02.01.21Flash WebGL HTML5 Canvas
THE END OF FLASHY WEBSITES
Do you remember (in the not so distant past) when every website you visited had a cool, flashy animation? What happened to those? Well, Adobe announced end-of-life plans for the Flash Player browser plugin years ago — and the end has finally arrived. As of this past December, Adobe, and all major browsers, no longer support Flash. Luckily, website animations won't be going away anytime soon.
THE EMERGENCE OF WEBSITE ANIMATION
During the early 2000’s, Flash was the most sought-after development tool for building animated websites — providing a unique, easy-to-learn engine for young artists, film-makers, musicians and poets. Developers were no longer limited by the usual constraints of HTML and CSS, or by their coding knowledge, because Flash allowed them to push the limits and explore what was really possible. And what was built was truly amazing.
We saw true works of animated art popping up everywhere, from Tokyoplastic’s brilliantly animated monsters to Leo Burnett’s dynamic website navigation. We also gained ground-breaking interfaces and features like drag-and-drop, video chat, music studios, data-and visualization, which were all part of the Flash portfolio. However, surrounding all the awesome possibilities of Flash animation was one significant drawback — it required a browser plugin to run.
A SHIFT IN USER REQUIREMENTS
In the early days of the web, just about every personal computer on the planet had a pre-installed or downloaded version of Adobe Flash Player. But once mobile devices became more prevalent, touchscreen interfaces and open web standards made Flash obsolete, superseded by the desire for function over form. Users also became more interested in finding information such as business hours, location, goods and services, and job openings quickly — a process often slowed by a 15-second, non-skippable Flash-animated intro.
Today, users expect websites to function seamlessly on a large, 4K monitor as well as an outdated smartphone or even a mall kiosk. Information needs to be delivered fast and be made accessible to screen readers and search engines. Websites built today must also scale to meet the changing demands of the medium and interface of third party platforms. These new requirements make creating an online experience that resembles the Flash-animated websites of old a challenge.
In the stead of Flash, there are a fair number of animation tools out there for the modern browser. Some examples include HTML5 Canvas and WebGL, a cross-platform, royalty-free web standard. There are also a variety of frameworks and libraries to aid development (although, each comes with a steep learning curve and its own limiting constraints).
While developers no longer have the means to play or experiment with their tools like they could in the days of Flash, the websites we build today are faster, more widely supported and infinitely more complex than Flash could ever allow. Plus, everything that was possible in Flash is now achievable with native browser support.
This article was written by Justin Stevens, Software Developer at Shift.