The END of Flash
Ever since Adobe announced that it will pull the plug on Adobe Flash in 2020, people have been asking me what comes next and if anything can or should replace the plug-in that helped pioneer the Internet.
I get where they’re coming from. If you’re old enough to remember the 1990s and early 2000s, your first experiences with interactive content on the web, from videos on YouTube to browser games like Minecraft, came on the wings of Adobe Flash.
Just eight years ago Flash was the most pervasive software in the world and sat on 99% of all Internet-enabled desktops in mature markets at the time.
That’s staggering and begs the question: What will a Flash-less world even mean?
My answer is simple: better quality, better security, greater scalability and more real-time communication.
Let’s not forget that for all of its benefits, Flash also came with a bunch of problems that were exacerbated by the mobile revolution.
As Steve Jobs pointed out in a withering critique back in 2010, Flash was glacially slow, swallowed up loads of battery power, was rife with security problems and didn’t mesh well with touchscreen devices.
Apple decided to pass on Flash altogether, ensuring that much of the ensuing mobile revolution happened independent of Flash.
Flash’s problems went beyond mobile. The plug-in’s shortcomings were equally glaring in the conferencing and real-time communication space.
Flash-based conferencing offered a … let’s just say less than stellar user experience.
The more people who joined a call, the worse the quality became until the video feed resembled something out of an episode of Lost.
Security was an issue, as was the fact that Flash had to be downloaded for anyone who wanted to join a call.
Emergence of WebRTC
All of these factors put Flash on the fast train toward obsolescence. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is a good thing. That’s because in Flash’s place we now have WebRTC, an open-sourced application programming interface that allows developers to embed videos and other interactive content without the use of a third-party plug-in.
It’s like the anti-Flash: new, HD quality, updated frequently, highly secure and designed to scale.
The advent of WebRTC has put us on the front edge of a massive revolution in the way communication can work in our society, on the Internet and through mobile devices.
Flash was the poster child of the digital communications wave, where we turned to third parties to enable real-time interactive content and communications.
Think of traditional conferencing platforms like Adobe Connect or Webex. When you wanted to connect and collaborate with colleagues, you had to leave whatever you were doing at the time, stop whatever workflow you were in the midst of, and turn to an outside platform.
That’s the old guard, and like Adobe Flash, it’s dying.
The new Generation of In-Flow Communication
The new wave is toward real-time communication and collaboration tools that are fully integrated into apps, so that users don’t have to leave and go use Skype or Webex or whatever it might be.
They can connect on the spot, in context, without getting distracted or wasting time trying to schedule a call.
At Voxeet we call this “In-flow communication.”
It’s all about enabling collaboration without a bunch of starts and stops and bumps and jumps in the process.
If you’re a developer and your users have to leave your app in order to communicate, before you know it they may find themselves distracted — by a pop-up, an email, an ad banner, a text, you name it — and doing things like booking their next yoga class rather than staying on task in your app.
Thanks to the wonders of WebRTC, developers don’t have to experience this reality.
Slack is a great example. Users of their collaboration platform used to have to leave the app to connect in real-time.
Now their app users can have their video calls right within the Slack app.
Uber is the same. Drivers used to have to text passengers from iMessage or call them from their phones.
Now they have in-app messaging to streamline the process and eliminate the dangers of distracted driving.
One of our customers, Parsable, which is a technology platform for leading inspection organizations around the world, is adding video to their infield inspection apps.
As a result, infield inspectors can now record what you’re seeing when they visit kitchens or factories and can document the experience in real time.
That means other people in the office can observe what’s going on, and it means that companies can eliminate the expense of sending inspectors back out to a site for reinspections.
The oil company Shell spends about $500 million a year to inspect oil rigs. Imagine if you can streamline that process how much money you could save!
This is the future. Forget about Flash. It’s all about in-flow.