Thoughts on Flash

Andrew Boon posted 9th of February 2011 in Dolphin.pro News. 28 comments.

Stealing title from the Steve Jobs' open letter somehow feels not only appropriate but also snuggly puts on the shoes of a "great artist" fighting for the better Web. I have expressed my feelings about Flash some time ago and now with the latest Desperate Plea and Petition we need to bring up the topic to the spotlight. It's a big, important subject that defines hefty a part of our strategy, so we try to employ as much forward-thinking to it as possible. Good news is that we managed to develop a fervid opinion; while "seemingly bad" news (for those who signed the plea, anyway) is that our stance doesn't favor further improvements in Dolphin's Flash-based components. Now, free your mind and let me try to reassure you...

 

Flash is bad

Flash is not an integral part of the open web, and it is obviously a technological "tumor" of Dolphin, or any other CMS for that matter. Both [the Web and the Dolphin that is] would benefit greatly if the same functionality could have been achieved without Flash. On top of that Flash is a tenuous performer on mobile platforms and we're entering the mobile personal computing era, mind you. No matter how powerful your computer is, opening a dozen of Flash-heavy web pages will bog it down. Moreover, Flash is increasingly unstable on desktops and we feel that from both user's and developer's sides. Flash doesn't let site visitors use their password/form managers; it doesn't let them copy-paste and save in a standard way; it loads as a detached part of the page; it doesn't adhere to the site's stylesheets; it isn't parsed by search engines; it limits use of open APIs; it limits content/URL sharing options; etc, etc, etc. It's a technology of the past that should not enter the future due to unfitting nature of the whole idea - it's a proprietary plugin - an extra layer of blurb between you and the web.

 

 

 

There are alternatives

While benefits of buying overpriced organic carrots may feel debatable, Flash alternatives feel just right. HTML5 is a proper open standard with bright prospects and healthy adoption pace. Smart use of AJAX and JavaScript often give great results without downsides of lost interoperability and compatibility. Alternatives evolve faster, and Adobe won't ever be able to keep up. No company can effectively confront entire world that's driven by a worthy cause.

 

What do you want us to design for, the future or the past?

 


The future it is

BoonEx will be purging Flash from our software wherever possible and as soon as we can come up with better options. In Dolphin 7.1, 7.2 and 8 expect the following:

 

- HTML-based Chat and Messenger, with Flash used only for the video streaming.

- HTML5-based video/audio content presentation, with Flash fall-back (until IE wombats wake up).

- JS-based controls even when Flash is used. Flash to be used only for the actual content streaming.

- Native Windows and MacOS apps instead of AdobeAIR app.

- Non-Flash admin controls for all apps/modules/plugins in Dolphin.

 

As a result you will be getting a fully-integrated package with all parts gracefully following your "site-wide" modification instructions - design elements, fonts, styles, and languages - all applied synchronically and without reservations.

 

 

 

p.s. As for the Desperate Plea and Petition, please point to specific bits that can't be changed according to current customization guidelines and we'll fix those (while you're waiting for the exciting changes outlined above).

 

 
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Nathan Paton
What format will HTML5 video be using? I'm also saddened to see you abandon the cross-platofrm desktop app (as a Linux user, who will be left out by this move). One issue that does plague the desktop app is that you can only install it once, meaning if you visit more than one Dolphin site, you can't use any of their desktop apps until you uninstall the current one. Will this continue with the return to OS-specific apps, or will it be resolved?

I'd also like to recommend you implement Adobe's stage see more video to the video components of the Flash apps. It'll be a while before HTML5 overtakes Flash in usage, and the performance gain would be well worth it.
silverado350
This is great news Andrew!
theguypc
Well said, and a very sound decision IMHO.
sonnarinternet
I agree, a limited use of flash for the pieces that Javascript/AJAX/HTML5 can't/don't do is the way to go, but a general phase out of flash over time is a good thing.
Stuart038
I agree, I was going to write in and ask about this... Onward to the 22nd Century I say!
houstonlively
@ Andrew Boon, Re: "What do you want us to design for, the future or the past?"

You left out one important time period. You left out "Right Now", which is the world we are all living in. Quite a few of us have spent countless hours, working on Dolphin 7 sites, fine tuning, and customizing them. Still, we can't do something as simple as changing a few colors on the media players or chat, without taking a trip through hell to try to come up with a working swf skin to match see more our sites. Trying to work with the flash files you have provided, is not quite the same as having the original development environment, component and image libraries in front of you. It's a nightmare, but don't take my word for it.... go grab a copy of the flash source files, and see how long it takes you to come up with a working skin for just the media players and chat.

I don't care one bit about a future version of Dolphin that is going to solve all of our flash woes, because I know that we don't have a chance in hell of seeing it for at least another year. That's fine, but we all have issues to address right now, and one that's as obvious as a neon sign, is white media players on dark templates. I'll sit down with you anytime at all with a bottle of Stolichnaya, and drink to the future D 7.2 & D8, and HTML5, but all we have to work with Right Now, is D 7.0.4 and flash. I can't wait another year or two for all of this wonderful new stuff to materialize, I need a solution now. We all do..... at least those of us that want a professional looking website want it now.
houstonlively
Cont'd...

Surely, there is something you can do to give at least the media players and chat app, a way to be skinned a little easier than that trip through hell I mentioned earlier. One thing is sure... you won't be able to do it unless you at least try. Have a meeting or something. Have your people in Australia call your people in Kyrgyzstan. Talk to each other. Talk to yourselves... I don't care. Just give us something we can work with until we get to the promised land that is D7.2 and see more D8.
houstonlively
Here's an example

Look at this page: http://houstonlively.com/m/chat/home/

Notice how the colors of the chat skin blend in with the site, as if I actually planned it that way.

Then switch to the uni template, and see what you think. I'll tell you what I think. It's a damn eyesore. The dark chat room may as well be surrounded by fluorescent light bulbs. I wouldn't be able to look at it for 5 minutes without getting a headache. The entire website has to match, or else it looks like you see more just slopped it all together. Dark websites that use the default flash skins look awful. You're browsing around, then decide to go to the chat page, then BAMM!! .... it's like somebody shining a search light in your eyes.
sandalsonly
That actually looks very well Hl! well blended, I agree with this one Andrew! I understand your thoughts, but Hl has a very good point on the color contrast to match the site!
It would be like taking the uni temp. and throwing in an all black chat room! wouldnt work.
Thanks for the peek inside your chat HL.
derrick
tomakali
Great news...
Thanks andrew!!!

my perspective is... its 50% failure in adobe flash technology being buggy
and 50% in developer

bcos rovio is running successfully just because they CAN do better job
so boonex needs EXPERTZ to do flash jobs

chat,im,video player can be replaced with HTML5
but flash can stay a little while...

if there are any smart guys out there, try silverlight(not open) for chat...
http://www.codeproject.com/KB/silverlight/SilverlightWebAppChatPt2.aspx

not a good see more idea... but i love silverlight than flash...

just adapting better technological standards arent enough D8 needs a better innovation that makes us to standout from facebook and others...
a real different kind of community...
beeneeb
I completely agree with you on this Andrew. If you're looking for an HTML5 video player that has fall-back to Flash, I would recommend using VideoJs. It's open source, skinnable with CSS, and supports a ton of devices and browsers.

http://videojs.com/
houstonlively
Hey Andrew... BTW... Nice job of diverting everybody's attention away from the problem that is staring everybody in the face RIGHT NOW. I swear, some of you people around here remind me of rats following the Pied Piper. Andrew plays a smooth tune, and everybody forgets that they still won't be able to have a site that is congruous with itself.

People: Helloooooo..... Is anybody home?? The flash apps are going to be part of your site longer than you think. What if all the automobile manufacturers, see more instead of repairing vehicles with a manufacturing defect, told all their customers that they are not going to fix it, because next years model will use better technology? Would you simply accept this, and patiently wait for next years model to roll off the assembly line, or would you want the vehicle you bought with your hard earned money, fixed right now.
Andrew Boon
Noticed the "p.s." part? I asked for specific parts of the Flash apps that can't be customised - tell us, we'll get them fixed, so that it would all be customisable. It would still have to be done using current method - firing up Flash and changing the FLA files. Later today we'll also discuss changing Flash templates along with the site templates to adress the kind of problem that you sampled on your site.

As for switching over to the templating method that you suggest, that would be see more counter-productive and would take about as much time as development of a new non-Flash chat and IM. We'll try to push the new apps to happen sooner than a year.
Rope Man
^^^It doesn't have to take that long. Take a couple of the programmers and create a team, make that little corner guy share his work properly, with full build environment and you might be surprised what we, the community, can do to help you guys out with this. Yes, flash sucks, especially on the mobile side of the web, but it doesn't mean we should have to deal with all the problems on our sites it brings because corner boy refuses to share his ball.

Up to date source code.
Build Environment
Open see more Source

Is that really to much to ask?
theguypc
houstonlively has spoken

Now excuse me. I seem to hear a magic pipe, gotta go. You know us rats.
mstreet
The problem not in flash. Problem in devrlopers who make it. All flash apps and moduls around Dolphin this is 1999 year level. Hallo peeople look around ! 3D web is not future !!! And its possible onley with flash. You use mikroscope to crack nuts ! And its bad )) But flash is WEB OF THE NEXT DAY. IE is bad WINDOWS is bader SLOW COMPUTERS is the bedder than all BUT FLASH is the most massive think which changed all the web at all. But try to see deeper than to make form for registration with flash see more ))) Think wide look around - all the best sevices in the world born with flash - youtube, soundcloud, flicker, vimeo and many many more. Think twise before to make step back.
houstonlively
Andrew, first of all, see if you can get the little old man in the corner of the room that does your flash programming, to do some sort of writeup on the specifics of the development environment he uses, so we can come close to working under the same conditions. I know Rayz isn't very enthusiastic about explaining the inner workings of his flash apps, but it sure would help if he published a few articles about them, so the rest of us can have a clue. This would be a real good time for him to do see more that.

Next, go back to that chat page of mine, and click on the Settings icon. Some clues as to why the button text has missing characters would help. I believe it has something to do with your flash apps using some strange font. I can't figure it out, but then working with flash isn't one of my strong points... as a matter of fact, that chat skin is only the second thing I've ever worked on. The sounds player was the first, and it too has some mysterious issues... like why I can't change the look of the volume control.

As far as making everything compatible with the mobile web, why don't you just use JW Player to play media, instead of reinventing the wheel. JW Player does everything you want it to do right now. Visit this page on your iPhone.. it's a video hosted on my own site: http://houstonlively.com/blogs/entry/Iphone-Demo-Video

http://www.longtailvideo.com/players/jw-flv-player/

Replace the sounds player and the video player with this, and you can quickly take a leap forward with a lot less work than starting from scratch. Then we'd only have to worry about skinning the chat app.
hd4real
Like HL said, the JW Player would be a great replacement for rayz video and sound app.
AlexT
Please specify problems in skin changing here:
http://www.boonex.com/trac/dolphin/ticket/2408
-------------
Also you can track progress regarding templates switching problems here:
http://www.boonex.com/trac/dolphin/ticket/2409
-------------
There are some docs on how to skin flash apps:
http://www.boonex.com/trac/dolphin/wiki/SkinDev
We will check if it is actual for current flash apps version, or will add new doc.
dolphin_jay
If you could Alex if you have time... See what it would take to start testing with silverlight for php. Not sure on the speeds or server load compaired to flash... and i know half if not all of dolphin would need to be recoded.

When I was on the .aspx side of things it seemed pretty powerful then and they have come a long way in the media streaming section thats for sure.

There media player has the option to throttle the speed of content being streamed based on the users bandwidth connection see more to the sever and the other thing i like about silverlight is its very easy for the average person to skin the media player anyway they see fit.

It streams audio. video and photos very well and i think you could replace all but the chat function with it.

Not sure if this to off topic so in short i agree 100% that flash has to go in as many places as you can and there needs to be some sort of replacement for it.

Now with that said I am not sure if its going to hurt or help with the look and feel of dolphin but I know it will most likely speed things along without it and there will not be so many people complaining about things not be saved when they make a change on a form in the admin panel or editing a profile....
AlexT
This technology is not supported on mobile devices, so it is better to looking into technologies which are working on any device, without any plugins.
dolphin_jay
Well not all mobile devices anyway... Iphone ofcourse being the one left out. but apple did agree back in 2009 for silverlight testing on the iphone. At any rate good point.

Just started to tie in to a dolphin database to see if i can pull some video from it with silverlight just for the heck of it...
bojko91
Awesome! Thas will be coool ! Поживьом повидим
houstonlively
The ability to switch flash templates when the site template is switched, would be a big improvement.

I have one major problem, that I haven't been able to solve. Visit this page: http://houstonlively.com/m/chat/home/

Then click on the Settings icon, and notice the missing characters in the button text, and several other places. I have no idea why this happened when I exported the swf. I used Adobe CS5 to modify the default.fla and to export the swf. If it's some sort of font mapping issue, see more CS5 isn't reporting it. I have no clue how to fix this issue.

It's not that the flash skins can't be thoroughly customized, it's that it's tedious as all hell. There's a reason why no one, and not even Rayz has developed an assortment of flash app skins..... it's a damn nightmare. I use a product called Slide Show Pro. It's a fairly sophisticated flash app. To change its looks, I edit a params.xml file where I can change everything about it. Instead of editing the background color, stroke color, of every single element in a flash editor for hours on end, I edit one xml file and I'm done in 15 minutes.

I'm not a flash expert, but I really don't understand why I should be having problems with fonts. The flash apps should use a standard web font, but I don't believe they do.

This is all stuff I can't really focus on right now, because I have a video comment recorder, and a photo shooter that do not work.
Flurmingo
This is a ridiculously great news!
hairdesignertv
While I agree with your take on Flash, the truth about html5 is it doesn't do real streaming of video well. It does progressive download very well but true streaming is another matter. Flash is definitely going away but not because it's technically limited, but because of a blood feud between Aplle and adobe.
shymatsi
Hate to bring this up, now.. but.. 347 days later.. My network is being overrun with Flash issues.. Any eta date for 7.1 for a alternative to flash chat?
 
 
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