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.


Chris is a full-time online teacher since then, focusing on teaching Business English to Adults. Rather than pushing the boundaries of technology, Chris seeks to simplify the online learning process by focusing on authentic human connections as a way to make online learning accessible for learners of all ages.

Comments

  1. Mark Aberdour Says: December 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    I agree that panic is the wrong response, but anyone who has relied on Flash needs to make a considered decision about what path to take. This is about more than Adobe’s announcement not to support Flash for all its mobile platforms; it is also about announcements that Microsoft won’t support Flash in Windows 8 and Android won’t support Flash in the browser for their next release. It does not look good whichever way you look at it, while there will be a lot of legacy kit around for years to come that will run Flash, users on more modern kit won’t be able to view it and who wants to cut off swathes of users from being able to use their apps. This is a big issue for us as an authoring tool developer but like you, we have a futureproof solution that we just build new ‘viewers’ for additional formats (HTML4, HTML5, Android, BB, etc). You’ve clearly put the effort in too on ensuring your architecture is flexible and futureproof, but I don’t think this whole issue can be brushed off as lightly as you seem to suggest. Flash looks pretty certain to be a dying technology now.

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