Anyone who has worked within the web development industry over the past decade is liable to be familiar with the ongoing conflict between HTML and Flash. These two alternative technologies serve the same purpose; they offer a unique scripting language for web development, and strictly speaking, these two methods could peacefully coexist with one developer preferring the former and another preferring the latter. But if the history of technology is any indication, that type of cooperation simply isn’t in the cards. So who’s winning the battle for and why?
Flash vs. HTML
Flash as a language enables a variety of animated content including the ability to stream full-feature length video. Similarly, HTML5 facilitates integrating media (animation, advertisements, etc.) directly on a website. Unlike their descriptions, the way these technologies have been used on the internet in the past has been anything but interchangeable. Historically speaking, HTML has served as the brick and mortar of a website, providing essentially every element with the exception of interactive media. But with the relatively recent release of HTML5 and the that have come along with it, it’s fair to say that today the capabilities of both are commensurable.
Capabilities aside, there are some limitations to each. Flash has been around for more than a decade, and during that time it’s gathered a large following of developers who have learned to love what it has to offer. However, web developers with first-hand experience in Flash are all too familiar with its principle failure: the fact that standard internet browsers like Internet Explorer or Mozilla cannot run Flash without a plug-in. This might seem a simple hurdle to overcome, especially since the flash plug-in has become one of the most widespread and popular plug-ins on the internet. Users without the Flash plug-in are usually prompted to download it, and full installation can usually be achieved in under a minute.
So what’s the problem? Perhaps contrary to expectation, many of the latest mobile gadgets on the market do not support the Flash plug-in. In a world where smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to get online, this means that Flash-based advertising has rapidly lost its appeal to many of the important advertisers that keep the ecology of the internet marketplace in motion.
Fortunately, HTML5 does not suffer the same limitation. While previous versions of HTML were either too inept or limited to perform all the functions carried out by Flash, HTML5 is capable of running basic video as well as Flash ever could. This has led some to form the opinion that the only reason why HTML5 hasn’t completely overtaken Flash already is the fact that it is a fairly new technology competing in a marketplace where many senior web developers are more or less committed to Flash through tradition and experience.
The truth is HTML5 is quickly becoming the preferred method for many new developers to deploy the simple animations and interface adjustments that were previously the sole responsibility of Flash. While any developer should be prepared to admit that, when it comes to more advanced video or heavily interactive web design, Flash may still be the perfect tool for the job; unless smartphones and tablets quickly adopt Flash as native to their platform, it’s fair to say that HTML5 is poised to quickly become the go-to technology for the everyday web developer.