Flash vs HTML5: the war continues

Following Apples announcement that the WILL allow flash to be used for app development, Adobe put out a statement support Apple’s decision. Don’t expect an Apple/Adobe love-in just yet, but at least relations are improving. However it looks like Google and YouTube are not entirely convinced that HTML5 will be a replacement for Flash. YouTube has pretty much made Flash what it is, certainly when it comes to delivery. In the old days it was a battle between wmv, Quicktime and Real Player for delivering online video. They all had their problems and along came Flash with their flv’s. Fast, reliable and high quality. Even better (for the video producer) was that it was hard to download and store an flv on your computer.

Back in June, a YouTube engineer outlined the issues: in short, HTML5 just won’t play video as well as Flash. What’s more it breaks the current standards for video formats. So it looks like the age old VHS/Betamax debate all over again. My money is on the format that the porn industry adopts!

Adobe vs Apple, Microsoft and pretty much everyone else

When it comes to the web, Flash is pretty much a defacto standard. True, we are beyond the days of Flash only sites and spinning logos, but Adobe’s software powers everything from YouTube to interactive banner advertising. It powers everything, except when it comes to mobile: Apple and Microsoft’s decision NOT to support Flash on mobile is a major challenge to Adobe. On the face of it, their decision doesn’t make much sense. Lack of Flash on the mobile web, especially with video content, is a major problem to its development, causing many brands to develop mobile only sites.
So why are Apple and Microsoft so anti Flash on mobile? From Apple’s perspective they see Flash as essentially old technology: it’s a memory hog, insecure and ultimately HTML5 offers a much brighter future. As Steve Job’s put it: “We don’t spend a lot of energy on old technology”. Another factor, however, is Adobe’s position near monopoly position on the web – Apple and Microsoft would be happy to see us less reliant on it.
Love it or hate it (and there are quite a few people who really hate it), the success of Flash is for a good reason. Like all killer apps, it works. It works so well it’s used in 85% of the top 100 websites, 90% of gambling sites, 75% of video is delivered through Flash and there are two million Flash developers. With an estimated 1.2billion mobiles running Flash, it certainly won’t be disappearing in a hurry.
It’s impossible to say who will win the day. It’s likely that the Flash/HTML5 issue will follow on the same course as many other mobile technologies – multiple versions to meet the various different handset requirements. In the end it will be the developers and clients who will have to bear the brunt of the cost.