For years, Adobe Flash has been the standard for building rich multimedia web applications and websites. Created in 1996, Flash is the technology that powers much of the video on the web. With nearly universal install rates across all desktops, the decision to build upon Adobe's platform has always been easy.
Recent developments have changed that story, though. The rise of the smartphone has made it essential for small businesses to build websites and apps for mobile, but Flash is noticeably absent on these devices. However, there is one phone that will never support Flash: the iPhone.
When Apple revealed the iPad to the world in January, the company purposely left Flash off of it. The result has been a heated debate over the future of Flash, with many people arguing that Flash's future is in doubt.
While Apple has laid out many reasons for why it won't support Flash on its mobile devices, that's not what small businesses should care about. The issue they should care about is this: should my business develop applications in Flash? Flash may be one of the best multimedia tools out there today, but if people can't load it, does it matter?
Flash does indeed have a ton of pros: it's considered easy to use, it reportedly reaches 99 percent of Internet-enabled PCs, and most of all, it can help you create amazing and vibrant websites and applications. It allows for artistic creativity that old web standards don't support.
Here's the thing, though: HTML5 can do most of the things that Flash does, including web video. Not only is Apple backing HTML5 over Flash on its devices, but so are Microsoft and other companies. And with iPad and iPhone sales going strong, more and more people will own devices that don't support Flash.
So here's my suggestion: determine which platform to use based on factors such as the potential audience it will reach, how multimedia-intensive your project is, and how much future-proofing you need. If you need to build a feature-rich multimedia experience, Flash is still far-and-away the best option. If you're instead building an application focused on mobile devices, then you want to avoid Flash at all costs.
It's tough to predict the future of Adobe Flash, but I doubt it's going to go away anytime soon. However, I also think its best days are behind it.