Elance Blog

A Developer's Perspective on Flash vs. HTML5

 

The future of rich media and web video has generated much debate over the past year, perhaps most notably through Apple CEO Steve Jobs' condemnation of Flash in favor of HTML5. Since then, there has been a lengthy discussion about whether HTML5 is truly the heir apparent to Flash, or if the latter's demise is greatly exaggerated. Septillion Developers, developer and technology writers, have worked with both platforms and stops to weigh in with the pros and cons of each.

 

The “Flash vs. HTML5” debate is viewed by many as the ultimate battle for internet supremacy. While one is a time-tested proprietary framework that has ruled the internet in the past and still ranks as a dominant player, the other is fast emerging as the future standard for content on the World Wide Web.

From a developer’s perspective, it’s an interesting proposition. It’s a fine line choosing one out of HTML5 and Flash as each platform has its own merits as well as pitfalls. While an increasing number of tech pundits see it as an either/or proposition, that’s not necessarily the case amongst the developer fraternity.

The Apple Effect
Adobe Flash was the preferred platform of choice for a number of technology heavyweights for several years. And then Steve Jobs wrote an open letter about his “Thoughts on Flash.” The rest as they say is history. Jobs criticized Flash on several aspects including level of openness, reliability, security, performance and several other mobile specific criteria such as battery life and touch capabilities.

None the less, Jobs’ open letter pitched HTML5 as a viable alternative and a number of biggies including Google, Digg and several others followed suit. And to make the HTML5 case even stronger, Apple subsequently lifted “all restrictions on developer tools to create iOS apps” passively promoting the cause of several HTML5 compliant UI frameworks such as PhoneGap, Sencha Touch and several others; while retaining the “No Flash” clause.

Flash
It’s fair to say that 2010 has been a dramatic year for Flash developers. While Flash continues to gain momentum in the Rich Internet Applications (RIA) space, it lost significant ground to HTML5 in the mobile apps segment after falling out of favor with Apple. Here’s a quick assessment of Flash from a developer’s perspective.

Pros

  • Easy to learn, robust tool chain  
  • Re-scalable vector graphics providing resolution & cross-browser independence  
  • Excellent multimedia support & high degree of interactivity  
  • Strong developer community, ably backed by a willing leader in Adobe  

Cons

  • Proprietary technology & high cost of development  
  • Breaks web fundamentals, prone to design abuse and security vulnerabilities    

 

HTML5
There’s little doubt that HTML5 is currently the “in thing” amongst the web & mobile development fraternity and the talk of the town in the internet world. It’s already being dubbed as the “future of the web” and there are good reasons for this optimism, both amongst the developers as well as technology purists.

Pros

  • Short learning curve for Web Developers  
  • Open Standard defined by W3C & backed by industry heavyweights including Apple, Microsoft, Google and several others  
  • Promotes the “Write once, run everywhere” paradigm for web development
  • Great advocate for hardware acceleration, provides unmatched power to developers  
  • Zero development cost  

Cons

  • Still a draft, subject to change  
  • Evolving standard, browsers lack full support – can be nightmarish for developers  
  • Limited development tools 

 

Developer’s Choice
Unless you are developing applications solely for the Apple iOS platform, it would be stupid to write off Adobe Flash as a thing of the past while projecting HTML5 as the future. I’d expect most Flash developers to know basic HTML and therefore the progression to HTML5 ain’t rocket science. Exploring HTML5 is advisable for Flash developers for a couple of reasons – first, it enhances their skill set and secondly, it provides you an opportunity to develop for world’s largest mobile app store. However, abandoning hard earned Flash expertise in favor of HTML5 doesn’t sound like a sane proposition.

On the contrary, I would have to be a staunch Adobe loyalist to believe that a majority of web developers (aka HTML and CSS programmers) can develop in Flash as well. Whether HTML5 developers should try to add “Flash” to their resumes, it solely depends on the kind of applications they currently develop and the ones that they expect to develop in future. There’s obviously a cost involved in developing Flash applications. However, if you consider the power and flexibility offered by the Flash development tool chain coupled with the enormous support of the Flash developer community, the development cost is a non-starter consideration.

There’s no one size fits all approach in the developer community and the HTML5 vs. Flash choice is no exception to that rule.

Happy coding!

 

About the Author:
Septillion Developers are seasoned technology professionals with more than a decade of experience in Mobile, Web 2.0 and Open Source Technologies.

Comments

one of the most balanced articles i've read in the topic.

all i want to add into this is i really don't think it will be flash or html ever what the talk is about is flash or javascript the html part of things is just hype yea there are a few new goods to html5 that will be formalized in the years to come but the real story is not what the current market is in the end of the day the only and absolutely only thing that made it possible for others to bash flash is one fact it can't run on iphone/ipad.

i don't think html5 is going to die out nor do i think that flash will but i do think at some point people will stop walking around with html5 t-shirts without knowing where its limitations are ;)

but anyways if flash dies or not it looks like the future for developers is they just need to know emcaScript in its variations if its actionscript or javascript.

and in that note if your looking to learn client side actionscript and javascript and learn the mindset as well as learning client side is a mind set and its not the same mind set as learning how to build things on the server then try out our website everythingfla.com a site dedicated to educate people from the ground up all the really critical things to make you a really really amazing developer.

http://everythingfla.com/

p.s. thanks for that article i think its fantastic.

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