed by the entertainment value (if used wisely) that the general user would enjoy and share. The site’s that are currently trying to engage users (and sell a product virally) are piss poor and dont warrant anyone’s attention for more than a few seconds.

      The tools are now available to make immersive HTML sites that can captivate, but studios are still churning out the same old shit that was founded on very limited HTML tools a few years back. We need to rethink what’s ‘fun’ for the user to interact with, and it’s not the current output of sites.

    2. Brendan

      Disagree. He needed Flash dead so he could kickstart the publishing industry with html 5. More cash for Jobs if publishers can hit publish app from Indesign. Enter Adobe, who were probably in on it. Flash was seen as an end game and HTML was an enabler for Zeldman & crew and the publishing industry. The old media has become the new media and they don’t even see it. So then the App store is the new platform, browser makers scramble to stay in the game because Jobs is minifying the internet in an app store. It was a shit storm, a perfect storm and Jobs was right behind it. My opinion, but I side with this article, there is nothing fun about doing gorgeous, beautiful design in html.Jobs was brilliant but at someone’s expense.

  4. Why did the beautiful prog-rock have to abruptly end and who in the world were those punk brutes who swiped those times away?

    Who would want to listen to a simple song instead of a beautiful rock symphony?

    I think the time came to cut the baroque crap and do something really simple. Parallel stuff is boring but it’s strength lies in that it is as advanced as a cardboard diorama. One day everyone will wake up, wonder what had happened and quote your article, but… not yet.

    If you try really hard, you’ll get with the times and learn to unlove Flash. Just like I did with the best music of my teen years (Sorry Mike Oldfield, they’d beat me in school if I had you on a t-shirt and let’s face it, even Branson doesn’t listen to Tubular Bells anymore — not that he ever did).

    This just in btw: http://snapsvg.io/

  5. ^ parallax, not parallel, but no biggie, it’s just a fad :D

  6. I agree. Great article all the way through.

    However…”just keep swimming, swimming” http://youtu.be/0Hkn-LSh7es

    There are some cool JS and CSS libraries that still allow for that creativity and you don’t need an expensive piece of software to use it.


  7. One last thing. You should blame Microsoft also because IE8 and IE9 are the ones really holding the web back. IE10 doesn’t have webGL so go ahead and throw that log on the fire.

  8. i agree completely with this entire article. and most of the comments. i miss flash so much. i have pored myself in the js recently, but the browser fragmentation issue is still alive and well. fyi, flash runs great on *most* android phones. and that short-lived “smokescreen” ios app ran flash relatively well on ios. apple was just fighting w/ adobe. which makes no-sense since 99% of mac user i meet claim that adobe tools are the #1 reason they use apple.

  9. This article makes some great points but also makes some pretty subjective generalizations when it comes to talking about “boring HTML pages” and what users want.

    Speaking of things like CreateJS, if only the initial Flash team had put their efforts into working towards something like this from the very beginning… well, why didn’t they? That may be an ignorant comment on my end, but browser plugins always felt like a big middle finger to the spirit of the http://www... not that the www is in any way perfect.

  10. Sebastian

    That’s it. Since HTML5 (JavaScript) websites took over the FWA, it became more and more boring. Still nice designs but rarely anything original. What matters is the user experience, not the technology. Scrolling is boring. Effects that could be done only with Flash a few years ago, become neither new nor exciting, because they are redone with HTML5 today.

    If there are “wow” websites (using webGL etc.) usually Google Labs is involved in their development. Why? Because they have the resources to do it.

    All the stuff I have to programm in HTML5/JavaScript now could have been done quite easy and clean in Flash ALONE. Now I have to merge three different languages and each of them is supported differently on each OS and each browser. It’s just a pain in the ass.

    My Andorid OS has still 22% market share (in all mobile devices) and many many mobile websites (even those awarded at FWA) are screwed, sometimes not usable.
    I dare to claim HTML is still NOT a standard…

  11. Sport Billy

    Hello, just a thought.

    It does not run on mobile ……………… now.

    Mobile will become desktop pretty soon.
    There are other major players now involved ( Microsoft, Samsung,Google).

    And we are humans. It was never about having less. It was always about having more.


  12. The thing is there is always google swiffy or you can learn greensock for javascript and in half of day you can start earning money again as a javascript animator doing the same really crappy banners for amazing money, but… why the f*ck there is still a lot of work to do in Flash on the market?

  13. I really appreciate you have removed my recent comment. This way I think you are not so cool as I thought. But anyways… fuck it.

    1. Mr.Hughes

      There’s been no comments removed, not actually logged on here to any ‘recent’ comments and this post is 6 months old. No idea where yours went or if it was posted. We’re not cool.


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