Adobe Flash Professional CC Dead? Not Quite!

The Animate CC splash screen is shown.
The new name for Flash Professional - Animate CC - acknowledges what Flash does best.

And so it came to pass on a cold winter night in November, that the High Priests of Internet, stripped Flash naked and, ringing bells and crying, “Shame," the priests forced Flash to walk through the jeering crowds of the city to the city gates and into oblivion.

According to many self-appointed pundits this is exactly what should happen to Flash but, unlike Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones, their contention is Flash Professional CC has winked out of existence.

Not quite. It has slipped back into the city with a new name: “Animate CC”.

Though the pundits have gleefully proclaimed Flash is dead, this simply is not the case. The name change to “Animate CC” is all about acknowledging what Flash does best – animation – and not the abandonment of Flash.  So how did we get to this point?

Having been involved with Flash since about 1998, I have had a ringside seat to the growth of Flash from its rather interesting debut as a web animation tool, to its becoming one of the more important tools in the evolution of the internet. I have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from some of the hottest Flash minds on the planet ,who took the application in directions the creators of FutureSplash Animator never conceived as being possible.

For example, the common page turn effect was developed by Eric Natzke for a Flash-based site he developed for Shrek. When Adobe added a video capability to the application, it became, for the longest time – how YouTube video was displayed.

The Cartoon Network had a number of shows that were created in Flash. In fact, Flash content was ubiquitous on the internet. Flash-based games such as the stunning Machinarium were everywhere and Flash was both a method of creating rich internet applications as well as deeply interactive multimedia websites such as the Get The Glass campaign from Northern Kingdom and became, along the way, a powerhouse audio and video playback medium.

The “fall from grace” which many attribute to Steve Jobs banning the Flash Player from iOS, started well before that event. It was the rise of mobile computing – smartphones and tablets – that were the catalyst.

When devices starting arriving, Adobe found itself between the proverbial “rock and a hard place”. There were any number of devices out there using a plethora of operating systems and Adobe made a bad decision. The decision was to develop the Flash Player in such a way that it played Flash content on everything by also creating a player version known as Flash Lite. To accomplish this, Adobe added Device Central to Flash and, when Flash developers and designers saw the requirements for Flash content on the devices, they essentially said, “Nope. Not for me.”

The first clue that storm clouds were gathering on the horizon was the rejection of Device Central.  Device Central was an emulator, and the hundreds of devices shown all had different requirements –  ranging from Actionscript 1 to Actionscript 3– , differing Flash Players and features such as one device being able to play video, and another not being able to play video. The concepts of compatibility, ubiquity and efficiency, which were the hallmarks of the web, simply did not exist and many developers started looking for alternative solutions.

It was about a year later that Steve dropped his “Flash Bomb” and the high priests started polishing their bells. They missed the mark.

By proclaiming the death of Flash they were talking about the application, Flash Professional CC, not the Flash Player – and AIR runtimes which still provide the consistency and ubiquity so necessary in today’s mobile environment populated by apps and motion … especially motion.

A couple of years ago, the ability to target HTML5 documents through the use of the HTML5 Canvas and WebGL was added to Flash, which meant that Flash content could be added to web pages without the use of the Flash plug-ins. Even then, due to recent security issues with the Flash Player, the high priests launched an aggressive campaign to ban Flash content. It got to the point where even Facebook joined the fray, until it was pointed out that 99% of the games offered through Facebook would wink out of existence.

It is illuminating to also point out that Facebook is now working with Adobe to improve the Flash Player.

Much of what we take for granted in today’s mobile and desktop environment had its roots in Flash. Parallax scrolling, buttons, motion and rich interactivity –  to name a few – first appeared in Flash. To be even more specific, they were first created in the application named Flash.

The name change to Animate CC has nothing to do with Adobe killing off Flash and everything to do with Adobe acknowledging the simple fact that the application’s purpose is animation. In fact, the planned improvements to the tool are going to make it an even more important tool in the current mobile and web environment.

I am already exploring how Animate CC can be integrated into the mobile and web development workflow, as a tool for prototyping and iterating motion concepts. Though there are a lot of tools out there that allow UX and Motion Designers to do just that, very few of them contain the robust feature set found in Animate CC. This is a key point made by Adobe during the announcement when they said:

“Animate CC will continue supporting Flash (SWF) and AIR formats as first-class citizens. In addition, it can output animations to virtually any format (including SVG), through its extensible architecture.”

This also explains why Adobe has stopped development of Edge Animate. The present and future capabilities of Animate CC make Edge Animate redundant.

As graphics professionals – especially those whose specialties include UX, UI, Interaction Design or Motion Design – not a lot has changed apart from the fact we now have a single tool, not a bunch of specialized tools, that can make our jobs easier and fits nicely into the rapid prototyping and iterative workflow that is emerging. Still, as I make clear to my students or others: “Nobody cares what tool you use, they just care that you did it.” In the final analysis, whether you choose to use Animate CC , Principle for Mac, or UXPin (to name a few) is your decision and should not be swayed by high priests or the ringing of bells.

Animate CC is just a tool and we always use the tool best-suited for the job at hand.

Don’t we?