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HTML5 and Flash: Why Flash is Here to Stay

There has been a lot of debate about the future of Flash on the web ever since Apple announced that they would not support Flash on their mobile devices. HTML5 has new elements that can reproduce a lot of the same functionality that is currently done with Flash. Apple and others are promoting HTML5 instead of Flash. While many are declaring Flash dead, there are a number of reasons why HTML5 won’t kill Flash anytime soon.

Areas for Flash Replacement
To really understand why HTML5 won’t kill Flash, we must first look at the areas where HTML5 can and likely will replace Flash. Most of these are areas where Flash has been used largely as a stop gap in the past. Video is the most obvious one. There are still a number of challenges regarding browser support of the various video codecs but it is very likely that this is one area where HTML5 will certainly replace Flash.

Another is simple 2D drawing and animation. The new HTML5 canvas element provides a robust API for 2D drawing and animation. This will make it very easy for developers to use HTML5 to build interactive applications such as drawing tools or even an online word processor. In the past, many of these kinds of tools would have been likely developed in Flash.

HTML5 Limitations
HTML5 will definitely replace Flash in a number of arenas. However, Flash won’t die because there are still a number of important tasks that HTML5 cannot do. There are also some important markets that have been increasingly adopting Flash and are likely to continue to do so.

We already talked about video and the likelihood that HTML5 will replace Flash for video playback. While this is true, there are still two areas in which Flash will continue to win as a video player. While there are currently several technologies for streaming video over HTTP (Apple has developed one), Flash is still the best choice for streaming video. The big win for Flash at the moment though is that it can support digital rights management. The current HTML5 codecs do not support digital rights management so Flash is likely to still be the player of choice for protected video.

Another area where Flash will remain is videoconferencing and recording audio or video. HTML5 has no method for controlling a user’s microphone or web cam. This means that Flash will continue to be used for conferencing applications and video chat programs.

Flash in Gaming
Flash is also a popular platform for gaming and even HTML5’s strongest proponents have said that it does not have the flexibility that Flash does for building interactive online games. It is unlikely that you will see a HTML5 version of Farmville anytime soon. Beyond Farmville, Flash has recently been used to build very sophisticated games that mimic real time arcade style games. Flash will likely continue to be the platform of choice for building these types of applications.

Flash in Corporate Training
One market where Flash has made serious inroads is the corporate training market. It has become a very popular platform for corporate training materials. This is because Flash has a number of tools that allow designers to easily develop training programs. This allows instructional designers to build robust training programs without the need for developers and programmers. Flash can be used both online and offline which also makes it a popular choice for corporate use. Training materials can be delivered over an intranet, extranet or on CD.

HTML5 has a number of capabilities that can be used to replace Flash for a number of applications. However, there are still a number of use cases where Flash is a better platform than HTML5. In addition, Flash has made tremendous inroads into the corporate training market. Both of these factors will insure that Flash lives on even as HTML5 replaces it for a number of uses. What are you using Flash for? Do you think HTML5 will replace it?

Michael Dorf is a seasoned software architect with a dozen-years of experience building web based solutions. Michael holds a M.S. in Software Engineering, B.S. in Computer Science, and numerous industry certifications. He teaches for LearnComputer! (learncomputer.com), which offers instructor-led HTML5 training courses for companies and individuals. Whether you decide to sign up for our HTML5 training course or read an article on HTML5 intro, you’ll find many useful technical resources on our website!

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