Comic Update: Mr. Flash’s Very Bad Day

February 09, 2010

Since we are living in the Year of Our Lord Twenty-Ten, today’s comic is so far behind the news cycle that I might as well be discussing the Wars of the Roses if I’m trying to be relevant to current events. Starring Adobe Flash and the Apple iPad, my illustration references a product announced an entire thirteen days in the past (gasp!).

If you can remember that far back into the past, you might recall that the iPad is something to the effect of an iPod Touch nega-Mini, being simultaneously some sort of multimedia super-nexus and entirely incapable of fitting into your pocket. I’m not sure yet if I have a need for a device guaranteed to break my neck while I try to watch adult action films on it. But I’m sure at this point that the iPad has for all extents and purposes killed Adobe Flash.

Right? I’m sure I read that in the Wall Street Journal somewhere.

No? My bad.

As it turns out, Flash shares that quality with Mark Twain wherein the reports of its death are doubtlessly greatly exaggerated. It remains to be seen if the iPad will sell like hotcakes (my bet: it will) but even if it does some people might have forgotten about these little devices we have around the house called desktop and laptop computers.

Remember those?

Well, they still have browsers that can install the Flash plug-in. And if the immortality that Internet Explorer 6 is experiencing is any guide, there’s no reason to believe that Flash is going anywhere anytime soon. Plenty of cartoons, online video, and video games are still being churned out onto the web via Flash.

I’m debating if that’s a pity or not.

When I first started tinkering on the web as a programming platform, my initial tenuous steps into interactive nonsense was with Flash. Over time, the shine of it dulled, and I found my way to the wonders of JavaScript. Thanks to the envelope-pushing features of HTML5, much of what once required Flash is now quite doable with no plug-in. But there are some tasks, including complicated animation, wherein Flash is still the idea authoring tool. I can’t help but feel sorry for the likes of the Brothers Chaps, who’ve toiled over products like Homestar Runner, only to have it not render on the coolest mobile devices since the portable toaster.

I’d rather not have a situation where a given browser decides for me what content I will or won’t view on the Internet. As a consenting adult, I’m pretty sure I have the decision-making power to do that myself. However, the fact is, Apple has made that decision, and likely won’t back down from it, and more devices like the iPad will continue the trend.

If I were Adobe, I’d be looking into how to transition the Flash authoring tool from something that outputs only SWF files into something that produces pre-generated Canvas/JS/CSS code. A sort of interactive Dreamweaver on steroids. That would allow the thousands of developers that use it to painlessly transition into a post-plugin era while still making use of their tool of choice.

Of course, until either Adobe cries uncle or all browsers get on the same page in regards to HTML5 feature adoption (like which video codec to use), all that devices like the iPad are doing for me personally is creating a situation where I have to stuff even more code into the same video on a page; if I want my clients’ videos to show on all available browsers and devices, that is.

That said, I’m not really attached to Flash. If I can get my videos and other rich content without it, then good riddance. Which is, allegedly, what the iPad’s move is leading us towards (or, more cynically, towards iTunes purchases of video content).

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12 Responses to “Comic Update: Mr. Flash’s Very Bad Day”

  1. My single comment for the comic today: Facepalm.

  2. You can get portable toasters??

  3. While Flash-as-interactive-experience should theoretically be okay, it has been used so incredibly poorly by people who don’t understand the needs of the user, I won’t shed a tear for its demise in that respect. You’d think after all these years SOMEONE would have created something worth remembering, but the 80/20 rule here is more like 99/1 or worse.

    As far as Flash cartoons go, this is where I’m seeing Flash remain successful (ironically, after working so hard to convert ActionScript to a full ECMA script, but games will also be marginally successful). Flash was an animation tool that fell into popularity by hackers who crammed it into a scripting language. Once HTML5 video gets sorted out, this is probably the extend to which Flash will be used.

  4. @Ragdoll – Flash as an animation tool is probably the one area I would weep the most about the disappearance of the plug-in. Now, if other export methods make it easy to embed the results in a browser, then I care little for the plug-in, and more for the results.

  5. ‘Dreamweaver on steriods’ (and Flash, and Illustrator) were demoed at Adobe Max 2009. Video here:, and a nice summary here:

    As a sneak peek, there’s officially no guarantee this will ever see the light of day, but it looks promising.

  6. “If I were Adobe, I’d be looking into how to transition the Flash authoring tool from something that outputs only SWF files into something that produces pre-generated Canvas/JS/CSS code. A sort of interactive Dreamweaver on steroids.”

    Can you visualize what you’re actually hoping to accomplish? Dreamweaver is nearing a major release, and will be producing files taking advantage of some of the new runtimes. More here:


  7. [...] Web Design Studio’s Interactive Designer Kyle Weems‘ new comic Mr. Flash’s Very Bad Day depicts the controversy surrounding Apple not including a Flash plug-in on the new iPad. Kyle, I [...]

  8. Added caption to the comic from Mr. Flash “… but Squirel, I can change! I can do multi-touch too!” (since the Flash Player 10.1 betas supports multi-touch).

    Also others have pointed out, Adobe has already been demoing canvas tags support in Dreamweaver with exporting content from both Flash and Illustrator.

    Meanwhile, Adobe is already talking about creating iPad applications from Flash CS5, on top of creating iPhone applications:
    So I imagine pages for some Flash games and applications will detect if the user is coming from an iPhones or iPads and then instead of showing a little blue lego, will have a link to the iTunes store. Users can then download a native application of what they normally would have seen just through the browser.

  9. the iPad is something to the effect of an iPod Touch nega-Mini

    Mega? Or (less likely) short for negative as in “anti”? :P

  10. @Franz – Nega as in short for negative as in “anti”. Granted, “anti” would have been clearer. But I’ll stick with “nega” in this case. ;)

    @Darren – That looks pretty neat!

    @John – Thanks for the link. There’s a lot of nice information over there.

    @Matthew – I know that flash-based apps are possible. A link from a flash file in a page leading to the app store is a fairly neat idea. Heck, with some code-wrangling, you could do that now (assuming you have an app that provides whatever functionality the flash file was supposed to show.)

  11. As Flash is vetorial, shouldn’t the translation be made to SVG instead of Canvas?

  12. @Thiago Adobe has some serious issues with SVG. They’ve had a bit of a bad history together. There’s a lot of emotional baggage there.