During the last Flash Online Conference, the more exciting part was about what Adobe would present to the attendee of this conf.
So, Chris made a presentation about what to expect for 2016, here are the slides and some notes I made about it.
he mentioned people can contact him by email, but remember for subjects concerning the Flash Runtime
not the first time that he mentions it, here another example
just to say: yes people at Adobe can and will listen to what users have to say
So he started by listing the recent features
He continued by talking about the partnership of Adobe with Facebook
here the clickable URL http://adobe.ly/1NqCVQM
True, in the last few months the Flash Player have been more aggressively attacked by the medias about security concerns, not only Adobe have a partnership with Facebook, but also Google and other many independent security researcher.
The point was to show they do something about it, they don’t ignore it.
Then he continued by explaining the release cycle of the Flash Runtime
The red dot is a major release or a new version number.
The white dot is a “+1” release, in general reserved for bug fixes and security updates.
When you see “Flash 21”, it’s the version 21 for the Flash Runtime and that concern both the “Flash Player” and “Adobe AIR”.
So, here version 21 is the “Sutter” release, “Sutter” being the codename (street names in San Francisco), and so next releases would be:
- Flash 22, Townsend
- Flash 23, Underwood
It is also important to mention, because if you are under the impression that there is a lack of love from Adobe about Flash and/or AIR, well … you can see here that there is a monthly update scheduled “every second Tuesday of the month”, and this is a nice proof of commitment from Adobe.
So, if your concern is about security or new features or maintenance of what is already there, it is reassuring to see that kind of commitment.
Then the last slide was about the next updates planed
Note the choice of wording here “Upcoming Priorities”, in my opinion is what most people fail to see with the Flash Runtime.
When some people see that and remember the times where you had big new features added to the runtime, they can of react like “oh they are just doing the strict minimum”, or “this proof they are just in maintenance mode” etc.
What they fail to see is the change in dynamics
The Flash Player was the main runtime, and when you had updates it was on a yearly basis at best, eg. you had to wait 1 year and most of the time 2 years to get new features.
It was mainly focused about the web, even if AIR was around it was mainly for desktop, not for mobile.
Even if the Flash Player is still an important runtime, it share the podium with AIR and in particular AIR for mobile, for the last 5 years or so mobile is all the rage.
Also, the updates are monthly now, you can not update a runtime with big features in just a month, it’s too short, and if you update it’s not only the web now, it’s many devices with different screen sizes, DPI (let’s call that resolution), and a lot of tiny little things.
From my point of view, I see that Adobe adapted to this new dynamic and so for many years now.
So, yeah the new features seems small compared to before, but wait one year put all those monthly features together and then you can see the big picture: it’s not small at all, in fact it’s quite smart.
Let’s get in the details of some of those features, to do that I will split them per categories
- PCRE Updates for Flash Player and AIR
- CORS origin header support
- Stage3D asynchronous texture upload
- Flash Player support for new Content Security Policy (CSP) for full-time SSL
- Video Texture for Flash Player
- Linux PPAPI installers
- Flash Player out of process support for Microsoft Edge
- Support for HiDPI displays in Firefox on Windows
- HiDPI support for AIR Desktop
- 64-bit AIR - Windows
- Decoupling the captive Flash Player plugin from the AIR runtime
- improved HTML5 support in AIR desktop
- Echo cancellation on Android & iOS
- New Video stack for Android
- iOS 9.0 multitasking and split screen support
- iOS App thinning support
- Provide soft keyboard focus support
- Stage3D anti aliasing on mobile
See that new dynamic ? there is no more such thing as “one feature that fits all”
The general updates are mainly about security and upgrade of what is already there
PCRE Updates for Flash Player and AIR
PCRE is the regular expression engine by the Flash Runtime, it gonna be updated so be sure to check in the BETA channel if it breaks or not your regexp.
In details, see PCRE
PCRE is short for Perl Compatible Regular Expressions. It is the name of an open source library written in C by Philip Hazel. The library is compatible with a great number of C compilers and operating systems.
As far as I know, the Flash Runtime is still using PCRE v7.3
And the plan is to use PCRE2 v10.20
PCRE2 is short for Perl Compatible Regular Expressions, version 2. It is the successor to the widely popular PCRE library. Both are open source libraries written in C by Philip Hazel.
The first PCRE2 release was given version number 10.00 to make a clear break with the previous PCRE 8.36. Future PCRE releases will be limited to bug fixes. New features will go into PCRE2 only. If you’re taking on a new development project, you should consider using PCRE2 instead of PCRE.
CORS origin header support
CORS for Cross-Origin Resource Sharing
is a mechanism that allows restricted resources (e.g. fonts) on a web page to be requested from another domain outside the domain from which the resource originated.
the way it works
The CORS standard describes new HTTP headers which provide browsers and servers a way to request remote URLs only when they have permission. Although some validation and authorization can be performed by the server, it is generally the browser’s responsibility to support these headers and honor the restrictions they impose.
To update the Flash Runtime, yep it’s not only the Flash Player but also Adobe AIR, it would require to patch many internal Flash API to support CORS.
Flash Player support for new Content Security Policy (CSP) for full-time SSL
In Implementing Content Security Policy, Mozilla explains
Content Security Policy (CSP) is a security standard introduced to help prevent cross-site scripting (XSS) and other content injection attacks. It achieves this by restricting the sources of content loaded by the user agent to those only allowed by the site operator.
The policy is implemented via headers that are sent with the server response. From there, it’s up to supporting user agents to take that policy and actively block policy violations as they are detected.
I do hope Adobe plan also to support it with AIR, but yeah technically as a priority it is more important to support it with the Flash Player first.
Video Texture for Flash Player
In the documentation VideoTexture we can see a support for AIR 17 and Flash Player 18.
It is indeed supported since AIR 17 (iOS) and AIR 18 (Android), but it is not supported for the Flash Player.
You can refer to 2 blog posts
The current beta implementation is for Windows AIR only.
We will be adding support for Mac, iOS and Android AIR
in an upcoming release.
Video Texture on AIR for Desktop and Mobile
So,Video texture object was introduced, which allows hardware decoded video to be used in Stage 3D content. Video Texture is only available for AIR not for Flash Player .
Stage3D asynchronous texture upload
The use case is explained here [New_Feature_Requirement] Async texture uploading for Stage3D.
If you’re not too familiar with Stage3D, let me give you an example with a basic image gallery not involving 3D: let’s say your gallery can display 1000 thumbnails, and on a screen you can fit 40 thumbnails or so.
If you preload 1000 thumbnails you gonna “kill” your memory usage, no what you want to do is to load only the thumbnail that the user is actually viewing, in our case 40, but most importantly, when the user scroll to another screen you want to unload those 40 images from memory and then load a new batch of 40 images. All that to keep some kind of control on the resources and have a constant use of the memory.
eg. if 1 thumbnail use 1MB, then you know at all time that 40 thumbnails use 40MB of memory, whatever the total number of images in your gallery (100, 1000 or more).
On a desktop, not a big deal as you can have a lot of memory in the range of 2GB to 4GB and more, on mobile it matters a lot as you are much much more limited, for example the latest iPhone 6+ have 1024MB of memory but you can allocate max 645MB.
In general, the “rule” on mobile is whatever the amount of memory in your device you can use about half of it, yes memory is sparse on mobile even with the latest device.
Now apply the example to 3D textures and suddenly your life can become hell and you have to return to old tricks like palette indexation and reuse of textures in odd place to use less memory and/or reload less textures etc.
I’m pretty sure anyone using Stage3D will welcome with both arms this feature .
AIR 64bit on Windows is coming
It’s not gonna be a complete switch from 32-bit to 64-bit like they did for Mac OS X.
Adobe will not release 2 AIR SDK for Windows, one in 32-bit and another in 64-bit.
No, what gonna happen is that they gonna add a permanent AIR SDK 64-bit for Windows in the BETA channel, and keep releasing in the official channel a 32-bit SDK.
That way, if you need to produce an AIRT desktop app in 64-bit, you can use the AIR ASDK from the BETA channel and use the captive runtime to produce a 64-bit app.
Chris mentioned you could shoot him an email if you are interested in the 64-bit beta.
Considering that the usage of Windows 32-bit vs 64-bit is 50/50, I would say that’s the right move to keep the AIR SDK 64-bit for Windows only in the BETA channel.
Decoupling the captive Flash Player plugin from the AIR runtime
So far, when you distribute an AIR application on desktop, the Flash Player plugin is embedded into the app.
What Adobe plan to do with this feature is to remove the Flash Player from the AIR runtime and if a SWF need to be displayed to look into a system location to find and use the Flash Player plugin.
If it’s not there a little badge will be shown to install it.
But you will also have the possibility to embed your own Flash Player plugin into your AIR app.
In a scenario where you build an AIR app with AIR SDK v20 and embed the latest Flash Player plugin v20, if later the system is updated with Flash Player v21, then an HTML page displaying a SWF from inside your AIR app will use the Flash Player v21 from the system.
IMHO the best of both worlds.
Personally if I could also have this feature in AIR 2.6.5 for Linux (we can dream) that would be even better, eg. instead of using something like Atom Electron to create a desktop app which is basically an HTML that embed a SWF we could just use an AIR app that also embed a SWF via HTMLLoader.
So, that’s about it, the features look small but they are not, it’s more about prioritization of what is more needed or important,
small+small+small+small == big.