Title: HTML5 is not a Flash replacement

Date: Wednesday, October 01, 2014

There seems to be a huge misconception going around the Web and Media lately that the new fandangled HTML5 is going to be be the final technology that essentially kills and replaces the use of Flash on the web. The way I see it is that Flash or any other multimedia plugin is not going to be threatened by HTML5. The new Video, Audio and Canvas APIs will really only steal the more boring work that Flash has had to adopt over the last several years to fill a gap that HTML, up until now, was not capable of doing.

The main misconception I see is that people associate Video playback as the major reason to use Flash. Whilst it is quite a significant percentage, Flash was not originally designed to be a Video player, it just evolved that way, due to lack of any better alternative. If you want to see the amazing uses that Flash has outside of Video Players, just pop on over to the Flash Favourite Website Awards, spend a few moments browsing and let me know what you think. But even now with the widespread adoption of HTML5 Video, I still see Flash Video living on. Features such as Live Streaming, Digital Rights Management and rich interactive video controls will keep a lot of the community from switching any time soon.

Another thing that people don’t seem to understand is exactly what HTML5 is. I recently came across Apple’s HTML5 demo. From what I could see (after installing Safari) the only actual elements it uses from the HTML5 specification are the <video>  and <canvas> tags. Everything else is is just either running using the new CSS3 standards or kickass Javascript. This just confuses the issue. It turns HTML5 into a buzz word which is counterproductive to the way in which we want this technology to be viewed.

I am not in any way a Flash-fanatic. I am Front End Developer (HTML, Javascript etc) but I will continually push to utilize the best technology for the job. If the combination of HTML5, CSS3 and JS allows me to develop quicker and more efficiently, then I will use that. But there are still times when I will head over to Flash Developers desk and task them with the job if I deem it to be the best tool for what I am trying to achieve. And whilst I believe the Flash platform will continue to advance, I believe it’s also the case that as basic browser technology catches up, those advances will be in increasingly niche areas.

In the end its all about the user experience. If you believe you audience will get the most benefit out of HTML5, CSS3 and javascript then go for it. But if your audience actually comes from the real world, you will have to decide between using Flash with a 99.6% market penetration or HTML5 with roughly less then 40% of users browsers capable of understanding it.

Let me know if you agree or disagree and why. I am interested in hearing other peoples opinions on this hot topic.

EDIT: This article got picked up on Reddit. There are some interesting discussions going on over there about this topic. Both negative and positive.

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