So about this whole Flash thing…
As many of you know, the WizIQ Virtual Classroom is Flash-based, making it accessible on virtually every desktop and laptop in the world. Our upcoming release even dispenses with the Java-based screen sharing (the last bit of non-Flash in the code), since Flash-based screen sharing is faster, less bandwidth intensive, and allows users to share only an application rather than their entire screen. Flash, whether used in our Virtual Classroom or anywhere else on the Web, enables incredibly rich experiences and browser-based applications that can’t be replicated with other technologies.
Unfortunately, when Adobe announced last month that it was ending support for mobile Flash development, a lot of people panicked. Too many people already assumed that because Flash wasn’t supported on the iPad or iPhone that it wasn’t supported on the Mac (it is) and this seemed to be the final nail in Flash’s proverbial coffin. The blogosphere was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of “Flash is Dead” posts. Guess what, folks? It isn’t. Far from it.
I wrote a blog on ZDNet to that effect, explaining,
I have to say, I’m not terribly worried here about the future of Flash. Adobe’s own tools make porting code written in Flex to Flash, Air, and native apps fairly straightforward. Tools to port to HTML5 are also emerging from Adobe. There is clearly going to be a slow evolution towards platforms that are universally supported across browsers, but to say that Flash is dead is like saying that mobile apps are dead because Adobe is moving to support HTML5 better.
This isn’t to say we have our heads buried in the sand either, here at good ol’ Flash-based WizIQ. In fact, some time ago, we rewrote our code base in Flex so that we could be prepared for mobile apps and Air desktop and mobile clients. That rewrite is already paying dividends as we were able to leverage substantial pieces of our code to get Android and iPad apps into alpha testing quickly and are looking forward to their formal release into beta soon (I know, I know, the page says November, but that means it’s coming soon!).
But what about HTML5? Isn’t that the future? Probably. Sometime. But definitely not now. There are simply too many things that our virtual classroom does very well (and that it will do even better in the upcoming release) that just can’t be replicated in HTML5 yet. It’s not clear when HTML5 will reach feature parity with FLash, but it’s hardly around the corner.
For our purposes, we’re going to keep advancing the state of the art in synchronous learning and, for the foreseeable future, that’s going to involve Flash. At the same time, we’re going to keep our code base flexible, make sure we’re using the most advanced tools available, and we’ll be ready to move our virtual classroom to the next level, regardless of underlying technology.
Nope, Flash isn’t dead and our virtual classroom works as well on a Mac as it does on a PC or on Ubuntu. Tablet support is on the way, built on a solid code base and ecosystem of tools from Adobe (that still very much includes Flash). To paraphrase an old quote, if Flash is dead, then long live Flash. When HTML5 can give our users a better virtual classroom than Flash, then you can bet we’ll be ready.