Is Flash dead? Even though I, as a flash designer, hate to admit it: Yes.
While non-flash animation has certainly come a long way and can produce quite remarkable results, most of them seem like child’s play, compared to the possibilities flash offers – especially when considering the ease-of-implementation and platform independency. Flash’s Stage3D-update further widened the gap with the possibility to use Flash to produce console level 3D graphics on the internet, increasing Flash’s previous 3D performance a thousand-fold – literally. But even though the new Flash is interesting from a technological point of view, the marvel of being able to animate millions of polygons means nothing, if there’s no demand.
That the era of Flash ends because another era ends: That of stationary PCs. Smartphones and tables will get continuously more common and it’s only a matter of time, before mobile traffic exceeds that of stationary PCs. In the light of this development, Adobe’s recent announcement that they’d stop updating their mobile version of Flash seems like the platform’s final nail in the coffin. Who in their right mind would nowadays build or even recommend to build a website that doesn’t run on mobile devices? Especially, if the audiences using those devices are the same people who were previously susceptible to rich media websites?
Another factor is the web’s change from monolithic and self-sufficient websites to a strongly interconnected, social and above all things content driven web. The current HTML(5) Microsites do quite well and while I really loved building highly complex Flash websites, even I’ve come to doubt their necessity: Was it really that effective, when lacking content, to just explode into the people’s faces with animations and sounds and all kinds of miracles? The times have changed and the loss of Flash and its ability to hide one’s lack of ‘things to say’ will result in people having to concentrate on their content – which is beneficial to everyone. Of course you still can just use the technological flavour of the month just for the sake of using it, but it’s far less awe-inspiring.
In any case, speaking from my personal experience: I haven’t been booked for any larger flash projects in almost a year and the very few Flash projects that I did get were online adverts – something that only those few people would miss, live on them. And I don’t expect that to change.
So where to go from now on? Luckily, the learned skills are only remotely lost: Programming languages are all very similar – know one, know all. Or as someone else put it: What did designers of VHS-Covers do, when DVDs emerged? Most Flash developers should be able to switch to HTML5 within days while retaining an abundance of knowledge as backup, due to AS3′s potenially greater complexity. And then there’s always the possibility to switch from web-applications away to iOS and Android, which should go just as smoothly.
So while the loss of a whole platform may seem drastic at first, it is not. The internet is in constant flux, and it is so by design. New technologies will always emerge and vanish again – and we, those who make it and those who use it, will adapt. That’s just the way it is :)