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Is HTML5 Ready To Take Over From Flash? 468

Posted by kdawson
from the jumping-jack-html5 dept.
The Flash platform has been taking body blows lately. First Apple, then Scribd, publicly abandon it; now ARM's marketing VP is blaming a delay in ARM smartbooks on the continuing unsuitability of Flash for the subnotebook market. But how ready is HTML5 to take over from Flash? Tim Bray offers a cautionary appraisal of the not-yet-a-standard's state of grace. While Flash may be on the way out (or so legions of its detractors hope), it is still important in many corners of the Web. Here a branding expert demonstrates that the sites of 10 out of 10 leading worldwide brands don't display on the iPad — because they're coded in Flash, of course.
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Is HTML5 Ready To Take Over From Flash?

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  • No, at least (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pkphilip (6861) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:20AM (#32126214)

    before there are authoring tools for HTML5 which are on par with Adobe's Flash authoring tools.. and not before HTML5 becomes as ubiquitous as the Flash plugin.

  • Apple showed (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:20AM (#32126216)

    That people are quite content to buy a device without Flash support. Now hurry up and build me a Android Netbook for $200. There's no reason for the delay.

  • by beelsebob (529313) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:27AM (#32126348)

    Because when you do that, the current never stops being current. Apple have a habit of forcing old, useless techs out the door... They did it with floppies, they did it with parallel ports, they did it with PS/2 connectors, and now they're doing it with flash.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:29AM (#32126396)

    I imagine that those brands don't look at it as "the iPad doesn't have us and needs to support our sites", as much as "we're not reaching iPad users and our sites need to support the iPad".

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:29AM (#32126402) Homepage

    Really? That's funny, I seem to recall CRT televisions and flatscreen televisions being sold simultaneously. Good luck finding a CRT at a major or even semi-major retailer.

  • by obarthelemy (160321) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:33AM (#32126454)

    1- it's proprietary, so it's probably condemned in the long term. Seeing Adobe struggle to port it, make it faster, more resource-efficient, expand it... is a sad experience.

    2- it's kinda bad. Even on my desktop PC, I can tell when a site is using flash, because things get jerky. I have it off most of the time.

    3- It misused -a lot- for obnoxious ads.

    OTOH, it's a nice way to have animations, and I'm very grateful to Adobe for having Flash way back when. Gratefulness only goes so far when confronted with complacency, though.

  • by Animaether (411575) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:33AM (#32126466) Journal

    Stupid question that pivots around every Flash-hating entity's mouth wrapped firmly around Steve Jobs' ... marketing skills.

    What's not to like, then? Well, the user experience, which in my experience is fourth-rate for anything but games

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    Show me an even remotely decent HTML5-based game on par with a remotely decent Flash-based game. Oh snap - you can't.. because HTML5 doesn't specify anything with regard to styles or interactivity. So let's allow jscript, CSS and SVG, too. See if you can get the same performance as Flash. Ready. Set. Go.

    No "Back" button, feaugh.

    That's a problem caused by the author, not Flash itself. Perhaps Flash makes it all too easy to break this standard usability model - probably so. Then again, it takes but a few seconds to find solutions: http://www.google.com/search?q=flash+back+button [google.com]

    But even if this is a major stumbling click, where's the hate for all the *box (lightbox, thickbox, etc.) photo viewers, then? I have yet to see even -one- that adjusts the address bar so that I can link to a specific photo. If I'm lucky, I can still right-click the thing to get the image's direct location and point people there. If I'm unlucky, it's "Okay, so go to http://somegallery/ [somegallery], click next page 3 times, then the 2nd row, 3rd image from the left". Mmmm. If the author did their job well, there'll be a link on the image or somewhere within the frame that I can use. But if Flash isn't excused, why is *box?

    Hey, as far as VIDEO goes, absolutely.. ditch it.. bring on the HTML5 video tag.
    ( preferably without any "only h.264" limitations, especially if the host OS is perfectly capable of playing back pretty much every video format under the moon. Let the market decide - and if the market decides that Indeo5 within an AVI container happens to be a much better for a given video than either of h.264 OR Theora, then why restrict that from being played back? )

    But until something actually better than Flash comes along for -everything else- (except for ads) that Flash does, Flash isn't about to go away - it will merely be reduced to the market it had -before- video sites boomed.

  • Re:Hardware (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maxume (22995) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:35AM (#32126502)

    People are trying to do more with it.

    Well written flash from 7 years ago would probably run just fine on modern low power hardware.

  • by macbeth66 (204889) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:35AM (#32126506)

    I could not agree more. But, then again, thank goodness that there is a 500 LB gorilla in the room that can help us to finally get rid of Flash. God, I hate that product.

    Mind you, my feelings about Flash are not as a developer, but as a user...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:35AM (#32126512)

    With only a handful of comments you managed to make the single stupidest post this story will have.

    A post with ASCII art depicting Natalie Portman farting rainbows while riding a unicorn anally raping the goatse guy would be more based in reality than the delusional crap you just crapped out of your keyboard.

    Here's a quiz Einstein. What year and month did Floppy Disc production end? What year did Apple and its 3 percent worldwide marketshare stop including Floppy Drives in their overpriced hardware?

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:35AM (#32126520)

    I understand that Flash is on its way out, but it is still widely used. Why doesn't the iPad support future AND current technologies (HTML5 and Flash).

    There are many reasons, but one of the big ones is Apple is one of the driving forces making Flash on the way out. Without their refusal to support it, most all of the prominent sites in question would still be suing it.

    As to why Apple wants it to go away, there are lots of reasons but the most important is probably, it is just good business. Apple doesn't want any one company to be able to roadblock their ability to move their platform forward with regard to performance, security, or features. Allowing Flash on their products allows Adobe to do just that for a large subset of Web applications Apple is counting on. Apple isn't supporting Flash for the same reason smart governments are moving away from .doc, they want control and choices and not to have one vendor with the ability to dictate terms to them.

  • Re:No, at least (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nadaka (224565) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:38AM (#32126572)

    I hate it when people abuse their mod points. Parent is making a quite reasonable assertion.

  • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:41AM (#32126622) Journal

    Flatscreens and CRTs aren't the best example because a flatscreen is a clear and easy to see upgrade from CRTs in almost every respect (don't bother pointing out your personal gripe against flatscreens)

    A better example would be HD broadcast TV, do you really think everyone would have just aggreed to change over if the guberment didn't force it?

  • by pkphilip (6861) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:41AM (#32126626)

    HTML5 will be CPU-intensive at least for a while before the browsers improve. HTML5 vector graphics will have to go through all the iterations of development and improvement that Flash has already gone through - in a few years, HTML vector graphics will be where Flash is now.

  • HTML5 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dandart (1274360) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:42AM (#32126642)
    ... is great. JS engines keep getting better and you're not relying on ONE company to make your proprietary closed unreleased technology useful.
  • by amentajo (1199437) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:42AM (#32126660)

    Since it's still in "preview" mode, it may be that optimizations are still forthcoming. If I recall correctly, Wave tried to load all the content in the wave at once, instead of as I scrolled down. There was plenty of room for laziness improvements.

    One such improvement may be rolling up replies to a message thread so that I don't have to load what code Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum are documenting further up in the wave while I spam the bottom with pictures of LOLcats.

  • by loutr (626763) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:43AM (#32126680)

    The difference between a CRT and flatscreen TV is obvious. People see LCDs in stores, or at a friend's house, and that makes them want to switch. And then there's marketing of course.

    The general public doesn't know, and doesn't care whether a site is made in Flash or HTML5. You can't wait on the users to switch to HTML5 sites.

  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:46AM (#32126728) Homepage

    Flatscreens and CRTs aren't the best example because a flatscreen is a clear and easy to see upgrade from CRTs in almost every respect (don't bother pointing out your personal gripe against flatscreens)

    Fair enough. For the record, my only personal gripe against flatscreens is that my legacy consoles look like crusted ass on them. Other than that, I love my flatscreen :-)

    A better example would be HD broadcast TV, do you really think everyone would have just aggreed to change over if the guberment didn't force it?

    I think people slowly would have, yes. It wouldn't happen as quickly as it did of course, but it would have happend.

    As another poster further down pointed out, you can still readily buy motherboards that have PS/2 ports on them, but you can't really buy PS/2 keyboards or mice anymore. Nearly every modern motherboard also still has at least one IDE connector on it, despite the fact that a completely SATA-based system has been possible for a couple years now.

  • by Have Blue (616) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:50AM (#32126806) Homepage
    You don't even have to imagine- if you RTFA, it presents this situation as a failure of the luxury sites, not of the iPad.
  • by david.emery (127135) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:53AM (#32126852)

    "Crippled?" because it doesn't run Flash? By this definition, I've crippled my laptop by installing flash blockers, and you know, I think I like this "crippled" Web A LOT better. Sure, occasionally, I decide I want to see some video on CNN.com, and it is nice to be able to override the Flash blocker. But I don't miss all those dumb-assed Flash-based ads one bit.

    And when I go to a website that uses only Flash, I think twice about whether this is a company/place I really want to be. As often as not, if there's no "non-Flash" version, I'll just navigate away. Restaurants, in particular, need to understand that all that glitzy Flash stuff is at best annoying to a lot of people, and at worse just does NOT WORK on mobile devices (not just the iPhone!!). You'd think restaurants in particular would want to encourage mobile customers; the onus is on them to make it easier for me to decide where I want to eat.

    I think there are -4- different threads going on here:
        1. The 'whose standards/proprietary world do you like better?' debate between Adobe and Apple, Flash & HTML5 (and its own CODEC wars)
        2. The 'what kind of rich content is important?' debate - is this really "all about video" as some have suggested, or is it about arbitrary rich content?
        3. The 'cross-platform' vs 'optimized for this device' debate (I think this is a really important debate for techies.)
        4. The business decisions about how to best reach customers, along with the customer decisions about what technologies are acceptable (i.e. how far would Flash or JavaScript or HTML5 animations go before they become really annoying)?

  • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Friday May 07, 2010 @10:55AM (#32126894)

    3- It misused -a lot- for obnoxious ads.

    This, in my opinion, is a great reason to keep Flash around.

    Yes, it is used an awful lot for an awful lot of obnoxious ads... And I can quickly and easily get rid of those ads just by disabling flash.

    How am I going to get rid of the obnoxious ads written in HTML5?

  • by knarf (34928) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:00AM (#32126990) Homepage

    As to why Apple wants it to go away, there are lots of reasons but the most important is probably, it is just good business.

    Apple wants Flash - and any other platform which can be used to create something resembling an application - to go away because those platforms allow others to target their precious without paying the ferryman. If someone were to find a way to create installable apps using only the stuff installed on their platform they'd find a way to disable it come the next firmware release and/or write some clause into the EULA that explicitly forbids some essential part of the process. Apple goods are to be used as Apple says they should.

    After all, quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi...

  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:06AM (#32127146)

    A lot of people consider the iPad crippled because you can only install approved apps on it. The refusal to allow flash is just a side effect of that.

    Any general purpose device that only allows programs that meet the approval of the manufacturer to be installed is by my definition crippled, particularly when the reasons for disallowing a common technology are that their corporate dictator just has a grudge against a particular technology.

    If Steve Jobs decides next week that audio-only songs are simply not useful and that from now on only songs with videos can be used on the device, then your are forced to bend over and take it, because you've already signed control of your device over to a technological caretaker.

    It's the antithesis to the democratic way of life - namely that the people should be free to make their own choices - even if they're the "wrong" ones (because too often "wrong" is merely a personal viewpoint). Benevolent dictatorships rarely maintain their benevolence, particularly as the subjects learn over time that just occasionally, their viewpoints don't align with that of those handing down the law.

  • by Qwavel (733416) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:11AM (#32127242)

    Apple has a habit of forcing any connector or standard (formal or de-facto) that they don't control out the door.
    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/apple/ipads-lack-of-flashusbbluetooth-is-all-about-lock-in-updated/5922 [zdnet.com]

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:14AM (#32127300) Homepage

    Except video, which doesn't require Javascript at all, and already runs better than Flash.

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:24AM (#32127470)

    Apple wants Flash - and any other platform which can be used to create something resembling an application - to go away...

    This argument would hold some weight if Apple were not pushing HTML5 applications as a viable and free way to host Web applications and if developers weren't using it. It would hold some weight if Apple was making significant money on application sales compared to how much they make on selling the hardware those apps run on. Neither is true. Your hypothesis holds no water.

  • Excellent point. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jamrock (863246) on Friday May 07, 2010 @11:59AM (#32128058)

    it presents this situation as a failure of the luxury sites, not of the iPad.

    Precisely. Coincidentally, a report today from Yahoo [bizjournals.com] offered some stats on iPad users visiting Yahoo's sites:

    The first Yahoo iPad users were 94 percent more likely to be affluent consumers with solid wealth and strong incomes than typical U.S. Yahoo users.

    In other words, the very demographic these luxury brands depend on for their survival. What are the odds that they'll refuse to update their sites to attract them?

    Regardless of people's opinions of Apple or their products, they are a major driving force behind the rapid adoption of HTML 5, and the deprecation of Flash. Hell, most people never even heard of Flash before Apple announced that the iDevices will not support it, but consumers voted with their dollars anyway, billions of them, and businesses follow the money. They see a platform with tens of millions of affluent potential customers that they simply can't reach because their sites are in a format that doesn't exist on that platform. They'll be falling over themselves to remedy that situation post haste.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:04PM (#32129192)

    What kind of crack are you on???

    The iPad is sold as a "magical and revolutionary product". Literally. Not a computer. Not a device. Not general-purpose anything.

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:08PM (#32129246)

    A lot of people consider the iPad crippled because you can only install approved apps on it. The refusal to allow flash is just a side effect of that.

    True, lot of people think that so they buy a different phone and go on with their lives. A few people, however, seem to think they have some sort of inherent right to use both the phone they want, but should be able to force the manufacturer of the phone to customize the phone to their specifications with regard to software and services.

    ...particularly when the reasons for disallowing a common technology are that their corporate dictator just has a grudge against a particular technology.

    It's called business. I used to make expensive security appliances for installation on people's networks. Our clients had no inherent right to dictate to us that we have to install a given OS or software package on our appliances and if they re-imaged them to have different software, we had no obligation to provide support or services to those machines. We didn't make a Windows version of our appliance because we didn't want to be dependent upon Microsoft who could dictate to us what improvements we could make on our appliances. That's a business decision. Apple doesn't want Adobe to be able to dictate to them how secure their phones are or how Web apps perform on them, or if they can provide given features to Web apps. It makes sense to me. Maybe I won't buy an iPhone because I want more flexibility, but unless Apple has monopoly influence, I don't see why I should be able to force them to do something else.

    If Steve Jobs decides next week that audio-only songs are simply not useful and that from now on only songs with videos can be used on the device, then your are forced to bend over and take it, because you've already signed control of your device over to a technological caretaker.

    Were you intending this to be a strawman or a slippery slope logical fallacy?

    It's the antithesis to the democratic way of life - namely that the people should be free to make their own choices

    That Apple should be free to make their own choices or is freedom you being able to tell others what to do? You're free not to buy an iPhone. Apple is free to make the iPhone however they want. That's not the antithesis of freedom. I might mention, democracy and freedom are not the same thing. Democracies do not imply freedom. There are very, very few democratically run companies as it is an unusual business model that takes a lot of cooperation to get started and most investment capital is concentrated.

  • by jo_ham (604554) <joham999&gmail,com> on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:24PM (#32129544)

    +4 insightful? Jesus the mods are stupid today.

    Apple do not control USB, Firewire, SP/DIF, 3.5mm jack, DVI, Ethernet - all ports on their current hardware.

    In terms of standard formats: TCP/IP, NFS, Bluetooth (limited on iPhone OS, fully standard on OS X), HFS, AAC, H.264, HTML5, CSS, GCC, OpenGL, PDF are just a few of the things that they support but do not control.

    They do "control" Minidisplayport, which they licence for no fee. Perhaps that was what you meant.

    I think you misspelled "one port" - there's no "any" in "one" .

  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:35PM (#32129746) Homepage
    It's slightly more complicated than that, I'd say.

    Let me offer an analogy (hey, this is /. after all, even though I won't be making this a car analogy). If my PHB* decides that we need to implement a technology that I'm not familiar with, I learn the technology. I may not like the tech, but if the decision has been made above my pay grade, I have the choice of learning and implementing the tech or getting a new job.

    Now, to bring it home. Why do businesses create web sites? To create revenue, of course. Typically, this means a commercial web site exists to advertise the company's products. If the tech (for example, Flash) used to implement the web site excessively limits the number of users that can view said web site, then the web site is not meeting its design goals.

    Case in point: last year, I was looking for a new motorcycle. I visited Honda's web site, Suzuki's web site, Yamaha's web site and Triumph's web site. All of those web sites except for Honda's rendered just fine in my browser. While I won't claim that the web site is the only reason for the purchase decision I made, I will state that the fact that I couldn't look on-line to see what Honda offered certainly affected my choice. In the end, I purchased a Suzuki. Honda may have had a better bike that met my specs, but if they did, the local dealer didn't have one, and I couldn't view Honda's web site to search for a bike that the local dealer could have special ordered.

    Unfortunately, in the real world, PHB's often don't know what tech is available, and therefore rely upon their designers to offer them choices. In that case, the designer does, in fact, rule the web. The designer codes up a spiffy web site with whatever (crappy) tools they know, show it to the PHB, who has no clue that the whiz-bang web site *only* renders correctly on the exact version of IE that (s)he and the designer are using, and therefore gives a thumbs up to a web site that will only look good to two thirds of the web site's visitors, and the remaining third shop somewhere else.

    *Just in case my PHB does end up reading this post, he actually is more technically savvy than the rest of us in the office, and all of his tech choices are really, really good. Can I have my raise now?
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Friday May 07, 2010 @03:40PM (#32131962)

    How is Apple pushing HTML5?

    By being one of the authors of the spec, by implementing it in their browser and contributing to Webkit so it is implemented in other browsers, by refusing to implement Flash or Silverlight so Web developers that want to reach many of Apple's users are forced to use HTML5, and by widely touting HTML5 in the press until many developers and business people are familiar with the term and associate it with the direction of technology.

    Just because Steve posts his open letter doesn't mean he gives a flying fsck about something that makes him no money.

    Ah, but it does make him money when he builds Web services on top of it. More importantly, it prevents others from being a roadblock to him making money by selling Macs, iPods, iPhones, and iPads. People buy more Apple devices if those devices are secure, and Macs are more secure and less crashy if they don't have to deal with Flash.

    It's like you're saying the app store doesnt make them enough money to matter but HTML5 with it's 0 revenue is what matters.

    The app store makes them very little money in comparison to selling devices, but it indirectly motivates those sales of devices. It's like saying good television doesn't make Samsung any money, but it motivates people to buy their televisions so they care about it.

    This argument would hold some weight if you could sell HTML5 apps in the app store.

    Umm, you can and many developers do and Apple has specifically stated dev kits like Phonegap, created for this purpose continue to be acceptable even with the new developer agreement.

    You dont think Apple is making significant money from the app store? How about 30% of every app sold in a several hundred million dollar business.

    Which, assuming Apple has very, very low costs and hasn't been selling any music or video, still only amounts to about 6% of their revenue (absurdly optimistic ideas), compared to the 40% or so of their revenue coming from sales of iPhones, iPads, and IPod Touch devices. Apple runs the app store at slightly more than break even prices, as Jobs has publicly stated to shareholders, so unless you think he's violating SEC rules and jeopardizing his company over a few percent of revenue, you just don't know what you're talking about.

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