14
Aug
adobe-flash-logo

I remember the first time I really heard about Flash for Android. Well, maybe not heard about it. The first time I got sort of excited about it. It was in San Francisco, at a trendy Spanish-restaurant-meets-brewery back in the summer of 2010. The taps were pouring freely (and by that, I mean free of charge), tasty little hors d'oeuvres came at us from from all directions, and everyone was having a good, if typically nerdy-awkward, time. The free booze definitely helped. It was also, coincidentally, the first time I met the man in charge of Android Police, Artem, and one of our long-standing editors, Aaron Gingrich.

Most of the small talk going on was about Flash. That's because Adobe had invited out members of the media to this little soiree from all corners of the country for a 3-day Flashapalooza. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I was only able to attend this initial evening icebreaker, as I was simultaneously engaged in the process of dragging a big, old Audi stuffed to the brim with my worldly possessions almost 400 miles down to Los Angeles the next day. There was apparently much debauchery (allegedly) that I missed the second night, though I can't say "Flash developer get-together" is exactly synonymous with "rager" in my mind. I take Artem and Aaron at their word on that one.

Anyway, because of that, Flash for Android will always be something of a memorable topic for me. I can't say I really remember what we talked about that evening, but talk we did. Something about using Flash for multiplayer games and other... stuff. I tried to act excited, to look interested in what the numerous Adobe people who were, um, guiding the conversation had to say. In the end, though, clearly nothing they showed us made that much of a lasting impression.

To put it bluntly, I was far more intrigued by the top-shelf open bar selection than I was by Adobe's Flashpirations.

I don't want to be that "I told you so" guy when it comes to Flash for Android. We've all known it's dying for some time. Really, this "eulogy" could have been written months ago. But with the announcement by Adobe that Flash for Android will be unceremoniously pulled down from the Play Store tomorrow (one day before 2 years to the day that it first showed up on the Android Market), now seems as good a time as any to look back on this failed experiment. But why did Flash for Android die? And why is Adobe so keen on erasing its memory that it is taking the drastic measure of actually removing it from the Play Store? That's a longer story, I think.

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The Early Days

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Flash for Android was first teased back in April of 2010, when Adobe announced sign-ups for a Flash for Android beta, having been given the cold shoulder by Apple on the idea of Flash for iOS. It was captured running on reference hardware a month later.

From then on, the plugin's launch was delayed - Adobe had initially anticipated a May beta launch, but later pushed that back to the second half of the year. By June, though, leaked builds started popping up. Then, on August 16th, Adobe made Flash 10.1 available for Nexus Ones running Android 2.2. I vaguely remember being excited as a Nexus One owner at the time, and of course downloaded it with all the fervor of a 10-year-old tearing into the packaging of a new action figure.

A week later, like that 10-year-old, I forgot about Flash for Android. I got bored. When I did want to use it, it was terribly slow, laggy, and generally annoying on a touch interface. I've never really been a big Flash advocate in the first place, and the following two years of living with it on Android didn't change that.

But what happened in that 2-year period? Frankly, not much. None of Adobe's attempts to get developers on Android to latch onto Flash as a mobile development platform worked. I'm not a programmer, so I won't attempt to speak authoritatively on this, but it's hard to see why Adobe thought it would attract those developers in the first place. I've heard programmer friends of mine rail against Java for its idiosyncrasies and general messiness, but I don't think I've ever heard anyone really sing the praises of Flash. I suppose Adobe's philosophy was "write once, run everywhere" with Flash, but the problem is that it ran everywhere kinda really crappy.

2 Years Of.... What?

Updates didn't seem to fix it, either. In March of 2011, Adobe finally released Flash 10.2 for Android, to the excitement of many - it took advantage of multicore processors and included GPU rendering to speed things up. It was an improvement, but again, as I recall, a marginal one in terms of end-user experience. Those god-awful form restaurant websites done entirely in Flash ran a little less poorly, the buttons were still hard to press, and I still hated every minute of dealing with Flash on my phone. By the time Flash 11 rolled around in December, people kind of just stopped caring.

flash11

And that's really all Flash for Android ever was: a mediocre way of dealing with annoying websites written with a crappy plugin that ran poorly. Don't get me wrong, this isn't going to devolve into a Flash hate-fest, but be honest, has anyone ever been really, truly happy to encounter Flash content on their phone? I know I haven't. Running into a Flash website is like walking outside one morning to find your driveway is snowed in, but "luckily," you have a snow shovel (Flash for Android) to dig it out. Oh joy of joys.

A well-designed mobile website trumps Flash in every way that matters on a phone, and anyone saying otherwise is probably in the restaurant web design business. Flash on mobile was a mess, and Adobe did well to put it out of its misery. But why the scorched-earth policy? Why is Adobe removing Flash from the Play Store completely, instead of keeping legacy support for pre-4.1 devices?

The Long Goodbye

As I said previously, we've known for a while Flash for Android is dead. Adobe's just getting around to burying the body in an undisclosed location tomorrow, never to be seen again. Adobe wants people to forget Flash for Android, in its current incarnation, ever happened.

But it's not just Android. Adobe is ending distribution of Flash for Linux builds completely this year (it will, instead, be included with Chrome). Microsoft has forced Adobe to concede to "limited" Flash support in Windows 8's Internet Explorer 10 - the software giant having sworn off weighty add-ons in its latest browser.  In addition, ARM versions of Windows will never see Flash support. As we all know quite well, Apple has never been shy about making its feelings on Adobe's plugin known. Even Google sees an increasingly Flash-less web, as it pushes Chrome's native client, trying to usurp proprietary web plugins and popularize an open standard.

It's not just Flash for Android that's dying - it's Flash in general. Removing Flash from the Play Store is the beginning of a strategic retreat for Adobe, while it regroups and attempts to reinvent Flash as a useful tool in an increasingly plugin-hostile web.

Adobe intends to give Flash a full reboot next year, codenamed "Flash Next," a platform it hopes will stick around for the next 5-10 years. Adobe's strategy? Focus on improving the DRM video streaming experience, as well as gaming - two areas where Flash has traditionally been strong. Still, it doesn't take a genius to see that such a strategy, by necessity, means a decreased Flash presence on the web. Flash-powered websites really are doomed to fade away (thank god), and Flash presence on mobile is presumably dead for good (though Air will remain).

By reducing platform support for the standard, Adobe has all but assured Flash's death (as we know it). Removing Flash for Android from the Play Store is just ripping off a bandage that will, in the end, result in a better web for everyone.

At one point, Flash for Android did seem like a good idea. The "full web" was long considered, at least on paper, to be one of the feathers in Android's iOS-taunting cap. Sometimes having Flash was a legitimate convenience on a mobile device, even if the experience wasn't outstanding. But we've come so far since then. The mobile web is evolving at such a rapid pace that Flash has become something of an anachronism in a world where users increasingly demand a tailored mobile experience. Every day, more people across the globe get online for the very first time with a smartphone, and to those people, Flash is a remnant of a world wide web they'll never know.

So, Adobe Flash for Android, it's time, officially, to say goodbye. We hardly knew you, but that's probably for the best.

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Danny Holyoake

    What's annoying is BBC still relies on Flash Player for their Android apps.

    iPlayer won't work on my Nexus 7, because it requires flash. This is kind of forgiveable to an extent - maybe BBC just haven't got around to building an alternative yet... Oh wait, the iPlayer app for iPad is perfect and doesn't require flash? Oh wait, the brand new BBC Olympics app on the Play Store requires flash?

    BBC have had nearly a year to move on from flash, instead they've made even more apps rely on it. It being deleted from the Play Store is a huge deal, because unless the BBC have been working on an alternate way of watching videos within their app they're going to be in big trouble.

    To flash, I say good riddance.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      And now that it's gone, BBC will be forced to change their ways. That's what Adobe wanted.

      • boredofapple

        I'm surprised that (cr)apple hasn't sued the BBC for their use of the letter 'i' in front of the video streaming app (iPlayer)....oh wait...the BBC's not owned by Samsung....that's why...lol

  • It was still nice having Flash

    Danny - you can still install Flash onto a 4.1 device - you just have to sideload it. Put the .apk on the phone, allow installing from unknown sources, install, and BOOM. Flash.

    • Steveo

      It doesn't sound like he's concerned with sideloading it.

  • fixxmyhead

    I need flash for porn

    • asp387

      Even porn sites are mobile-friendly nowadays. You can just play their videos directly on your video player of choice.

      • fixxmyhead

        Yea that's true :awkward:

        • Manuel Bocchia

          No, not awkward; HUMAN.

          • bob jow

            Carnal

      • sssgadget

        But mobile-friendly sites restrict the number of videos and bombard you with premium ads. Search is also a pain.

        • Theodore Evelyn Mosby

          madthumbs and xhamster both allow unlimited views. You occasionally get a "click to continue to video" ad but that's about it.

          You're welcome.

    • GazaIan

      You're doing it wrong. H.264 porn is the right way.

  • Ethion

    It's sad to see flash on android ending. There are still lots of sites out there that only support flash. Hell you can't look at half a dozen sites without finding flash on them. I know people are saying go html5 but I gotta say who cares. Apple can push html 5 and do everything but really flash had a lot of functionality and is extremely popular. It's a sad day for flash on android.

    I'm not even sure how it makes sense for adobe... Making one of the most popular web application languages and all the tools are only from adobe? Seems like an enviable position.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      The reason it makes sense is simple. They can actually realize that their technology has been becoming obsolete. It takes a big company like adobe to show that. Before this I actually didn't care for Adobe products. Now I respect the company.

      • Kim G

        Flash is complete crap, but the rest of Adobe's products are wonderful.

  • cviniciusm

    Better explanation:
    http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplayer/2012/06/flash-player-and-android-update.html

    Beginning August 15th we will use the configuration settings in the Google Play Store to limit continued access to Flash Player updates to only those devices that have Flash Player already installed. Devices that do not have Flash Player already installed are increasingly likely to be incompatible with Flash Player and will no longer be able to install it from the Google Play Store after August 15th.

    • Asphyx

      Thats read as any Unit that is running Jelly Bean even if previously that device ran Flash with no issues.

      • boppy

        yes. especially if that device had no issues in the past. Welcome to the future.

  • yarrellray

    To bad to see flash go. Flash will always live with me.

  • troy

    Fuck u android spin for hating on flash OK it runs great on the S2 @ S3 Wtf are u talking about not since we won't have it now.... now it's the time tooo hate on flash???? Fuck outta here!!!!! HTML 5 sucks idgaf what anyone say about that shit

    • Taskman

      Not sure if troll... Or just trolling.

    • Leonid Podolny

      Forgot to take your pills again?

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      One of the things I like about this website is the comment section. Don't start this here, if you're going to comment, have something meaningful to say.

  • Asphyx

    Flash may not have been as great as it could have been but then again neither are a lot of Web Media types being used so widely and in the end Adobe should have come up with thier replacement for flash before they dropped all support for something that is used by so many existing sites.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      That's what HTML5 is (And possibly Flash Next)

  • Flash for Android

    Just download the apk and save it just in case you need to reimstall! Here - http://goo.gl/Egk5c

  • Nick

    Having no flash on Android just mean we have less access to web content, how this is a good thing?

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      If "web developers" know they can't reach a massive part of the audience (smartphone users) by using a specific technology, then they won't try to develop anything else in that technology. If you, as a developer, knew that you could double your potential audience for a site by using a different language/tech, then you would probably go that route. By having Flash for Android still kicking around, it was a crutch for Flash developers to continue building more stuff in Flash. As it is, even if Adobe wasn't slowly pulling Flash away from the world, almost every major browser and OS has started the process of subtly blacklisting it.

      • RedPandaAlex

        If those developers haven't switched away from Flash for iOS, they're not going to do it for us.

        • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

          There's flash for iOS?

        • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

          That's the thing, a lot of those developers did switch from Flash to iOS. I know everybody likes to say Steve Jobs didn't want Flash on the iPhone because of performance (which makes sense), but that was proven to be a lie when Adobe leaked a demonstration of Flash running on an iPhone with pretty solid performance.

          The theory that some experts put up (and I agree with), is that Apple wanted to leverage the popularity of the iPhone to push opportunistic developers into Apple's world. To create apps for the iPhone, you need a Mac, which means a bunch of developers had to rush out and buy Macs instead of whatever they would have normally purchased. The other thing, the language for iOS development (Objective-C) is the same as Mac OS development, and the API is pretty similar. By restricting developers to Objective-C and development on a Mac, Apple gets a huge burst of new developers who've dedicated a ton of time (and money) to a platform that's useless outside of Apple's little world. Flash would have taken away ALL of that.

          • RedPandaAlex

            I don't totally buy that. Apple's browsers support HTML5 as well as anybody's. If they really wanted to make sure content was going through the app store and making it iOS-specific, they'd be restrircting HTML5. Granted, iOS matured before HTML5, but developers still had the option of keeping their stuff in the web if they were going to learn a whole new programming language.

            Don't get me wrong. I think one of the more insidious things that Apple has done to the world of computers is to get people to think of their app store as the portal to the Internet rather than their web browser. But I think that had more to do with the iPhone UI and marketing than anything--remember "there's an app for that"?

          • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

            Totally different situation with HTML5. The original iPhone came out without an App Store and the primary feature (in fact, the focus of ALL iPhone 2G advertising) of the phone was that the browser had a substantially better user experience than any other phone browser on the market (until Opera Mobile started to beat it on Windows Mobile). Apple created their own additions to the HTML and CSS specs so that developers could customize their sites to provide custom layouts for the iPhone. In a sense, they briefly claimed HTML5 as their own, albeit very briefly. If Apple had shut out HTML at any level, the iPhone would have been a briefly trendy phone that people would be looking back on as a silly overpriced mistake (well, more people than there already are). It's worth adding, there's only so much you can do through the web browser on a phone, so Apple never really gave up very much territory...Besides, web developers (oh gawd, I'm gonna get downvotes for this) aren't usually the kinds of people that will become native software developers, so Apple would have only served to alienate them rather than convert them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jp.palacio.7 Jp Palacio

    Should just have an "Enable Flash" option instead. I have some sports sites that require flash.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      There's nothing stopping you to download the apk and install it (or sideload it). If you care that much, link this article (and others) to an e-mail for those sports sites.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jp.palacio.7 Jp Palacio

    I did some websites using flash back in the day. It'll always be in my heart =(.

    BTW in the snow shovel - garage analogy, at least you have a snow shovel.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      Right and you will always have it, there will always be ways to get it (Until it isn't). It's like having a rusted shovel instead of one that gets replaced every few weeks.

  • PINJ

    Thank you Steve Jobs

  • 13xploited

    Flash will still be around for a long time. HTML5 has no DRM implementations for protecting content (think pandora, hulu, netflix, etc). Until HTML5 starts supporting DRM of some sorts, flash isn't going anywhere.

    And I surely am happy that the Nexus still supports it.

    • wolfkabal

      Isn't Netflix run on silverlight?

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      Flash drm was never great to begin with either. The class could easily be downloaded and back engineered. Client languages are never great to make content that is supposed to be private, well private. The server languages do all that stuff, and a big one is PHP, which is what many websites use. I think you've got mixed up on what HTML5 and flash actually are, they are simply client languages to show (stuff) to the user.

    • Ryan Bertram

      Pandora's website runs HTML5...

      • Binaryoverload

        You can download the songs i listen too because of that , they are streamed as unnamed MP4 files but it has no DRM on it. There are even apps and plugins now that make this easier.

  • http://twitter.com/MrYuzhai *Certified_geek™

    Jobs was both a liar AND an asshole.. also he was wrong about Flash. He hated on it because he hated on Adobe. HTML5 is nowhere near being ready.. developers are left scratching both their heads & their crotch thinking where do they stand now? Till HTML5 can be ready and has a 92% + user base I'll tell you where - you'll be asking yourselves why the fuck you believed that lying prick.

    • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

      I agree Jobs was not the greatest person, and yes the reason flash and iOS never happened was the relationship between Adobe and Apple. But HTML5, not near being ready? Have you seen sites with HTML5? A big one is Youtube, bet you didn't know that one. I've been using chrome now since it came out of beta, and I've only had to use Dolphin for one website, and it's not like that one website is anything important. Drastic things have to be done to get drastic results. I think news like this will travel and shock developers into thinking Flash is obsolete.

  • akingsfan

    I LOVED Flash...it's the only way I could watch xtube on my phone!

  • http://twitter.com/verb0ze verboze

    Am I the only one who did NOT care for flash on Android ? Never even bothered installing it. Maybe I had a bias from the start, given that I also block flash on the desktop. I for one am not sad to see it go; in fact, good riddance, I say :p. Maybe all those creative talents who are now be forced to find alternatives can push HTML5 to the next level

  • WolfSpider

    Some people still have many uses for Flash, including me. It's just a personal thing, some people will still need Flash why others won't. In my opinion that's why Flash is still needed. I won't be upgrading my phone to JB for a long time so I won't have to worry about this.

  • arabsrulechina

    Android once again is playing catch up haha

    • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

      Android lost Flash, iOS lost Google Maps... 'nuf said...

  • Kim G

    Even on a full windows 7 computer, Flash is the single crappiest piece of mainstream software out there. My flash crashes at least once a day, and Adobe issues updates just about every week. But before flash crashes, it sucks up a TON of resources, slows my computer to a crawl, and generally makes itself quite unwelcome. I can hardly wait for it to be completely gone from the face of the earth.