By Joanna Fletcher
HTML5 makes wonderful sense on paper; one tool to do every Internet job. As the original basic language of the Internet, HTML has the great advantage of longevity and simplicity. The newest version of HTML offers true video playback and animation functionality, without the need for a third-party piece of software which “plugs in” to the HTML code.
Does the HTML5 video capability spell doom for Flash? At the moment, the top issues to consider are the refusal of Apple to allow current forms of Flash to play on the iPhone and iPad, and whether HTML5 can deliver video at the same or better quality and security of Flash.
Most video delivered on the Internet is seen in Adobe's Flash plug-in. Flash has been around for years and has grown up with HTML, adding features as Web browsers and connection speeds made them commercially necessary. The plug-in is free for users and regular updates are delivered right to their desktop, requiring only a few click to install.
Apple Protects Profits
Apple makes money by being the only people selling content and applications (apps) for their iPhone and iPod hardware. Apple cannot allow the Flash games and apps that would bypass their currently captive market. Therefore, Apple is supporting the development and adoption of HTML5.
Flash Security Concerns
It is difficult to know if the security concerns around Flash have any impact on any but the most net-savvy surfers. As use and misuse of the Internet grows apace, the idea of letting a for-profit company place invisible markers on your computer, in return for the use of the Flash plugin that lets you enjoy premium content, may become more distasteful to more people.
HTML5 pushes the work to your browser
HTML5 lets Web page designers embed video codes into the page, making the actual playing of the video the responsibility of the end consumer's Web browser. Internet users today are running all kinds of browsers, from the latest and greatest right down to those that came with the machine they bought 10 years ago. Flash can run on most of them and is committed to working with developers to ensure that status is maintained.
There is no agreement between Web browser manufacturers on which type of video format to use with HTML5, and until one standard is adopted—most probably by the introduction of a free open-source format —Flash will continue to dominate. The plethora of Flash developers and the sheer ubiquity of Flash, combined with the proven adaptability of Adobe, means this fight is not over yet.
What Happens Next?
In the near future, expect to see more Web sites follow Google's lead; it supports both standards on YouTube, delivering HTML5 content to browsers that can support it, and Flash content to everyone else. In the end, the standard will be the program that can securely stream content any time, from anywhere, on any device running any browser, and neither Adobe Flash nor HTML5 can yet make that claim.
About the Author
Joanna Fletcher is a netizen who has lived, worked, and played in virtual space for most of her life. Her entrepreneurial flair is topped only by her tolerance for failure.