August 8, 2006 4:10 AM PDT

As Flash turns 10, Adobe looks ahead

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Can '90s-era technology for cute Web animations lead a new generation of cutting-edge Web applications?

Adobe Systems, which celebrates the 10th anniversary of Flash on Tuesday, hopes the answer is yes.

Still a popular way to add interactivity to Web sites, Flash has outlasted a number of competing plug-ins that emerged in the early days of the Web.

Click here to Play

Video:
What's next for Flash?
Adobe Systems' Mike Downey explains what we should expect from Flash.

Now, according to company executives, Adobe is trying to make Flash more of a general-purpose application development platform, one that focuses on video delivery, applications for mobile devices, and Web applications that run outside the browser.

"Today the shift is from animations to applications," said Kevin Lynch, chief software architect and senior vice president of Adobe's platform business unit. "The community around Flash has been pushing us--and technically we've been working--to enable" Web applications.

On Tuesday, the company intends to launch a microsite showing the evolution of Flash over the past 10 years, including video interviews with developers.

Those videos will no doubt be played with the Flash Video Player, something many high-profile Web sites, including YouTube, have chosen to use as well.

The success of Flash in the next 10 years rides largely on whether leading-edge customers like YouTube will design their Web sites with Flash, Lynch said. Adobe, which gained the Flash technology when it bought Macromedia, is trying to build an "ecosystem" of developers and partners, he said.

"We are able to enable people to use Flash where it's useful. It's not all or nothing. You can mix and match."
--Kevin Lynch,
Adobe Systems

"The bet is that as the ecosystem gets larger, there are more opportunities for selling software related to that ecosystem--tooling, frameworks, servers," Lynch said.

To recruit more developers and designers to Flash, the company has beefed up its development tools and outreach program. It introduced Flex, a Flash development environment, and upgraded the Flash Player to run scripts faster.

And while Flash may have made its name with flashy Web advertisements, the software is increasingly being used inside businesses, according to Lynch. SAP, for example, has tied Flash to its back-end NetWeaver software for interactive Web business applications.

Is AJAX a threat?
Flash became mainstream in large part through a 1997 deal between Macromedia and Netscape.

At the time, Macromedia made software for CD-ROM authoring. Rather than try to modify its existing software for interactive Web applications, it decided to buy a small company called FutureWave Software, which made what would be called Flash.

The company was faced with the chicken-or-egg problem, Lynch said. Without enough Flash content, the company could not get people to download the Flash plug-in, and without the plug-in widely installed, Web designers didn't want to use it.

So Macromedia decided to pay "a considerable amount of money" to Netscape--then the reigning browser company--to distribute the Flash plug-in, Lynch said. The plug-in had to be kept under 150 kilobytes.

"As soon as we did that, Microsoft--who was intent on winning the browser war--called us to include it in Internet Explorer," he said. Macromedia did not have to pay Microsoft to distribute the plug-in.

Macromedia and Adobe have sought to ensure that Flash applications run the same on different operating systems, which has helped its adoption, Lynch said.

Though Flash is a widely distributed, incumbent platform today, Adobe faces a number of challengers, as companies from Microsoft to various open-source projects vie for developers' attention.

In particular, the emergence of AJAX-style development--and several development frameworks--gives developers another option for adding interactivity to Web sites.

Lynch said that Flash and AJAX-style applications can coexist, and scripting developers can use their skills with Flash. For example, Google Finance uses a combination of AJAX and Flash, he said.

"It's a bit chaotic. There's lots of noise, lots of activity. That's great; there's a huge amount of innovation," Lynch said. "We are able to enable people to use Flash where it's useful. It's not all or nothing. You can mix and match."

See more CNET content tagged:
Kevin Lynch, Macromedia Inc., Adobe Systems Inc., Web application, ecosystem

22 comments

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Add your comment
Our company does only exist thanks to Flash
It sound a good oportunity to congratulate -and thanks Flash.
We have build our company <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://FlashToGo.com" target="_newWindow">http://FlashToGo.com</a> around Flash
technology back in 1998.

At that time, we were the pioneer in this business. For those who
don't know, FlashToGo empowers NON-TECH users to easily
build, edit, update and publish a Flash website without actually
the need to purchase the Flash software itself or to get into
programming.

Because we have always been focused towards non-tech users,
we believe we help Flash to build a larger user base, since Flash
was aimed at designers/programmers, afterall, Flash has a
somewhat long learning curve for the regular Joe.

So, no more ads :-) Flash is a great software and we have
nothing else but to thanks and to congratulate Marcomedia but
foremost, the guy who have developed FutureSplash on 1996,
Jonathan Gay.
Posted by flashtogo (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
10 years of Flash poll
There's an interesting poll going on at The FWA, highlighting sites since Flash was born, to establish the most influential website of the last decade. It's a good history of the web experience:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.thefwa.com/flash10/" target="_newWindow">http://www.thefwa.com/flash10/</a>
Posted by nicklew (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
nice but incomplete
Not that it could really be complete, but there were some projects
by MSN Canada in 1996 / 1997 that were notably better than any
of the current voting options. Splice, in particular, was really ahead
of its time for online interfaces and animation. These choices, while
nice, don't compare.
Posted by ciparis (41 comments )
Link Flag
Flash needs to open up
Flash is great. I've been a proponent since it was in beta. It's powerful, compelling and has broad media applications in web, hollywood and tv.

But it is time for Flash to come clean and open up its gui. Specifically, the user should be given the same control over flash content has he has for web content.

When you right click on a flash movie, you as the user have very few "rights" or options with respect to the content. This needs to change.

Typically, the only user choices are:
Zoom In
Zoom Out
Show All
Quality - Low/Med/Hi
Play
Loop
Rewind
Forward
Back
Print

It is time for Flash to allow/support other options such as:

Save As
Send To
Bookmark
View Source
Properties
Posted by bobinorlando (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I thought...
I thought there was AS to change that?
I've seen quite a few flash objects with save and other options in the right click menu. It really is, however, up to the creator of the flash object to determine what these menus are.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
Flash on Linux.
Since moving to Linux as my primary OS I'm finding flash based sites to be useless. Adobe is coming out with Flash 10, but Flash for Linux is still at version 7. I realize that Linux makes up only a very small portion of the total Flash install base, but Adobe shouldn't ignore them.

I know of a few web developers who still use Flash 7 because of the fact that it's the only one that works on Linux. None of them use Linux, but they try for 100% compatibility.

Anyway Flash is a great product, but Adobe needs to stop slacking on Linux updates.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MacOS 9 neither
Totally agree. The same happens to Apple MacOS9. No further
updates after Flash7. many users still use MacOS9 or so...
Posted by flashtogo (9 comments )
Link Flag
You aren't the only one
I too am a linux user and its really getting annoying that sites are going to "all flash" and it isn't right. Most of what they use flash for is stupid "animations" for an impoved "user experience" or automated menus.

What user experience ? We have sites like Sci-Fi that I can not even go to anymore because they've converted to the latest verion of flash.

In addition to my linux desktops, I have a Nokia 770 device that runs Linux(and it has Flash 7 built into it). It isn't something that the average user can easily update if they ever come out with a Flash 10 for Linux
Posted by Sir Geek (114 comments )
Link Flag
Support LINUX
as a linux user i can only wish for 1 of 3 things, that flash becomes less popular and fades away, or that web developers dont require higher than version 7 or that adobe better supports linux

it sucks having to have a special 32bit install of your browser just for flash, because there is only 32bit support only for 7, no 64bit support and no support for any version other than 7...

linux makes up a small but quickly growing segment , and a large part of the linux segment specifically works with web development. the 'lamp' (linux-apache-mysql-php/perl) stack is still the most popular for web server/development

youll notice FLASH is NOT mentioned in it either, and you know why? cause flash has terrible support for linux!

flash authors, if you want your site to have better compatibility (and you want to use flash anyway..) then you should target flash7

alot of new flash apps arent even using anything that they would need the newer version for and targetting higher is cutting potentional viewers and gaining nothing
Posted by Intangir (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Totally agree
As a developer ourselves (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://FlashToGo.com" target="_newWindow">http://FlashToGo.com</a>) we are always
taking the vast audience as possible. Most sites are built using
Flash 5 and some using Flash 6.

We totally agree that the vast majority of sites theses days do
not need to be exported as Flash 8 or even 7. The FlashToGo
Online Editing System was build using Flash 3, integrated to
Perl/PHP/MySQL, back in 1998. Today, the system itself is built
using Flash 6, exactly because of integration, but we rarely see
the need for exporting for Flash 7 or beyond.

Designers/developers: common sense must prevail. Do not limit
your audience. Respect Unix and MacOS9 users! :-)
Posted by flashtogo (9 comments )
Link Flag
Blatant lie from Adobe in article
As usual, C|Net's lax journalism fails to pick up on a blatant lie from Adobe in this article:

"Macromedia and Adobe have sought to ensure that Flash applications run the same on different operating systems, which has helped its adoption", Lynch said.

Er, sorry, but that's a flat-out lie. Flash's support is not cross-platform because they are a major release behind on the Linux version (or 1.5 versions if you count the Flash 9 beta releases you can't download for Linux either).

And, yes, you've guessed it, Flash 8 movies don't work on Flash 7 players (usually resulting in a "go away" message from the site if you visit with Flash 7). To make matters worse, it seems that Adobe are deliberately pushing Flash 8 features onto Web designers (I don't have the Flash application, but you wonder if that now defaults to Flash 8 movies only?) without actually ensuring that the 3 major platforms can all run Flash 8.

Shame on Adobe for their poor Linux support and as others have said, where's the 64-bit Flash player? Oh, it's missing? No shock there really - more poor support (this time for all platforms) from Adobe as usual.

Yes, I know GNU have a Gnash player, but it's only implementing version 7 features and is nowhere near ready. If Adobe really did want to walk to the talk, they'd open source their player up - it's a free download after all!
Posted by rklrkl (143 comments )
Reply Link Flag
LINUX support
The sad reality of software development is that LINUX users
represent a very small fraction of end-users out there on the web.
Flash based applications are often geared towards Windows and OS
X users, who comprise the majority of desktops in the majority of
homes. While it would be ideal to produce UNIX and LINUX
distributions of the Flash Player, it's just not practical right now.
Posted by (17 comments )
Link Flag
Blatent lie???
Why should they waste their resources to develop flash for Linux systems? Face it, Linux is only used by a small percentage of developers and 3rd world countries because it's free. The rest of the world uses windows. Sure linux might be a better os, but they got to dedicate their resources to what people use most.
Posted by krymp (2 comments )
Link Flag
Flash is the bane of the web.
The rise of the aggressive Flash advertisement
is really the point where it began to jump the
shark. It's also heavily influenced by Adobe
without the rich third-party development support
you see with other development tools and
environments.

Problems with 64-bit versions, and lack of good
Linux support belie issues in design and
portability of it too. If the world was a 32-bit
Windows place, it might float, but the world is
moving more-and-more towards open standards,
embedded devices, and appliances (cellphones,
kiosks, dedicated browser tablets, etc.). If
they can't get their act together, Flash will
fade into obscurity.

I'm not necessarily saying open-source it, but
if the company's not agile enough to keep up
with the times, more agile technologies will
replace it.
Posted by Zymurgist (397 comments )
Reply Link Flag
face it
if they dont someone else will.
linux is a growing percentage and it is used worldwide, not just 3rd world countries, and its because its free, as in freedom. you dont have to put on the yoke of microsoft
Posted by Intangir (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
that site isnt compatible i guess?
well i tried to goto the link you posted and nothing comes up, i guess it doesnt support flash 7 ;)

see what i mean?
Posted by Intangir (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oops
this was in responce to the 10 years of flash post that left a link
Posted by Intangir (8 comments )
Link Flag
Flash needs to be flushed
before it ruins the Web
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Flash
It is a poorly implemented language with poor documentation and poor tools.

It is bloatware at its worse.

Like the fantastically crappy VB and VBscript, Flash is a language for non-programmers. It is a toy.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Flash
It is a poorly implemented language with poor documentation and poor tools.

It is bloatware at its worse.

Like the fantastically crappy VB and VBscript, Flash is a language for non-programmers. It is a toy.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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