Hi, my name is Timo Ernst and I am a web expert.

There is no HTML5 vs. Flash

Posted on: May 11th, 2010 by Timo

Ok, hands down. Sooner or later, Flash will not be relevant to the WWW anymore. Flash videos will be replaced by <video> while animations will use <canvas> and <audio> in HTML5.

There are a few things Flash can do, but HTML5 cannot, like:

  • Webcam support
  • Binary sockets (not web-sockets!)

But these features will sooner or later be covered by HTML as well, so there is no need for Flash anymore on the web.

But what about the Desktop?

As I already stated, Flash could become the next-gen Java-replacement for Desktop applications.

The reason why I think so is simple:

  • Flash/Flex applications are easier and faster to develop than Java (thanks to MXML). This improves workflow and thus reduces costs for software companies.
  • There is already a wide range of developers that have experience with Flash development, so there is no new programming language/technology to learn for these people. They can start develop rich desktop applications right away.
  • Flash-based desktop-applications simply provide a nicer user-interface and their look ‘n’ feel is “smoother” than Swing.
  • The Photoshop/Illustrator-Catalyst-FlashBuilder workflow is great and definitely enhances work of designers and developers. There is nothing compared to that in classic software development.

So, what I want to basically say is:

HTML5/Ajax for Web and Flash/Flex/AIR for the Desktop!

That’s why I think that both are not competitors. Their future lies on two difference battlefields.

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9 Responses

  1. colz says:

    ah, i think you have this wrong my dear friend. you’re forgetting that flash now supports multi touch interfacing. Websites that you can navigate in three dimensional space at the flick of your fingertips; this is where i see next gen mobile media heading.
    HTML5 is great and all, but i cant ever see it being able to support such UI input.

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  2. Harry says:

    Web vs. Desktop, bah! It’s the same thing, but one has a stupid refresh button that triggers my app to quit and startup again. Here’s the real differentiators:

    Flash has always made a name for itself because of its advanced animation APIs. Today is no different. You cannot find a better API than Flex 4 and the Flash Platform for complex animation scripts and interaction. Developers have a growing set of options like Spark, PaperVision, Degrafa they can choose depending on the type of graphics app they’re writing.

    For many web apps, HTML-only sites will work just fine like they always have before. For super graphics-intensive experiences and games, you’ll need Flash, just like you always have before.

    And for best experiences, get an Android or a Windows PC.

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  3. TwFlash says:

    I’m Flash developper, and I’m learning HTML5/Canvas now, cause I think I should offer both Flash/HTML5 services for my clients.
    But I’m not impressed by the Canvas.

    Sure you can do some cool menus and animations, but perfs are not good enought for more.
    Coding in JS isn’t a pain, but it take more time than AS3, and some AS3 features are not here (Full OOP, containers…etc).

    The canvas, with it’s actual specs, can’t replace Flash for advanced animations, complex effects, webapps and games.

    Flash still offer the best experience, and it’ll be here for many years.

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  4. ..and what about:

    * AMF, RTMP, RTMPF,…
    * Pixel level managment
    * Bytearray
    * sound mixing
    * …

    and from dev’ point of view

    * OOP
    * IOC
    * AOP
    * Debuging
    * Profiling
    * …

    I think Flash Player have many more things and HTML5 is not eligible for many people out there…

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  5. I agree with colz, Harry, TwFlash and Carlos Rovira. The majority of the most outstanding websites out there, featured in FWA, will still be Flash. And it’s very likely that Flash keeps offering the best performance.

    Also, to avoid double development time, companies will often develop once and deliver twice: AIR version for desktop, Flash version for web.

    But those who really need a normal SEOable website will take advantage of the new HTML5 features and I’m happy for that.

    The best thing about HTML5 is that it finally frees Flash developers from developing simple animated menus and slideshows, and hopefully people stop making Flash websites just because they want a sliding transition of two. But it requires that some company (like Adobe) produces a tool (like Flash) that allows DESIGNERS to take it (like Flash did) and produce some cool animated designer stuff for the web in HTML5/Javascript, without deployment pain. The reason why Flash was so successful from the whole beginning was because designers could deliver compelling web experiences without learning programming.

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  6. Timo says:

    Well, I think there was some missunderstanding regarding my post.

    It is clear that Flash is currently still vital to the web due to cross-browser issues in HTML5 (the video codec issue, for example) and Flash’s ubiquitouness, but its importance will decrease by time.

    Regarding performance on Canvas, I can say that this is true. The Flash Player animation speed is far superior to most Canvas-implementations of today’s common browsers, but time will probably change this.

    Regarding multi-touch: Yes, I must admit that I forgot about the lack of multi-touch support in HTML. Good point!

    Regarding benefits on developer-side like the ByteArray class or debugging tools, I’d say that this will be no big issue when frameworks like GWT evolve.
    Since GWT is based on Java, you can use most of Java-based debugging tools. This makes native JavaScript coding redundant and developers can enjoy all the benefits of traditional Java programming including full OOP and static compiler verification.

    Regarding the possibilities for designers to deliver content to the web: I am sure that Adobe will sooner or later release tools for these people in order to target HTML5. Think of it as a “Flash Prof.”-tool which draws the created animation on a Canvas element instead of a Flash container.

    Of course, it will take time until HTML5 will conquer the web.
    Til then, Flash is absolutely essential.

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  7. Robert says:

    I’m going to have to agree with all your disagree-ers. The HTML5 folks are forgetting where they got all their good ideas. By the time HTML5 offers a small portion of what flash can do and gets ratified in 2018, flash will have continued to evolve and provide new features that HTML5 does not have.

    Also, flex/air can’t hold a candle to doing a native microsoft desktop app. They just haven’t been doing it for long enough. I’ll give you that it is easier to make your app work across operating systems.

    At any rate, flash/flex/html5/css3 for the web, and sometimes air for the desktop, when it makes sense.

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  8. Timo says:

    Robert said:
    > Also, flex/air can’t hold a candle to doing a native microsoft desktop app.

    I never said that AIR could replace native Windows apps.

    > They just haven’t been doing it for long enough.
    Just like you said, Flash technology will continue to evolve and so will the AIR runtime. I am sure that AIR will become quite powerful some day. Look at the Java VM. There is so much more stuff you can do with Java today compared to earlier versions of the runtime.

    > At any rate, flash/flex/html5/css3 for the web, and sometimes air for the desktop, when it makes sense.
    95% agree ;-)

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  9. Anonymous says:

    @colz
    MobileSafari on iPhone has multitouch, gesture, and orientation apis, and these also allow stuff such as cancelling scrolling/zoom/double tap. Location, drag/drop, offline, etc. apis are also present. Canvas tag can be used for layered output (ie canvas 33% opacity on div 50% opacity on video 100% opacity).

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