HTML 5 verses Flash – The next Tech War?

Written on:January 29, 2010
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Besides the overwhelming amount of articles and blog postings about the pros and cons on the iPad, the failure of loading the Flash element during Steve Jobs’ demo of the NYT website may have resulted in another war — Flash verses HTML 5.

It started with an interesting post at Adobe’s Flash Platform blog, referring to Apple’s new iPad as a broken link because it doesn’t support Flash. Quickly other Flash supporters enter the ring, joint shortly thereafter by someHTML 5 supporters. There is no doubt in my mind, this will be a hot topic for 2010.

As to Apple, the message is pretty clear, no Flash support for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. It seems like a cold-hearted attitude from Apple, especially if Adobe’s blog post is right that Flash accounts for 75% of the games and 70% of the video on the web. However reality is that Apple’s customers don’t want Flash.

The hundreds of comments on the Adobe post are overwhelming from people who are dissatisfied with the way Flash performs on their Macs, and are worried that it would put the same strain on their iDevices. Other comments not only on the Adobe post, but in response to other Flash postings, that came up over and over were that YouTube and Vimeo offer HTML5 video now, Flash games would mostly be unplayable on a touchscreen, and nobody wanted to see Flash ads anyway. Basically, users aren’t going to miss it.

My main dislike for Adobe’s Flash, as well as MS Silverlight and Sun’s JavaFX, is that they are all proprietary technologies for implementing multimedia on the Web, HTML 5 has the potential to offer Web experiences based on an Open Standard. In fact, one expressed goal of the standard is to move the Web away from such proprietary technologies. HTML 5, is a groundbreaking upgrade to the prominent Web presentation specification and has the potential to be the game-changer in Web application development. As HTML 5 co-editor Ian Hickson, a Google employee, points out ‘It would be a terrible step backward if humanity’s major development platform [the Web] was controlled by a single vendor the way that previous platforms such as Windows have been.’

Here is a short comparison between HTML 5 and Flash:

HTML5 Flash Version
Canvas Tag (2D Drawing and Animation) FutureSplash (Flash Player 1)
Video/Audio Support Flash 2 (Audio) Flash 6 (Video)
Offline Storage Database No real offline storage in Flash Player, Adobe AIR added it in version 1
Drag-and-drop Supported in ActionScript 1(Flash Player 5)
Cross-Document Messaging Cross-Domain support in Flash Player 7
MIME type and protocol handler registration There is anything analogous to this in Flash.
New parsing rules N/A
New elements such as progress, nav, time, etc Largely covered with ActionScript 2 (Flash Player 7)
New form controls (dates, times, email, url) Shipped with Flash authoring (Flash Player 3/4)

If you want to learn more, here is a list of links:


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