Media Musings & Meditations

Observations and discussion about technology, culture and spirituality. As new technology developments and trends envelope the Internet and our "wired" culture we all need time to reflect and process the implications on our society, our relationships and our spiritual practices.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Does Flash have a bright future?

Flash has been the buzzword in web design and development circles for the last three or four years. Just try finding a web design job that doesn't ask for Flash skills these days. It doesn't matter whether the company ever actually uses Flash on any of its projects. There is just a prevailing wisdom that says a good designer ought to know how to do Flash. Just as prevailing wisdom assumes a good fashion designer can't dress conventionally, aka reality TV's Project Runway.

Flash certainly has its moments to shine when it comes to easy-to-create animation and interactions. But too often Flash gets channeled into pointless Flash intros or slideshows reminiscent of PowerPoint. It makes me queasy to think how many hours have gone into some of the gems you see on the web.

So what is the future of Flash? Let me add some anecdotal evidence. I've talked to two alumni of my Interactive Media degree program here at Harding in the last six months. One former student reported that Flash is a high demand skill in his job. He stressed that the most important aspect of Flash these days is the ActionScript code that runs behind the visual design interface. This seems to echo the call of many articles.

The other former student I spoke with told me that his web design company doesn't do Flash at all. Clients come and say, “don't you do Flash?” and his boss says, “No, and this is why we don't, and because we don't we can save you X amount of dollars in development costs” and quickly the clients forget the buzzword. So how can a web design company turn its back on the magic of Flash? The answer is the magic of Web 2.0. Using the latest technologies one can incorporate scripting, produce special effects and rapidly refresh page items producing some Flashy tricks. Web 2.0 is becoming the new buzzword.

That brings us back to our question about the future of Flash. My prediction is that Flash will transform, split really, into two smaller varieties. Using Flash as a complete web site authoring tool will fall out of popularity. The two remaining vestiges of Flash will be smaller specialized uses. One variety will Flash as a media tool used by designers to create interactive or animated web objects (just as Photoshop is seen as the photo editing tool). Smaller Flash-produced widgets will be nestled into standards-based pages. The other carryover of Flash will be the Flash technology used by big corporations and e-Commerce. It will be ActionsScripting incorporated into larger database-driven web sites that will enable server pages to create their own graphics as well as page templates and content shells.

Only time will confirm or dispel these predictions. And who knows, this time next year I may be pronouncing the eulogy for Web 2.0.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Julie said...

The easier they make these programs, like Flash and Web 2.0, the cheaper it will be for companies to use them on their websites. However, just like secretaries using Pagemaker who have no concpet of good design, you're gonna get a plethora of garbage out there from people doing "flash" just because they could. It won't necessarily be good and it won't necessarily relate to the product or service. But it will probably get attention.

It took me a long time to realize that most of the world often doesn't care about producing bad design...print or web. As long as they can get what they want done fast and cheap, that's all that matters to them. They never even consider that they may be losing customers because what they put out there looks uninviting and doesn't function well.

Do I sound cynical? Me? No, I'm not bitter, no. Not at all.

11:53 AM  
Blogger y said...

Well. You are being unfair. I aw now required by federal law to post a lengthy comment. I have several points to make:
"Web 2.0 applications" have a number of advantages over Flash. Mainly, "Web 2.0" pages, if coded properly, are usable to anyone with any old web browser, from Firefox on Linux to IE on Windows to Lynx (a text browser) or Opera mobile on a cell phone. This is a property known as "progressive enhancement". This is actually because (X)HTML is simple for a machine to decompose and reason about. See my del.icio.us for a few references (some day I'll beef this up), specifically microformats.
Flash has a number of advantages over "Web 2.0". OK, google maps is pretty cool, but there's no way you could replicate 2advanced studios' website without Flash. Flash, plain and simple, is the best way to develop highly interactive rich interfaces. There aren't a whole lot of cool "Web 2.0" games out there either.
I hate the term "Web 2.0" almost as much as I hate the term AJAX. There. I said it. Now if people would quit calling it that, we could all get on with our lives.
Flash may die some day, replaced by SVG, XHTML 2.0, Web Applications 1.0, and their successors, but that is a long way off. In the meantime, I predict the following: Web 2.0 will gain in popularity, while Flash will remain popular by filling niches such as gaming and artistic websites.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Prof Kelly said...

Jeff,

If you are tired of the terms Web 2.0 and Ajax already, I'm afraid you'll be suffering for a long time to come. :)

8:20 AM  
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