HMTL5 vs Flash

Posted on 2011-05-02
Last Modified: 2012-05-11
My company is evaluating whether to abandon Flash and move to HTML5 or branch a specific team for HTML5. Could someone advice on this topic? i.e. Does it make sense to continue investing resources on Flash? or should we move on towards HTML 5. I know it is more like a retoric question, but I wuold just like to hear your opinions on this matter. Thanks in advanced.
Question by:bachstein
    LVL 82

    Assisted Solution

    by:Dave Baldwin
    Here's a blog post about it that seems to make sense:  

    HTML5 and Flash are not interchangeable.  Most of the argument /  discussion seems to center around video but that's not all there is to either one.
    LVL 19

    Accepted Solution

    Things are complicated at the minute, and likely to stay so for some time to come.

    One site trumpets "As we roll into 2011, HTML5 video hits a major milestone. 50.5% of web users now support HTML5 video playback" ( Call me 'glass half full' man, but I read that stat as "50% of browsers *cannot* render HTML5. Although the adoption is likely to continue, none of us know at what pace that's likely to happen at. And just what percent of browsers do you call a win ? 90% ? 95% ? 99% ? The law of diminishing returns suggests that the higher the figure you want, the longer it will take to get there, or if you want a high enough figure, maybe never get there... (evidence to support that suggestion - IE9 is HTML5 compliant, but *doesn't* work in Windows XP and 40%+ people are still on XP -

    Things are further complicated by a video standards battle between Google and Apple. Apple requires H264 and Google has dropped support for H264 in it's Chrome browser. So if you do deploy H264 / HTML5, the Chrome browser may not support what you deploy. Chrome currently has 26% of the browser market, but it seems to be on a relentless upward march while other browsers are static or falling (see stats here

    Also, a lot depends on what you want to deliver via either Flash or HTML 5. If it's *just* video then you can start to make some bets (notwithstanding the Google / Apple spat in the previous paragraph). BUT Flash has a proper programming language at the heart of it, and there are many, many other things than you can get Flash doing other than play video. If you need some interactivity in your content, then Flash still has a lot going for it.

    Next - standards... The wheels grind slowly in the W3C. They have been debating about what HTML should be / should include for quite a while now, but the point is that they are still talking. Read the first paragraph here - and you may be surprised to find that HTML5 *isn't* a standard yet.

    Finally we get to Apple iOS devices. If the business you are in is such that a large part of your audience view your content through iOS devices (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone) and you feel that you cannot afford to exclude people using these platforms, you have a difficult and potentially costly decision to make. Or rather Apple Inc has forced you into making the decision, because iOS devices do not support Flash content. (Yes, yes, for you pedants... there are a *limited* number of ways to show a *limited* amount of content developed with certain versions of Adobe Flash, but for all practical purposes iOS devices don't show Flash). It is clear that this position is an article of faith with Apple and it would be the most unbelieveable U turn if they changed their minds at this stage.

    So, what to do... Will we eventually get to HTML5 for all browsers / devices ? Probably. Will it take several (and perhaps many) years ? Probably. Will companies continue to take positions on certain technologies (e.g. Google / Apple, but others too) and force developers to adapt ? Certainly...

    And in the meantime - what are most of your users viewing your content on ? Some are on modern browsers, some are not. Some are on iOS and some are not.

    Your decisions at the end of the day probably come down to the 'most bang for the buck', and my personal opinion (unless you have an audience that's ridiculously weighted towards iOS devices) is that Flash still offers the most bang for the buck. And if you can't afford to ignore your iOS audience for 'political' reasons, then budget for building alternate content for them, and 'sniff' their devices and deliver the alternate content.

    Oh, and plan to ask this question again in 2 years time, 4 years time, 6 years time etc.

    Happy reading!  

    Author Comment

    Thanks for your kind replies. We are slightly concerned mainly towards rendering RIAs on the client end, video content or games are not our priority. So far, we have had to create two versions, one for computers and one for ipads and the sort, or completely leave flash out and implement using javascript/jquery not much of HTML5 to be honest, but perhaps, as we are now, starting to consider it.
    LVL 19

    Assisted Solution

    I guess if I ask "are things you are doing at the moment, delivering what you need at the moment" and the answer is broadly 'Yes' then I would say keep doing what you are doing for now, but just keep an eye on the browser / OS stats / hardware stats.

    I know that the iDevices are very much the vogue at the moment and never seem to be out of any of the tech news that I listen to, and that some of the users of those devices are also very vocal about their support of Apple / iOS. But I also see that the actual share of the browser market they have is *tiny* - shows iPad+iPhone+iPod Touch all added together is 2% of browser use.

    The tech loving / emotional part of my brain wants *me* to invest more time / effort developing for iOS. But my business training says that if a particular group represents 2% of your audience, you should (all other things being equal) spend 2% of your effort / money on them. My (unfounded, gut feeling) belief is that many developers are spending much more than 2% of their development time catering for this group. Lucky group, I say!

    Of course then longer term another OS / browser consideration comes in. Android.

    It does seem clear that more and more people are consuming content away from their main computer (growing, but from a very low base). But as that use is growing, so Android's share of that market is growing too. iPad is still the clear leader in the tablet space (ask me again in 18 months about that one), but in the smartphone market, which is still much larger than the tablet market, Android seems to be the surer bet over the medium / longer term. The iPhone may continue to be the single biggest selling smartphone, but it's the huge *aggregate* number of Android handsets that will overwhelm that one phone. Why does this matter ? Android has Flash....

    They never meant this dev stuff to be easy for us did they? :-)

    Author Closing Comment

    I think there is still room for debate. Thanks to all.

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