HTML5 spell death to Flash?

The web community has gone loopy over Google announcing they’re supporting HTML5 in a big way, particularly and almost specifically because of the YouTube to demo using the video tag (I’ll add: rightly so).

However, if you search Twitter for #html5 and you’ll see a that half of the comments see the HTML5 demo as a big wave goodbye to Flash.

I don’t think this is the end of Flash in the slightest.

Witch hunt mentality?

I know I’m going to upset a few people by first off saying that it feels like a witch hunt for Flash.

You see, I’m a snowboarder, and when I’m on the mountain and I see skiers, I don’t think to myself: “I wish they’d leave, because it would be much more fun without them”, I think: “that’s cool, we all love riding the mountain in our own ways”. Live and let live, and all that hippie crap. But I believe in it.

Flash has it’s place on the web.

Equally, I haven’t seen so many (read: any) Flash developers posting that this is the end of their Flash days and it’s time to move over to pure HTML RIA.

Flash isn’t the web either

Those developers who understand Flash’s place on the web, do an awesome job. Adobe’s site running entirely in Flash is a fail. We all know this right?

It’s easy to say that there’s too many Flash fails such as the Adobe site, but equally there are many JavaScript and Ajax site fails (even Twitter falls in to this category)

Personally, I see Flash and Silverlight being at the top of the web stack. Not because the top is the best place to be, but because the top is the last place we add things.

The bottom layer being HTML, a side helping of ARIA, then a healthy dash of CSS, sprinkle some CSS3 and then a big ol’ dollop of JavaScript on top, and then, if we really need it – the cherry on the top: Flash to do the things that aren’t possible in browsers yet.

Is Flash only good for video?

Of course not. It’s good for games, viral marketing widget thingys, interactive charting and lots of other things.

I think the most exciting thing is that HTML5 will push Flash to more innovative areas and force it to push the boundaries of what’s possible inside of a web browser.

JavaScript 2

Don’t forget, IE is going to be around regardless as to how much we developer stamp and moan, and if JavaScript 2 ever gets to the point that it’s going to be introduced to the World, the best way in to IE is via Screaming Monkey – with is a shoehorn technique via Flash.

HTML5: you knew it was here already, right?

That YouTube demo doesn’t do anything we haven’t been able to do for the last 6-12 months already, but you knew this right?

It’s using the video tag and accessing it. The demo works just fine in Safari 3 – which is available on Macs and PCs (sorry Linux, no love just yet…) and has been available since March 2008.

HTML5 is estimated to be “fully implemented” in around 2022 only actually means two browsers must have a complete implementation. I’ve known developers that have told me this means they don’t really need to look at HTML5 just yet.

That’s rubbish.

CSS 2.1 took 10 years, and there’s only recently one complete implementation: IE8. Were we going to wait until CSS 2 was implemented in two browsers? Hell no.

Which is why I’m using HTML5 today – and I’ll be using it a lot more.

18 Responses to “HTML5 spell death to Flash?”

  1. I agree. We have lots of technologies out there complementing each other. No need for them to kill off each other, just use the best tool for the job at hand.

  2. I agree with you Remy. And so do Adobe, it seems – why would they fund 50% of a position working on HTML 5 documentation, if they believed it would kill Flash?

  3. I’m a little confused by the last few sentences as they seem to contradict each other. CSS 2.1 took 10 years and is only fully supported in one browser, so why wait? Surely the reason to wait is just that reason. Using HTML5 today would require massive amounts of alternatives/workarounds which means a lot more effort to support most web users? If the workaround is to use Flash, why bother doing it twice?

  4. I also agree, and not just because I like Flash as a technology (I am also a huge web standards advocate, and some people don’t think I can be both). Flash has lots of good use cases, and a very large developer base/community. And it can play nicely with standards, and adhere to best practices such as accessibility if you do it right. I am also very much for web standards catching up in places where it falls down, in terms of video, and rich graphics (roll on HTML 5 video and SVG support becoming across all major browsers).

    But it still won’t kill Flash, and there is no reason why it should need to.

  5. Not sure why you thought this would not earn you any friends in the front-end community. Flash got itself a bad name for being abused where other available solutions would have been better.

    Maybe Flash video will be used less over time in favour of the new video tag, but like you say, Flash has its place. It usually takes time to find a place, give and take a little. I think this is just a new chapter in making Flash fit into the front end, that’s all.

  6. Wow, I can’t believe what a week this has been. Literally out of nowhere there’s been a *massive* explosion of open-video news. Dailymotion, YouTube, and lots more discussion happening on blogs.

    The problem though is that there should not have to be a special sub-domain or page just for HTML5 video, it should be the norm, with proper fallbacks — and also without having to require JavaScript to select those fallbacks.

    That is why I’ve created a block of HTML that uses HTML5 Video, falls back to Flash for other browsers, and if Flash is not installed, falls back to QuickTime (for iPhone), and if QuickTime is not installed, Vista/IE falls back to Windows Media Player. Lastly, if all else fails, a warning is displayed with links to download the video files (OGG | MP4), or download Firefox 3.5 / Flash &c.

    I call this “Video For Everybody”:

    This should help web developers support HTML5 video without having to special-case it, or use UA-sniffing (BAD-BAD-BAD) or JavaScript (unnecessary). We need to get developers into the habit of sensible HTML5 video use *now* before get a pandemic spread of bad HTML5 video use.

  7. Hi!

    I just found your post from a Google blog search since I actually just wrote about this today, too! Very good stuff. I took the position that HTML 5 is likely to “kill” Flash eventually. I don’t want to see Flash die. Personally, I stay far, far away from it in my development but I agree that it has it’s place on the web. I just feel like proprietary technologies like Flash and Silverlight are ultimately going to lose out to some of the more open standards such as HTML 5 and JS.

    If you’re interested in seeing my take on the topic, head over to my blog:


  8. Good article! I agree :)
    Flash may not be the best solution in every situation, but it has its place on the web.
    Web designers/developers often choose something that ‘just works’ over some new technology.

  9. Hi Remy,
    I help out running Flashbrighton, and I was wondering if you would like to come and talk to us about the above topic (or anything else you like really!). We meet up every Tuesday, so let me know if you would be interested in talking to us. :-)

  10. Sure… HTML5 will “kill” Flash just like Java was supposed to “kill” C++…lol

    was being sarcastic BTW ^_^

  11. How did we all forget that Flash is a proprietary format? The idea of one company dictating their own standards for profit is repugnant and dangerous. Flash cannot die quick enough for this very reason. HTML5 will eventually replace Flash video once all the kinks are ironed out.

    Users are becoming increasingly intolerant of the overuse of Flash. We’ve all seen these sites with over 10 individually embedded Flash objects, which besides video are primarily used for obnoxious advertising practices.

    CPU and memory spikes aside, the very notion of a binary closed-source format on what is supposed to be an open standards based platform is archaic and now redundant.

  12. Flash isn’t going anywhere no matter what happens with HTML5. This is for the same reason that Flash became what it is today, CONSISTENCY!

    Imagine the nightmare of having to write HTML5 browser workarounds for something as complex as what Flash can do WITHOUT the rendering issues. Plus, it’s requires a TON of javascripting from the ground up…yuck. No one’s going to jump ship for more complexity and higher production costs.

    In other words, HTML5 may stake a claim, but it’s ALWAYS going to suffer from exactly the same problems that made Flash become the industry standard that it is. I’m all for open standards, but the reality is that HTML5 will drag us back to the dark ages.

  13. I think you’ll see less and less of Flash Dev in the future. As designers / developers – we use what we know, let’s admit that. If everyone knows HTML5 and learns some JS, along with some JQuery… you can get a lot done. Flash will still be good for simple animations, slideshows, etc. – but the fact that it’s still plug-in based sucks.

    This from a guy who used to make $$$ doing Flash work. My .02.

  14. Flash is very good choice for videos and for games. and finally i agree with Chris.

  15. “That YouTube demo doesn’t do anything we haven’t been able to do for the last 6-12 months already, but you knew this right?”
    That YouTube demo doesn’t do anything we haven’t been able to do the last 10 years, embedding video was just a tag away form being published on web. With HTML 5 instead of depending from viedo players you need a compatible browser. While plugins are consistent across browsers, standards NEVER was, at the point that you may need to encode 2 videos in 2 different formats (current situation). We are not even close to have simple CSS consistency across browsers and we are talking about HTML5 which, for instance, will embed a sql database.

    “Video For Everybody” Sorry but if you see the page with a crappy IE you get a better experince than with Firefox, no fullscreen, unstable seeking, choppy playback (and the interface…). Nice test, but if you aren’t a fanatic, flash option should clearly be the first.

  16. No, really, FLASH needs to die a horrible death, as soon as possible. We are now into the 3rd generation of 64-bit MS operating systems, and a 64-bit flash plugin is nowhere to be seen.

    The only way you can even view pages using FLASH is with a 32 bit browser on your 64-bit OS. It’s like running DOS apps in Windows back in the day.

    It’s 2010. 64 bit operating systems have been here for 3 generations. FLASH shouldn’t even be considered a contender if you can only run them in depricated environments.

  17. Mmmm… I can’t agree so easy. I agree that Flash has bad reputation for being overused, but I don’t think that’s a excuse to forget other things that make it sour. The same can be critiziced about our beloved jQuery library, that it takes its time to load (from a different server, as it is a common practice today) each time we load a page which only need two functions: fadein and fadeout. But for some reason jQuery has a better feeling in the web community than Flash, and this is:

    - jQuery is open source. I don’t have to pay to anybody. The code is there in front of you to see it.
    - To code in any script language I need the minimal resources a computer can have today, and a text editor. To code Flash I need a lot of different resources.
    - There are some technical limitations compared to plain HTML: if there is a Flash button to click, I can’t know where it is going to lead, something that, as user, I have the right to know.
    - Not everybody has the best computer (or the optimal internet connection) to enjoy all the goodies of a heavy Flash page.
    - You can work with it in only 2 OS: Mac and Windows (so you have to pay at least twice).
    - The real value of internet is the way information travels around the world thanks to it. From this standview, I don’t see Flash so important at a society-cultural level. It’s the cherry like you say, leave it to Hollywood.

    That’s it.

    Of course, all the good things about Flash still mantain, I just don’t like to be married with the property of someone else.

    I don’t agree about IE either and the CSS2 full implementation. Every developer knows that in real life (don’t care what the official report says), IE is a pain in the neck (I was about to say something terrible!)

  18. I do agree with what you are saying but what it does mean(for me) is that Flash is no longer one of those things on my list of things I must learn.

    I went to a jQuery course about 4+ months ago, in a room of 6 people I was the only one that did not use flash. All the rest were flash developers moving over to jQuery.

    They felt they could see the web landscape changing to where their flash skills were becoming less premium. Oh and they all hated Steve Jobs.

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