Front-end develpment was better before
I'm talking about a time that no one under the age of 20 will ever know..." FLASH. While the major 2020 front-end trends talk about Reactivity, Serverless, WebAssembly or WebGL, I would like us to take a look back at front-end development from a few years ago. Why's that? To rediscover a few little gems of course, as well as more importantly, to understand the heritage we have retained from this era and to anticipate development in the future.
Flashback sur Flash
In 1993, Flash saw the light of day. It was the result of combining 2 software packages FutureWave and SmartSketch, developed by 3 individuals: Charlie Jackson, Jonathan Gay and Michelle Welsh. In 1995, it became FutureSplash Animator.
Macromedia (1996) then Adobe (2005) went on to become the owners of this design tool which has been developed over time around the programming language, ActionScript 1, 2 and then 3.
This was a great revolution in the world of front-end development. Indeed, Flash was, for a long time, the only way to create rich, integrated, animated and highly-interactive multimedia content.
Flash then became the emblem of creativity!
It was the age of the race for recognition, a recognition epitomised by the yellow banner on "Site of day" distributed by Rob Ford and his website thefwa.com. This was the real beginning of award-winning website, a must for every creative agencies in the world.
Here's our selection of the ultimate Flash websites:
- 1997: Gabocorp.com - Acknowledged as the No.1 Flash website! Sound, animation, it's got it all.
- 2003: Roadrunner from the Fantasy Interactive agency: A full flash portal with integrated Google Search, video directly readable on the website, data aggregation and animation.
- 2003 www.tokyoplastic.com - Flash animation, linked to software like Switft3D to export them.
- 2008 www.ecodazoo.com - A real-time 3D masterpiece, with no hardware acceleration. In fact, this was the great debut of 3D engines for the Web, which became a hot topic of conversation from 2006 and 2010
- 2009 www.soytuaire.labuat.com - A musical adventure where you interact with the song… Captivating! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSqGU3CSbdc
If creativity wasn't enough to convince you of the power of Flash, this last point will have everyone agreeing: At the time, with Flash, it was much simpler:
- Cross-browser compatibility was not a worry... Flash player was available on all browsers (apart from Linux) and Internet Explorer had the monopoly.
- Responsive design didn't exist and neither did smartphones… or only a few of them :)
- Accessibility hadn't been addressed
- Testing was ultra simplified due to the limited number of devices available
- Data security was not a major concern
- At the time, graphic designers did Flash... and developers did too!
- What was the main objective for websites at the time? To showcase or make money?
As the debate is not about the pros and cons of these practices, it must be said that it was "simple".
A period of transition
Good things often come to an end. In 2010, Steve Jobs shared his opinion about Flash (https://www.apple.com/hotnews/thoughts-on-flash/) :
- Flash was a proprietary format
- no tactile control on iPhone
- issues around vulnerability
- An excessive drain on batteries
HTML 5 had arrived and was capable of providing rich interactive experiences. As the rise of Flash has run its course, it will officially no longer be supported by Adobe by the end of 2020.
As Socrates said "what makes Man is his great ability to adapt". Flash developers are quickly shifting to HTML5.
A step backwards at the outset that is difficult to accept for many experts and agencies in the industry. And in practical terms, a feeling of regression.
Flash will always remain a key icon of digital creativity for everyone. It leaves behind a graphic and technological heritage that today is at the root of the most significant developments on the Web. From a technological perspective, ActionScript 3, the latest programming language development linked to the tool, remains the source of concepts and libraries, the beginnings of those most widely used today:
- AMFPHP, a library based on AMF protocol, whose objective was to simplify and standardise client-server communications …
- This was the start of employing Mathematics, trigonometry for interactions and animations in real time (easing, particles and more)
- The birth of Single Page Applications (SPA). At last, all Flash websites were SPA! We were also working on referencing with SWFAddress, a deep linking and dynamic serving support system.
The Web is constantly evolving and has changed tremendously since the time of Flash.
Reinventing the wheel? Aren't we just producing the same thing we did 10 years ago in Flash?
No, because the challenges and constraints are changing. Developers and agencies are adapting their digital content production to provide a richer experience for an ever-increasing number of users, clients and devices.
The objective remains the same: To produce bespoke designs while maintaining the highest level of performance.
At WIDE, we are convinced that this creative and technical excellence must remain ever-present in our design work. Today, it is essential to consider interface performance and how it must be supported by a strong creative and interactive approach.