HTML5 and the Death of Flash... or not

Feb 11, 2010

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With the recent iPad announcement with no flash support once again there has been a quite a bit of chatter around the internet about HTML5 and how it will be the death of flash. However HTML5 will not completely replace flash, it can't, sure I know Flash as a video player may disappear or at least become much less popular but there are still a number of things that HTML5 can't do. I know what your thinking it can do a ton of things, and I must agree as a Professional Web Developer as well as a Professional Flash Developer the changes coming in HTML5 do tweak my interest and I will use probably several of them if not all. That is of course if I am still in the industry by the time HTML5 becomes a recommended standard, which according to the W3C won't be till 2022! After the jump I'll try not to rant to much but simply explain why HTML5 will not be the death of flash, but possibly a chance for a rebirth of Flash.

First off let me address the elephant in the room, I know what your thinking "your a Flash Developer are your opinions not a bit skewed on the matter?" Yes I am a Flash Developer (I have a college diploma in Flash Development) but as I stated before I am also a Web Developer with PHP being my primary language. My current day job forces me to lean more on the Web Developer in me than the Flash Developer. As such I have done some pretty amazing things in just plain old HTML with the help of JavaScript. But I also realize the struggles of developing sites and applications without using flash, many days I find my self cursing this browser or that. Dealing with clients that are using the decade old Internet Explorer 6 and wondering why things are very messed up. Thus is the problem with using HTML, CSS and JavaScript, its never rendered or handled the same. As I will state and elaborate on more bellow flash provides that stable platform.

For some reason 90% of the internet seems to think that all flash does is provide away to watch video online, likely this is because the most common use of flash is for video and most users don't really know what flash is. Thus they do not know that the extremely popular FarmVill on Facebook is powered by flash for that matter that most games you see on websites are done in flash. This is for a number of reasons, the main one is that Flash enables high quality animation in a relatively small package.  I know what your saying, you could do the same thing with JavaScript  and Animated gifs, well for one gif quality sucks and users demand quality, for another the JavaScript frameworks that support this tend to be extremely heavy. Not to mention that browsers never, ever render everything exactly the same, they all tend to render a bit differently cross browser and even cross platform. With flash you have a consistent platform every time , yes flash to can be very heavy but I firmly believe that if done correctly flash games/applications can be very light weight. With browsers, not so much everyone renders things a bit differently even on different Operating Systems things tend to render differently. Which is one of the many pains of being a web developer, clients always seem to be using that one browser that your not checking in or they are zoomed in and wondering why things are not lining up properly. Or in some cases its the dreaded IE6 rearing its head, which users seem to be oh so reluctant to leave the decade old browser.

Flash is not only used for games, it is of course used for websites, RIA's (Rich Internet Applications) and much much more. Best part about it the average user never knows, but they still see the very flash effects and interface. I know some of you are screaming  about most flash interfaces being very non-traditional, hard to navigate. Yes this is true, but flash can be used in a more traditional site as well it doesn't have to be abstract. However that being said it does allow for abstract sites that allow the developer or designer (or both) to express their creativity, which sometimes isn't a bad thing. Have a look around at some of the top flash powered websites, they are all really good and great expressions of the person who created the site's creativity.

Apple seems to be on this anti-flash campaign as of late, I have my theories as to why, just so we are all clear I own an iPod touch 1st gen and an iPhone 3G. Both of which I'm very happy with except for the fact Rogers still seems to be under the impression that Name Display is still not supported on the iPhone, but they still feel they can bill me for it. Anyways back to my Apple rant, I get the sneaking feeling part of the reason behind Apple not allowing Flash on the iPhone OS (which powers the iPad, and iPod touch as well) is due to the fact that Apple's precious app store might just loose some business as users will be able to play the same games for free online. Which also means apple would lose control of there jail that any iPhone user is in. I know what you Mac fan boys are saying, "But Steve said that 99% of the time Mac's crash is because of Flash", well I'm going to call Steve out on that one. I have never had Flash even cause a browser to crash little own the whole Operating System WHEN THE BROWSER ISN'T EVEN RUNNING! Apple's own TOS for the iPhone OS SDK states something to the effect of an application may not download and execute code, which of course does mean that Flash isn't allowed. Apple also sights performance reasons for not allowing Flash on the iPhone, again I have to call old Steve out on this one. Flash 10.1 is successfully running on basically every other smart phone on the market with no reports of problems that I've seen, and its in beta. Sure most flash games/applications on the internet arn't really developed with fingers in mind or the limitation of resources but things still seem to run fine.

In the end HTML5 might hurt flash'es presence as a Video player, but I find it very hard to believe that HTML5 will completely kill off flash. Its highly unlikely that browsers will ever render the same or that JavaScript, and CSS will mature to the point were you can do the amazing things we see flash doing today. But who knows HTML5 is still over ten years from becoming a standard, Adobe might not even exist then who knows. I guess we'll all just have to wait and see what the next decade brings. For now though, I won't be sweating over whether my career as a flash developer will end anytime soon.

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