Steve Jobs outlandishly blasted the future of Flash in his launch of the iPad earlier this year, and many Mac addicts followed suit. But is this distaste for Flash exclusive to those within the Mac fraternity, or is it indicative of a general dislike for the technology?
In April, Jobs published a blog post listing several reasons why he feels that the use of Flash will rapidly disintegrate; why Apple will never implement Flash support in any of its products, and why HTML5 is the way of the future.
Jumping the gun perhaps? In a recent turn of events, Apple announced that they have lifted restrictions on their third-party developer guidelines for the iOS operating system powering the popular iPhone and iPad products (previous license rules prohibited developers from using cross-compilers, i.e. Adobe Flash Packager for iPhone). Apple stated in a media release: “This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.”
“We have listened to our developers and taken much of their feedback to heart.” But how are we to take this in light of the harsh criticisms put forward by Jobs regarding performance on mobile devices, numerous technical drawbacks and lack of support on touch-based devices?
Despite the heavy debate on both sides of the argument and Apple’s contradictory behaviour, the fact remains that both HTML5 and Flash are being used in a variety of different applications depending on their own particular strengths.
As it stands now, HTML5 is winning the battle with regards to video; this is evident in the recent re-encoding of YouTube and Vimeo videos to work natively with HTML5. However, when it comes to gaming technologies, Flash is definitely leading, and given the current state of HTML5, Flash will continue to lead in this area for the foreseeable future.
However, possibly the biggest driving force behind the Flash VS HTML5 debate is the age-old (at least in tech terms) open-source VS Proprietary argument. As we know, Adobe’s Flash is 100% proprietary – Adobe decides how the technology progresses. HTML5 is open-source, driven by a large community of interested and passionate contributors and it isn’t driven by a singular commercial force. Both of these approaches to software have their various merits depending on which angle you view them from, and this debate is no different.
The future likely sees users moving away from traditional fixed desktop computers to mobile devices with touch interfaces and open web standards. This can be seen in the growing number of smartphones and now tablets, challenging technology providers to adapt their software to perform equally well on a number of disparate platforms.
So ultimately, we believe the choice of platform should be based on a number of considerations. One consideration is often as simple as which technology a designer knows and prefers. If you’re creating purely for the desktop web with advanced graphical and cross-browser requirements, Flash may well be most suitable for your User Interface. However, if accessibility from mobile devices is required, then HTML5 might be a more appropriate option.
We shouldn’t be wasting our energy debating which technology is better – rather we should be discussing which technology is better suited for the requirement at hand.