The Death of Mobile Flash

Apple’s infamous decision to block Flash from running on its mobile devices was a prophetic one.  Adobe is halting all development of the mobile Flash player plugin and will now focus on delivering tools for developing in the mobile market with web standards such as HTML5.  Although it seems a bit sudden, this decision is not completely unexpected.  Flash’s use has been dwindling for some time now and its performance on mobile devices has been the subject of many heated debates.

HTML5 is supported on most popular mobile devices and Adobe’s decision shows that they have acknowledged the death of mobile Flash.  Adobe is now wholeheartedly backing HTML5 and is busy acquiring new technologies and creating new tools that deliver enhanced web content via HTML5.

A few examples:

  • Adobe Edge is a new application that let’s designers create web animations in HTML5 ( you can read my review of it here) .
  • Adobe Wallaby is another tool in development that allows designers to convert existing Flash (FLA) files into HTML5.
  • Adobe’s recent acquisition of the once open source project PhoneGap also points to the new direction that Adobe is taking.  PhoneGap lets you author apps using web technologies and allows for deployment to multiple platforms.

We will soon start to see mobile web browsers depending solely on open web standards to enhance the user’s web experience.  An example is in the latest mobile version of IE 10 called “Metro style IE”.  It will be based on the same engine as the desktop version of IE 10 in Windows 8, only it will not support web plugins at all.  Metro style IE will depend solely on HTML5 open standards for delivering rich internet content.   This is pretty significant as Microsoft is notorious for not conforming to open standards in its browsers.

Flash, The Undead

As of now, Flash will not go away completely.  Pre-existing Flash projects can now be ported to mobile devices via Adobe AIR.  AIR is the company’s cross-platform runtime environment that allows for the packaging of Flash content into apps that run on mobile devices and desktops.

HTML5 video still lacks some advanced features that Adobe has built into Flash video over the years. Take for example Mozilla’s Firefox-live website. It praises the use of open standards, but ironically it requires you to have Flash to view the featured streaming video.  An explanation on Mozilla’s website in the video FAQ section states that they could not find an adequate, high-volume, live-streaming solution based on open codecs and open standards.

HTML5 video also does not support any kind of digital rights management (DRM).  Video that is delivered via HTML5 can be easily downloaded from the web, a huge obstacle in the wide acceptance of HTML5 video for major content distributors.

It will be interesting to see what new mobile web experiences developers will create using only HTML5.  I think that it is safe to say that it will only be a matter of time before we see the same fate happen to the desktop version of Flash.  We will just have to wait and see.

Photo by Josef Dunne, Flickr

About the Author


Jeffrey Stevens

Jeff Stevens is the Assistant Web Manager for UF Health Web Services. He focuses on user experience, information architecture, content strategy, and usability.

Read all articles by Jeffrey Stevens