Last December, W3C claimed that the draft on HTML5 and Canvas 2D had been finalized, which is deemed to be a strong driving force for both HTML5 itself and those who are interested in it. Last year, Internet was overwhelmed with a lot of debates about whether HTML5 will replace Flash and become a new application development standard, and though Flash is still the mainstream, people increasingly believe that it is just a matter of time when this replacement happens. Is the demand of HTML5 a real deal, especially to developers and Internet users? Rather than making immediate conclusion, let us briefly compare the two products.
Since Macromedia released its first version in 1996, Flash has dominated Internet multimedia industry for over 15 years, and attracted a large number of web designers. Currently, about 97% browsers are equipped with Flash Player plug-in. But for Flash, we would not appreciate so many beautiful and interesting websites. As a mature development platform, Flash is propped up by many powerful programming tools, such as Adobe Flash CS Professional, which lowers the threshold of developing it.
Along with the proliferation of smart phones and tablets, surfing Internet with these portable devices became an inevitable trend. Unfortunately Flash does not perform well on them, because it overwhelms system resources and is too energy-consuming.
Although W3C published the final draft on HTML5 last December, none of current browsers are capable to fully support its features. In addition, because it is lacking a standard and powerful development tool similar to what Adobe Flash CS Professional is to Flash, it is doubtful that HTML5 becomes a popular platform for developers in near future.
Do Internet users need HTML5? No, the only thing they care about is performance, and they do not care about how to design a website or develop an application. Do developers need HTML5? At least not right now. After all, HTML5 is not an established standard. Completely devoting themselves to this field is risky for many companies. Last year, the major disappointment came from Facebook as it decided to give up on HTML5 and specialize on iOS Native. What people value most is that HTML5 may provide application developers with a cross platform solution. Nevertheless, each existing browser supports HTML5 at a different level, which creates a big obstacle to make an HTML5 application available on all of them. Then who truly needs HTML5? My answer is Apple, Google, and all big browser vendors.
It is since Jobs published an article named “Thoughts on Flash” in April, 2010 that HTML5 has become a hot topic around the world. In his article, Jobs explained in details why he did not allow Flash on iPhones, iPods, and iPads. Among the reasons he noticed his App Store several times. Although Jobs denied that protecting App Store was the reason why he did not allow Flash on iOS, some people doubted that it is true. As everyone knows, in addition to hardware, Apple significantly benefits from its software and service sales, and App Store is an important source of benefits among them. If a large number of free Flash applications flood into iOS, would users be still willing to spend money in App Store? Absolutely not. Like it was with Mac OS, a closed operating system, Jobs aimed to also build a closed application market and attract users by progressively more gorgeous applications which are compatible with iOS only. Moreover, transferring applications from desktop to browsers by HTML5 can also weaken the advantage of Windows, which is still the leading operating system in the market for providing numerous exclusive desktop applications. Therefore, for Apple, backing HTML5 benefits not only its iOS, but also Mac OS.
Google, another big enemy of Microsoft, is always one of firm supporters of HTML5. In recent years, Google kept developing and deploying its cloud computing platform, and aimed to take advantage of HTML5 by developing more professional web applications, such as Google Docs, one of its blockbuster products. Providing that a professional web application can do everything that Microsoft Office can, and is free, customers will not need to buy Microsoft Office anymore.
It is not an era when Internet Explorer was monopolizing almost the whole browser market anymore. Nowadays, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera all muscle in this field, which makes the competition between each browser fiercer. Currently, HTML5 is an arena where all browsers are fighting against each other, and the score on html5test.com becomes an important index to determine which browser is the winner. Additionally, with the help of HTML5 and increasing number of web applications, browsers will become not only an open window to Internet, but also a mini operating system, which must elevate their status.
In summary, before giving up Flash and picking up HTML5, you should clarify what you really need, and should not follow the trend blindly. As noted above, Apple, Google, and browser vendors all have their own purposes, but do you really have one? Besides, is it reasonable to expect that Flash will remain stagnant while HTML5 is rapidly developing? Last year, although Adobe published Edge, a HTML5-based animation tool, it confirmed that the development of Flash would be still one of its strategic lines. So, being positive about the future of HTML5 should not be a solid excuse to give up on Flash, an enduring and mature platform, which is in development too.