The Flash Killer: Is jQuery Really Capable of Replacing Flash?

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Macromedia’s Flash, a vector-based animation platform was launched in 1996. However, after release of JavaScript in 1997, a war has been declared between these two applications. Reason being that javascript frameworks are becoming increasingly popular as a result of their high scalability, performance and usability. But is jQuery really pushing Flash to a dead zone or it‘s just a hype created by some people. Let‘s find out.

While Flash and JQuery aren’t mutually exclusive, they do have a significant amount of overlap, and that’s why Adobe had to be a little worried when jQuery emerged as a powerhouse. JavaScript library that has endeared itself to all manner of developers and includes hundreds of plugins, most of which are free for all methods of use. But although Adobe might have initially gotten a fright, there are still enough areas where Flash excels over jQuery that Adobe can probably afford to breathe a little easier for a while. (Although, there’s always Silverlight to think about, but that outreach doesn’t seem to be going the way Microsoft intended.)

Before the Beginning

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Let’s go back to when Flash got its start. That was a whopping 15 years ago. Think about that for a minute. We’re talking Internet Explorer 3. The internet was just coming into its own as a multimedia channel, and this arguably didn’t really happen until 1998. Anyway, along comes a little-known startup named FutureWave Software with its FutureSplash Animator. Macromedia, famous for its Director Animation suite, was quick to snap up this little company and its little language that could.

Once a plugin that could play these script files was installed, everyone using a graphical browser could experience multimedia in the browser window over the internet. Admittedly, it was choppy, had horrible sound and equally abysmal synchronization, but it was there, and it would only get better. As broadband came to more homes and businesses, Flash became more ubiquitous on the web, to the point where entire sites were made of nothing but Flash animations. Not only was this relatively slow, but web search engines couldn’t read a Flash-based website, so constructing your cutting-edge site with nothing but Flash could leave you with no visitors. It was also notoriously inaccessible to those with visual disabilities, which became more important later in the 90’s. Fortunately, it was around this time that an alternative was taking shape.

Java What?

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With IE 4 and Netscape Communicator, JavaScript was getting its first test. But since most users had about 8 or 16 megs of ram to go with their Pentium II, performance was lackluster. Add separate capabilities for separate browsers, and implementing JavaScript across a site could be an exercise in ultimate frustration.

However, this wasn’t to stay the case for long. Once IE 5 became ubiquitous, JavaScript use grew. But it was dwarfed by the use of Flash, and IE 6 had to come along before JavaScript became widely enough to use with the expectation of fairly equal appearance across browsers. Early JavaScript libraries allowed developers to create code more quickly and have reasonable expectations of what that code would do in multiple environments.

jQuery

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Then, in 2006, along came jQuery. While there were several good JavaScript libraries before this, none offered the size, speed and support of jQuery. It could be used to enliven previously static HTML without worrying about destroying a page’s search ranking or accessibility.

However, throughout its years of dominance, Macromedia and then Adobe hadn’t been resting on its laurels. Flash had been extended into a complete object-oriented programming suite, complete with 3-D animation and advanced IDE features.

Even still, though, by 2006, it was clear that Flash’s days as undisputed animation champion were over.

On to the Future

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Here ends the history lesson, and we think about current and future implementations of jQuery and Flash.

If you’re simply creating a website, one with a full suite of controls but that doesn’t require any exquisite detail and/or contains a lot of text, you’re probably better off with jQuery or a similar JavaScript library. This goes for a large majority of sites on the web today.

But if you’re in the market for a site that will appear exactly the same, (or very close to it,) in any modern browser, or one that uses a multitude of vector artwork, Flash is still the choice for you, as long as you can afford its price tag.

Never Fear, Adobe

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The above was a very simple illustration of sites that are more suited to jQuery or Flash. The bottom line, however, is that complex or 3D sites are difficult or impossible to create in jQuery, and it’s a waste of time and SEO to create most basic sites in Flash. In fact, the web is replete with sites that use either Flash or jQuery to do the same thing, such as display photos or sports scores. Alas, then, the reign of Flash looks set to continue, at least until a technology like Canvas can take over in areas where Flash still shines.

Nisha is the head blogger for Slodive.com. She loves tattoos and inspirational quotes. Check her out on google plus https://plus.google.com/u/0/116437517919411097994.

14 COMMENTS

  1. That is possibly the worst industry-related article I have ever read.

    It’s clear from your writing that you’ve never even used Flash, so I’ve no idea why you feel qualified to write a (non-existent) comparison between the two technologies, or provide the scantiest history lesson ever – skipping 7 years at one point from the release of IE5 to the birth of jQuery.

    An utterly pointless article, and one where you have not the skills or experience to answer your own sensationalist and misguided question.

  2. I won’t be as rude, but I agree with David. There is a very bold line between Flash and jQuery and it’s always very clear to anyone with some experience when to use which technology. There is no war.

    Each sentence is written nicely and you have a nice style Roko, but the pacing is off. It feels like you gave up prematurely – this article is 90% introduction and you never argue any points. I don’t think you did enough research either since you didn’t even mention the Edge prototype: http://tv.adobe.com/watch/adc-presents/preview-of-the-edge-prototype-tool-for-html5-/

    Also, this is not the author’s fault since he probably wrote this a few weeks ago, but why would you post this article within a week of adobe announcing a huge update to Flash? http://www.geek.com/articles/games/adobe-molehill-low-level-gpu-accelerated-3d-apis-built-on-the-flash-platform-20101027/

    Lastly, I hate all the web design blogs using bold scattered through their articles. It’s really distracting for the readers.

    • Eli sorry about that bold scattered all over the article, we will try to minimize that in our future articles, but its just that most of the readers want to overview a article and that I think helps them. Good day.

  3. I would like to say thank you for even writing the article. It does present the idea that no matter what Steve Jobs says about Flash he’s wrong.

    As a Developer/Designer, in my personal experience (program both jquery and AS3) I have found that in smaller animations and simpler sites jquery is the clear winner. However in larger sites that require animation of multiple elements at the same time or multiple events firing flash is a clear winner. The biggest reason is jquery tends to function on a queue so if 2 events fire at the same time one is suppose to be queued while the other is fired. But this isn’t always the case you can fire both at the same time but it causes choppy animation or other odd things. Flash does not have this problem (unless you write bad code). So this is the biggest reason I say jQuery is far from killing Flash.

  4. Jquery/dojo + html5 canvas will murder flash…to the smart person up there flash is good eye candy but it’s content doesn’t get crawled by search engines so it is a nightmare for marketing.

  5. For decades now, Flash has won the battle for ubiquity. Now HTML5 (with a little mix of JS) is stepping into the ring in an attempt to take on the reigning champion. Having in mind that Adobe discontinued flash support on mobiles, the same may follow on other non-mobile devices but this will take long before it happens.

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