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HTML5 vs. Flash - Who Will Win?

Will the New Web Standard Render Adobe Flash Obsolete?

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HTML5 is the new open web standard for creating web pages, and it has a rich set of features that rival those offered by Adobe Flash. Many in the technology community believe that HTML5 will make Flash a thing of the past. Over the long term, this view is probably correct; in all likelihood, Flash will eventually be replaced by HTML5. However, the full outlook is a bit more complicated.

HTML5 Will Replace Many Flash Features Immediately

In the past, web developers were often restricted by the limitations of HTML, and frequently used Flash to provide richer style and formatting for websites. For example, custom fonts, gradients, rounded corners and many other interface features previously required Flash to implement.

With HTML5 and CSS 3, many interface enhancements will be available to the web developer natively in HTML. This will allow developers to create styled and interactive websites without using Flash as a "stop-gap" technology to achieve a desired interface. Many popular websites have already replaced these Flash features with equivalent HTML5, and this trend is sure to continue.

Flash Will Stick Around to Support Rich Content

Even though HTML5 can technically provide many of the features offered by Flash, there are a number of reasons why Flash will continue to be used in the short term.

Browser support is still a big issue for HTML5. The newest versions of all major web browsers support only a portion of HTML5's features, and many web users do not even use the latest version of their browser. This means it may be years before millions of users will be able to experience the full feature set of HTML5. On the other hand, the vast majority of browsers on the market fully support Flash today.

Adobe has also created a set of tools for developing interactive content that has been refined over the past decade, namely ActionScript 3, and the Flash platform. These tools are far easier to use and more powerful than the current HTML5 toolset for programming rich content like 3D graphics. For a developer looking to start creating web games or 3D animations, Flash provides a far easier introduction to the genre.

HTML5 and Flash Will Coexist for Years to Come

A big reason many in the technology community have predicted the end of Flash has been the refusal of a very influential tech player -- Apple -- to support Flash on its mobile devices. While Apple's position may be a sign of things to come, the majority of web browsers are now using technology that supports Flash far more than HTML5. This means the demise of Flash will have to wait.

In reality, Flash will exist alongside HTML5 for a number of years. As more and more browsers support HTML5 features, Flash will evolve into a niche role, providing support for game developers and rich content designers who will use Adobe's robust tools to create packaged, interactive web content. As HTML5 rich media tools improve, the role of Flash will probably become smaller still, or it will likely evolve into a different product or feature niche entirely.

For web developers, HTML5 will undoubtedly become the standard of the future, and should be adopted and implemented when building websites. However, Flash will continue to be supported by a huge user base and a community of developers for years to come. While HTML5 is certainly the long-term winner, it would be premature to abandon Adobe Flash just yet.

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