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THE FUTURE OF FLASH

LFPUG at WCRSLast night we were proud to host the London Flash Platform Users Group (LFPUG. Catchy, isn’t it), a monthly meet up of London Adobe Flash developers.

This month’s focus was The Future of Flash – a timely topic as there has been a lot of recent talk around the “Death of Flash” since HTML5 appeared on the scene to demonstrate that fancy web animations and video can be handled without the ubiquitous Flash plugin. And the event was a special one, as Adobe representatives stopped in on their way to FITC Amsterdam.

Mike Chambers @ LFPUG First up was Mike Chambers, Adobe’s Director of Developer Advocacy for Web Platforms speaking about the recently-released Adobe roadmap for the Flash runtimes white paper. He emphasised that “as the thinking in Flash Player changes, [the white paper] will be updated”, so this is not a final revision of the Flash roadmap – but it was made clear that two of the primary use cases that are driving business decisions for Flash are gaming and premium video, and other more traditional use cases were having less resources dedicated to them. This was hardly a bombshell, and it was refreshing to hear it in a straight-talking fashion, though it was met with some hostility from a room of people who had invested their careers into Flash. Nonetheless, Mike continued to speak openly and honestly (something which Adobe have been criticised for heavily in the past for not doing). The change of strategic focus does make sense, as HTML5 (and the associated Javascript/CSS technologies) now serve us with animation and basic video across desktop and mobile platforms. What HTML5 doesn’t offer is features like advanced analytics tracking of videos (e.g. to find out where most users are pausing/restarting/rewinding a video) and immersive 3D web-based games to rival the offerings of games consoles, which is where the next talk followed on…

Lee Brimelow @ LFPUGAfter a short break Lee Brimelow, Adobe’s Game Developer Evangelist, talked about the developments in Flash directly related to gaming: Right and middle mouse buttons will soon be available to use in Flash applications; Web workers will be implemented (which allow background processing to happen without halting the user interface); Flash is getting a Sprite Sheet Exporter for timeline animations; Keyboard input will be supported in full screen mode; and  many further changes being made to improve overall performance. Lee talked about how Epic Games (creators of games titles such as Gears of War 3 and Mass Effect 3) have been reviewing Flash as a platform for their Unreal 3D engine. Lastly, an Adobe tool called Monocle was demonstrated, which provides visual profiling and analysing – Flash developers will now have a tool to help locate performance bottlenecks in their code (there is an earlier demonstration of this from MAX 2011 though the version demonstrated at LFPUG looks more like a complete program than this version).

So “Flash in not Dead”, was the cry – though you can’t ignore the shift in business decisions coming from the top down. If the Flash team can pull this off then they could retain their place as a leading platform for delivering rich internet applications. And I hope they do, as the web as we know it would be a much duller place without the spirit of Flash.

A big thanks to Tink for bringing LFPUG to WCRS and for the hard work he’s put in over the last six years to get this user group going. It was a pleasure to host.

Edit: The presentations, including a video of Lee’s talk have been uploaded by LFPUG here and here. Enjoy!

By Stuart McAlpine

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