Over the past few years, the conundrum posed by Adobe Flash and HTML5 has continued to spark an unending debate in the IT industry. Both are scripting languages used to perform similar functions in developing websites. However, with a few features of one better than the other they are standing against each other. As a user you may not feel the difference but it’s a developer’s dilemma to choose between the two.
You’ll often find articles swarming with conflicting advice on which technology is providing better solution and usability. With this heated discussion surrounding the subject, it becomes very difficult to make a choice. Keeping this in mind, I have penned down my take on the matter with a hope to clear the cloud around it.
Let’s start by discussing both the technologies along with their pros and cons. We’ll discuss Flash first since it’s been with us for a longer time.
What is Flash?
Adobe Flash, commonly referred to as Flash, is a multimedia system generally accessed in a website. It’s also used to create compelling interfaces and menus on some mobile phone software. Flash is the system that is used to support streaming of videos on sites like YouTube. Its usability in developing multimedia games is also very high. Today, Adobe is promoting Flash through its Open Screen Project.
Advantages of using Flash
Since Flash is primarily used to add animated content in websites, this function is done very effectively and in a lot easier manner
It is a great tool to make sites look interactive and lively
Flash movies load as soon as the content is delivered to you
It’s popular among developers because it opens a creative door to make powerful animations
Disadvantages of Flash
SEO unfavourable- Impacts search engine rankings
Not responsive - A Flash site is difficult to adapt to different devices like tablets and smartphones.
You have to have Flash player installed in your computer to read flash content
Since Flash has been in the market for quite a long time now, the fear of Flash viruses and Flash hackers is considerably high
It’s a tedious task to edit a Flash web page and for this reason it’s never used for sites that demands rapidly changing content.
What is HTML?
HTML stands for Hyper Text Mark-up Language. In simple parlance it’s an IT language that helps you build a website. It first appeared in the year 1991 with to the aim of organizing and managing content in a website. HTML codes are used to post links, text, images etc. on a web page.
The latest version of this language is known as HTML5. It’s an extremely effective version that allows the integration of videos and animation directly into your web page which wasn’t possible in the earlier versions. This feature is one of the primary functions of Flash, to which HTML5 is giving a tough competition now. And thus began the war between the two extremely effective and popular technologies.
Pros of HTML5
Helps in SEO. Since this is a coded text language, a HTML5 web page ranks better in the search engine results with pre-selected keywords and tags
HTML5 is compatible with all screen formats. A web page built in HTML5 can be viewed in smartphones, tablets, iPhones etc.
There’s no need of extra plug ins to view a HTML 5 web page and it helps your website load quickly
Cons of HTML5
If you’re a user of the Internet Explorer 8 or its older versions, you will not be able to view HTML 5 web page in your browser. However, it is supported by all other modern browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer 9 (still in beta) etc.
Since its still in its developing phase, there is a possibility that the elements may change anytime
Due to licencing issues, rich media has to be compressed in multiple formats so that it can be read in all browsers
There are many researchers who say that smartphones will soon take over traditional computers. Leading the expanding mobile market is the Flash-friendly Google Android and Apple’s anti-Flash iPhones. Now, although there are more Android smartphone users in the market than iPhone users, in the tablet division Apple overshadows Android with a huge difference of 75%. Subsequently, Flash’s incompatibility with Apple becomes one of its major drawbacks.
Besides, HTML5 with its SEO friendly features and easier interface, Flash has become unpopular among all the new age developers. Even users nowadays find it quite annoying to wait for a webpage to load, no matter how attractive the content is. If there is an option of a webpage where you can access the information faster and in a user-friendly environment, people will choose that over a Flash web page any day.
So, why not just boycott Flash and embrace HTML5 for all functionalities in a webpage? Well, we can’t do that because there are still certain features in Flash that cannot be carried out by any other scripting language. Functions like video playback, ability to measure in sub-pixel increments, working with USB devices like webcams, thumb drives and microphones can only be done through Flash. Besides it supports DRM (Digital Rights Management) functionality which provides security against piracy. These benefits, however, come with a price. HD video playback demands high CPU usage, making the system slow. Adobe has tried to solve these problems in their later versions on an urgent basis and hopefully, these will be taken care of very soon.
Now, the question is why did Steve Jobs take such a step anyway? The answer is right in front of us - it’s because Flash was designed to use with a mouse. The hovering of the cursor, rollover dropdowns etc. can only be done with the help of a mouse and not with the touch of a finger.
So, in this duel, HTML5 seems to take the win; but Flash is a long way from being forgotten. Its functionality will always remain in multimedia, gaming and the various other learning tools. There’s still a set of web designers who believe in the revival of this technology and till then they will not let its shine fade away.
Sharon Michaels is a design specialist who gives equal importance to aesthetics and functionality. A graduate from the National Institute of Design, Sharon currently works for Art Attackk, Addictive Media’s Digital Design Division. In her spare time, she also turns her attention towards writing and photography.