Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight were at a time the two biggest market-share holders in rich web application development techniques. Both were the most preferred front-end web development tools for programmers to create animations and multimedia content for desktop and the web. It’s not the case anymore, and a minority of websites that still have them are either lost in obscurity or their developers moved on to other projects. None of the new and up-to-date websites are using them anymore. What happened to these almost obsolete technologies, and what’s the future of developers that need creative animations and multimedia content for the desktop and web applications. This article explores what are the options for web and application developers after the demise of these old techniques.
The Rise and Fall of Flash and Silverlight?
Back in April 2010, Steve Jobs posted his “Thoughts on Flash” on the Apple website. It’s a very interesting read. The reasons Jobs gave for Apple not allowing Flash player on its devices were very pertinent and have been quoted by many as the reason for Flash’s eventual failure. These include openness, reliability, security, performance, battery life and more. The same can also be said for Silverlight as it also has some of the same problems as did Flash – and is facing the same fate as well.
The precursor to Flash was a software called SmartSketch originally developed by a company called FutureWave. Basically, it used vector graphics to create various animations. Later on, FutureWave made a few changes to the software and rebranded it as FutureSplash. In November 1996, Macromedia acquired FutureSplash and rebranded it as Macromedia Flash 1.0. Macromedia made improvements to the software and converted it into a two-part system, a graphics and animation creator: Macromedia Flash; and a media player known as Macromedia Flash Player.
In December 2005, Macromedia was acquired by Adobe and all its products become the property of Adobe. Flash-based editing software quickly became the go-to development tools for web and application developers to produce rich internet applications, animations and mobile games. This all changed when Adobe started slowly acknowledging that the program’s popularity was dwindling and faced many problems that were harder to fix than to completely let go of the program.
In contrast, Microsoft Silverlight does not have a very long history. It was introduced in 2007, as a competitor of Adobe Flash. It did get a reasonable success initially, as by 2010 it was running on at least 64% of computers with internet access worldwide, while around the same time, Flash was installed in over 95% of web browsers. While according to W3Techs, the current share of Flash stands at about 3% while that of Silverlight is even less than 0.1%
In 2017, Adobe announced that they will be phasing out flash player plug-in for browsers by 2020. Similarly, Microsoft announced the end of support for Silverlight by 2021.
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The Game Changer – HTML5
HTML5 is the fifth generation of HTML, short for Hypertext Markup Language and subsumes the XHTML. While HTML5 was first launched in 2008, however, it achieved the W3C recommendation status in October 2014.
Although, there are still a few Flash-like software that is being used to create Flash videos, Like LightSpark and GNU Gnash. However, they are mainly used in open-source applications and on Linux based open-source operating systems.
Web and application developers now use the various language combinations on top of HTML5 to create all sorts of applications for desktop computers and smartphones. Here is a short description of the most popular combinations:
1. Bootstrap + jQuery
- Tachyons + jQuery
An alternative to using Bootstrap is the Tachyons toolkit. It is a collection of small modules that can be used in combination with Bootstrap or even independently. jQuery, of course, performs the function of brevity and simplicity for the developers.
3. React+ Bootstrap
With Bootstrap at its core, React is another JS library that can be used instead of jQuery. While jQuery interacts with DOM directly, React uses a Virtual DOM, which leads to even faster performance of the web applications.
4. Angular + Bootstrap
One of the key differences between Angular and jQuery is that Angular has many features like routing, directives, models, dependency injection, and two-way data binding. While jQuery does not have any of these features.
A Final Note
What is clear from the above discussion that old techniques used for rich web applications are dead. It is the task of developers to look forward and embrace the future. HTML5 is the future of web development along with its many development tools. A good thing is developers can mix and match various development tools achieve their desired objectives. Each development language has its own strengths and shortcomings. It is the job of a good web and app development service provider to know which tools to use to achieve each unique objective.