2008 In Review – Flash Platform Shortcomings

As mentioned in my previous post, I’m making a list. Or in this case, two. The first list was a celebration of things that happened in 2008 that were perceived by me as being advancements in the Flash world. Well, in the interest of being a true pundit/critic, I have a list of the things that burn me when working in the Flash platform. I’d be interested in hearing what your thoughts are on this list and if you have some things you might want to add.

  1. The Flash IDE wasn’t really improved – Now a thing of comic proportions, Flash CS4 Professional has all been but abandoned as a code editor by most professionals I know, respect and follow in Flash platform blog world. Flex Builder, FDT, Flash Develop and many others out there fill the function better. Adobe missed a huge boat by not enhancing this much begrudged part of the IDE. I mean, the autocomplete is dopey, the need or (un)need of import statements is erratic, and on and on. The language has evolved, with AS3 forcing you to write better structured code, but the editor itself is pretty much still a scripting sketchpad. It’s obvious this is an impediment to users learning AS3, as it seems to pop up as a topic on blogs a lot. Case in point (read the comments on Mike Chamber’s post).
  2. The Flash Mobile Platform is still pretty much a mess – Now, I might take some heat for this view from some evangelists and others in the mobile trenches, but I don’t see a game changing strategy here. With Blackberry, iPhone and Android all out, all popular and not able to play Flash content yet (I hear Android is coming soon, though), it sure seems a bit disjointed to me. Some phones may use openscreen Flash players eventually, some Flash Lite, some Flash. It’s a bit of a mess, IMHO. Furthermore, when I visit Adobe’s Flash Platform page, I see no mention of Flash for Mobile, you have to dig a bit. I just think we need a concerted effort to put Flash mobile devevlopment front and center on Devnet, and make Flash part of mobile vendors lexicon in their sales pitches, i.e. “Did you know you can play Flash games and watch Youtube videos on this Phone because it has Flash?”, etc.
  3. No standard animation syntax across Adobe products – Flash, Flex, After Effects, Spry Framework, Director, heck, even Photoshop are capable of producing animation. All use their own syntax. Some of it is due to mergers and tech acquisitions, some is just due to lack of a “motion czar” at Adobe. Sounds ludicrous, I know, but why should a CS4 user need to know so many syntaxes to make things dance around or produce transitions? Moses supposes propsed this over a year ago, and no movement has taken place on this AFAIK. Dont’ think its a big deal? Look at this diagram. Then look at this one. Which world do you want to work in?
  4. Flash Player 9 never got it’s garbage collection issues patched – It’s a bit disconcerting that such a huge bug never got patched as a revision level thing and they waited to completely update the player to fix it. I’ve written about this in the past, and Grant Skinner has a great series of posts about it on his blog, but really when it comes down to it, the poor audio handling in Flash player 9 (also a well documented bug) and lack of a true unload and cleanup mechanism among other things illustrate to me that maybe a 12-18 month revision cycle is just madness. I’m sure it’s half marketing, “Well, Silverlight just bumped their number, so we have to do it for our player, too”, but that doesn’t make it right. Patch and update the software you have, save the revision number changes for big big revelations and allow your devs to sleep at night in stead of updating their code.
  5. Ever Diverging APIs – I’ve mentioned this issue on this blog before as well… With a “platform”, it’s apparent that some features that Flash IDE can produce aren’t readily apparent in Flex and vice-versa. Add on top of that the AIR APIs and you start to get a LiveDoc soup. What can one do that the other can’t? What are the dependencies? Etc, etc. Flex’s Framework has some hot stuff in it, and, if you chance upon the docs from a Google search trying to do something in Flash, it may not be clear until you’ve read practically the entire class description and gotten your developer hopes dashed on the glacially slow LiveDocs frame based UI website.
  6. Adobe still really doesn’t show the Mac much love at all. – Seriously. Not going to spend much time on this here, but Adobe products just run better on Windows. This pains me. I hate Windows and simply will not switch. Please
  7. Death of Flash Paper with no successor in sight – This is a perplexing move by Adobe in my view. FlashPaper had it’s flaws, but it was a capable tech for replicating Acrobat Reader in a light and compact fashion. No more. End-of-Lifed this year and told not to let the door hit it’s backside bits on the way out, it left my team hanging, pretty much immediately after launch on a project. No IE7 support. Nothing. Not even a proposed replacement or simple way to write PDFs straight from the Flash player. Seems like it was killed on some sort of sacrificial altar of Adobe/Macromedia merger-y black magic. “One shall die to make the other stronger” crud like that. I’m sure I may be exaggerating, but c’mon… Where I am supposed to go after this? Print2Flash, AlivePDF, etc are all promising, but why no Adobe solution in CS4/Flash Player 10? The Flash API’s PrintJob class blows for much more than most simple jobs… Help us!
  8. CS4 Installer not much better than CS3 installerJohn Nack’s blog has been the hotspot of talk from the installer front, with several posts commenters lambasting the team and berating the children of the installer team’s developers. I won’t go that far, but wow. Just please please please make CS5′s better. Shock and awe us with its simplicity. Maybe even *gasp* use the OSes’ native installers (If Final Cut Studio can install simply on OSX and MS Office can do the same on Windows, Adobe can figure it out)! If nothing can be done here though, at least make Adobe Updater go away and stop making us quite all our apps while your yipping dog fails yet again.
  9. SEO enhancements for Flash, but with no real documentation – Oh, how I wanted this to work out. This summer, it was announced that Adobe and Google would be working together to improve the searchability of Flex and Flash content. Ryan Stewart even ran a contest on it. Only real downside… no actual documentation. Or technotes. Or tutorials. Or, you get the idea. Just a simple little FAQ. C’mon! Peter Elst has a little more info on this at his blog.
  10. Global Pricing for Adobe Products unfair as ever – The world definitely doesn’t seem flat when it comes to selling downloadable software packages. Take a look at this comparison of prices for CS4 across the world. Ouch. John Dowdell has a bit on this at his blog entitled CS4 painpoints, so it’s obviously a known issue there, but not sure what’s going on in this realm right now. I do know that it has to hurt to upgrade when the software costs twice as much if you live outside of the US. May as well fly to buy it, or just skip the revision and save the dough in this downtrodden global economy. I have a feeling alot of people may be doing just that.

So, there you go. My list of the ’08 disappointments in the Flash platform. Any things I missed in your opinion… I’m interested in hearing from other designers and devs out there on this one.

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  1. Rahmat Hidayat Jan 5

    you’re not the first one who posted those complaints, people has been berating adobe for quite some time now and still no reaction whatsoever from adobe
    And frankly i’m starting to leave the realm of flash altogether..

  2. Iain Jan 6

    1. New features in Flash Player 10 – e.g. 3D, bones and hardware acceleration – were all a massive let down and basically useless.
    2. Different versions of ActionScript for every part of the platform.
    3. Letting Director rot while developers all switch to Unity3D.

  3. John Dowdell Jan 6

    “…people has been berating adobe for quite some time now and still no reaction whatsoever from adobe….”

    I’m not going to go topic by topic (there are no direct questions, and such threads diverge quickly), but I don’t think the above comment is accurate.


  4. Chad Jan 6

    John, as always, thanks for coming by my site. I appreciate your comments and your commitments to setting the record straight.

    I feel as though I have attempted to give a pretty fair shake by sharing links in the post above that illustrate my points where needed.

  5. Jason Terhorst Jan 6

    You already know my opinions on this (as an iPhone dev, I *do* have a bit of a bias now especially), but I started to become disgusted with Flash in the last few years, due to a variety of factors – including, but not limited to, performance, lack of *real* advancement, and generally bad authoring experience on the Mac (but you’ve already touched on this point).

    I started noticing the performance issues – where even simple movies were seriously lagging in the same player, even on Windows XP, with better hardware than years prior. This is a side-effect of the bloat that Adobe is known for (and why I’m sad that the once-great Macromedia was bought by Adobe) – they add near-useless features (or features you only use once a year) that bog down the entire player for little benefit; I was noticing, even on a newer computer, the current year’s player runs slower than last year’s.

    I enjoyed the AS syntax early on, but Iain points out the inconsistency and confusion that made me frustrated with it.

    I’m not sure where Adobe is trying to take Flash, and it’s silly, because it feels more like marketing-driven bullet-points, rather than a larger vision based on where the technology can/will go. Marketing people are the worst people to be determining the end path of a development platform.

  6. unity3D developer Apr 17

    Additionally to all you’ve mentioned, there are more and more competing companies and products evolving. I think that silverlight, HTML5 (and unity3D for games) will soon hit the flash market very hard.

  7. super mario May 12

    Adobe are not stupid, they know what are they doing. Flash is going to expand soon, additionally to all features it has now, they are sure building some new and revolutionary stuff, to put these competitors in their pockets :D .
    For example look at the games built with alternativa3D, the new 3D engine for flash, it rocks. and HTML5, silverlight and others will never get to this performance.

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