HTML5 vs. Flash – Waste of an Argument?

As the iPad gained popularity and Steve Job’s resistance to Flash stayed the course, the issue became “If not Flash, then what?” which prompted plenty of heated arguments over the merits of each technology. Sure, Flash requires a separate download, Flash has security issues, on and on… But is HTML5 robust enough to take on the king of web animation? Not yet.

Choosing The Best Technology

Instead of arguing over which technology will ultimately win the war, I’d rather focus on choosing the right one for a given project. Sure, HTML5 is new and has a long way to go before it catches up with Flash, but the future is promising thanks to aggressive developer efforts. Plus, HTML5 offers some things that Flash does not, and it is an open language – not a proprietary technology whose future is determined by a big company. So, How do you know which is right for your project?

HTML5 Compatibility

The main hurdle we face today with HTML5 is browser compatibility. Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari all have varying levels of support, while IE trails far behind. Add to that the fact that Internet Explorer does not have an aggressive upgrade approach like Firefox, which (constantly) prompts it’s users to upgrade with each new release. IE is also widely used in the corporate world, where a browser update can mean broken intranets, web applications and other related mayhem, so full compatibility is still a couple of years away at the earliest.

Breaking Down the Issues

A recent project inquiry prompted me to face the HTML5/Flash topic head on. If you take some of the big issues with each technology and break them down, you can narrow your choices down quite easily. Does the content need to display on iPad or iPhone? Use HTML5. Is SEO a concern? Use HTML5. Sure, there are some workarounds for SEO in Flash, but let’s not get too far off. Is the animation and multimedia very complex? Use Flash. Sorry HTML5 aficionados, but HTML5 just isn’t there yet. Not even close really. No doubt this will change over time, with the HTML5 language gaining traction quickly.

For Now, Use Either As Needed

Flash isn’t going away any time soon, and still reigns supreme for complex animations and interactivity…just not on iPads or iPhones! There’s always Apple’s XCode if you need a rich graphic/multimedia app for those platforms, but for the web we are ‘stuck’ with HTML5. I say pick the one that works best for the job and worry about the battle between technologies another day! I’m off to learn some more HTML5 coding…