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HTML5 Isn’t Going to Kill Flash. It’s Going to Make it Stronger. by:


October 17th, 2011

As a developer, I am constantly confronted with articles like “HTML5 will kill Flash,” or “jQuery will kill Flash,” as if there were some blood feud that could only end with the demise of one of them. The argument usually comes from developers leaning to one side or the other, and generally carries tones of heavy bias. So, I thought it would be a good idea to write a piece going through the differences between the two, and why each has its own area where they will be dominant (without the need to kill each other).

With Flash usage starting to wane in certain areas like simple animations, mobile development, and video (due to strong interference by Apple, I might add), many have begun to jump to the conclusion “FLASH IS DEAD!” as if desperate for their own technology-fueled tea party express. The thing is, Flash has a huge head start in terms of development time (10+ years), along with the fact it’s owned by a single company which can speed up or slow down it’s development. Folks, Flash definitely isn’t going anywhere for some time. What we WILL start to see is HTML5 and JavaScript used more often for things that were once traditionally only done with Flash. Flash will still be the forerunner and go to platform for RIA development on sites with heavy immersive interaction.

One common misconception I often see is the idea that Flash is somehow slower. But with Flash 10.1, Adobe added in hardware acceleration that gives it a huge advantage when rendering complex animations, and in some cases (particularly on Windows machines), Flash is significantly faster. Unfortunately, until Apple budges on exposing access to its APIs, there isn’t much Adobe can do for Mac users in terms of significantly speeding it up.

What can Flash do that HTML5 can’t (yet)?

Intense particle animation This will improve with time.

HTML5 can’t interact with your webcam (yet). There is a capture parameter for media capture in the HTML5, but it has yet to be implemented.

HTML5 can’t use video on a 3D plane. You are awesome if you are doing this, but this is a fairly isolated use case (but very cool none the less!). Think Google Maps Street View with video.

HTML5 cannot record audio from your microphone. Once the capture parameter is implemented, this will be possible.

HTML5 cannot do any sort of web conferencing. HTML5 cannot record from your webcam. Capture parameter!

HTML5 cannot add dynamic objects to go over the video, like captions, titles, or navigational items.

HTML5 cannot create desktop apps. I think Windows 8 just walked into the room. And apparently it thinks HTML5 and JavaScript are awesome. It loves HTML5 and JavaScript, and it wants it to be a staple in application development on Windows. This is huge, because it will make HTML5 and JavaScript the go-to languages for cross-device development on Windows devices. Is it just a matter of time for Apple devices? We will have to wait and see, but these are exciting times for us Front-End, HTML5/JavaScript developers. I won’t even go into PhoneGap (which was recently just bought by Adobe), which allows HTML5/JavaScript developers to build out cross-platform mobile applications that run natively on the phone.

HTML5 Doesn’t do Full Screen Mode. Not going to happen. The HTML5 spec at present reads: “User agents should not provide a public API to cause videos to be shown full-screen. A script, combined with a carefully crafted video file, could trick the user into thinking a system-modal dialog had been shown, and prompt the user for a password. There is also the danger of “mere” annoyance, with pages launching full-screen videos when links are clicked or pages navigated. Instead, user-agent specific interface features may be provided to easily allow the user to obtain a full-screen playback mode.”

What stuff does HTML5 offer over HTML4?

New doctype! (duh)

No more type attribute for link or script tags.

No need to close elements or quote attribute values. You don’t have to close your elements, but it doesn’t hurt to. I personally feel a strong need to after doing it for years.

Content editable attribute allows for inline content editing. AWESOME.

Local storage!

Header and footer elements plus a boatload more!

Tons of new attributes!

Basic awesome sauce for form features

  1. Email input validation out of the box.
  2. Input placeholder text out of the box.
  3. New form input types like range, telephone, email, url, date, color, search, and number.
  4. Datalist (Think of this like a select box where you can add options).
  5. Required and autofocus attributes for form input fields.
  6. Much more!

Audio support for various types of audio files!

Video support! (With preloading! And controls!)

Attribute support detection (Although Modernizr is probably what you should be using).

Probably one of the most important new attributes is the data attribute!

Two things I often see is Flash developers comparing what a scripted swf can do compared to static HTML5, OR saying that webpages are built with Flash. A website can be made of a flash object embeded in an html page.

Of course there is a ton that can’t be done with HTML5, but with HTML5 AND JavaScript, a whole world opens up. I’ll just touch on a few:

So, the whole idea that HTML5 is going to kill off Flash is just straight DUMB. HTML5 will be increasingly used for tasks that Flash was used for (and didn’t need to be if you knew your way around JavaScript), and Flash will be used for things outside our imagination right now and for rich internet application development (along with JavaScript). It’s very exciting for all of us developers, and I think while change can bring fear for some, it offers us a chance for true innovation. HTML5 offers us a chance to bring about change that will make the web a better place. One of my favorite commercials – narrated by Steve Jobs - really drives the point home.

I leave you with this last video. Hopefully you can watch it and be inspired to develop better interactions and experiences for the people around you, whether in Flash, HTML5, JavaScript, Silverlight, or Flex. It’s really a question of what do we want to do, because in the end we are only limited by our imagination. Let’s build a better web…together.

Tags: Technical




One Comment on “HTML5 Isn’t Going to Kill Flash. It’s Going to Make it Stronger.”

  1. [...] browser is created to give with optimal performance? (Check out my colleague has to say about that here!) In most projects, this is a good question to ask up [...]

Comment on “HTML5 Isn’t Going to Kill Flash. It’s Going to Make it Stronger.”


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