HTML5 vs Flash?

Becoming one of the age old debates like Mac vs PC, Internet Exploder (sorry Explorer) vs Firefox or Blu-Ray vs HD DVD… HTML5 is here and starting to make some noise. Out of the 3 mentioned only 1 was a victor, Toshiba bowed down to Sony’s HD format paving the way forward for the new media. As for the other corporations and their technologies, it’s not so simple to just give in to another format. The use of these technologies is greatly determined by design and demand.

In June 2004, the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG) began the Web Applications 1.0 project which has now been renamed to HTML5. If you haven’t heard of the term yet, HTML5 is labelled as the future of web code, replacing the old markup HTML & XHTML and is now in a head-on collision with tackling 3rd party plugins such as Adobe’s Flash.

You may or may not have heard, Apple’s CEO Steve Job publicly announced that Apple will not be supporting the Flash format on their latest portable devices, the iPhone and iPad. This caused an uproar and reignited an old corporate war with Adobe.

Adobe’s Flash has been around for the best part of 14 years since it’s introduction in 1996. Throughout the years Flash has quickly embedded itself into our everyday browsing experience giving users a rich graphical interface and extended functionality that HTML, CSS and Javascript couldn’t produce. Click on the image below to see a brilliant example of what the Science Museum have done with Flash.

Flash gave us timeline animations, scaleable vector graphics, application based programming not to mention massively intricate interactive games just to name a few features from Flash’s mighty arsenal.

As HTML5 is still in it’s early days it is hard to say whether this will develop into the Flash killer some pundits are hailing it as (it’s current state has grown a significant following). Features such as the new Video tag, allowing developers to add video content without the need for a 3rd party plugin, and Canvas element, creating interactive games without the need for Flash or Plug-in’s to name a few of it’s uses, is making the industry stand up to attention. Click the image below to see a great example of what Effect Games have done with HTML5.

HTML5, not being dependent on external plug-in’s, does, however, lend itself open to scrutiny when coming across the dreaded cross-browser compatibility issue. Though generally most new browsers already support HTML5, good old Internet Exploder (sorry did it again, Explorer) 6 does not which, still to this day (I’m still staggered as to why), still remains a default browser in many corporations and small businesses.

In any case we don’t believe it should be a case of HTML5 vs Flash, more so HTML5 & Flash. Both have it’s unique usable points, both have features the other current doesn’t (i.e. easy SEO for Flash or timeline animations for HTML5) but using a combination of the two technologies will undoubtedly give a user-friendly experience.

As designers and developers, we must (and want to!) keep an eye on what’s possible within the industry’s new technologies. Though these debates will undoubtedly continue, our priority is to keep our clients needs and the user’s experience key regardless of the technologies used.


Posted: August 2010

Author: Slate

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