Flash vs. HTML5 Part 2

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The first half of our discussion highlighted the key benefits and drawbacks of deploying Flash or HTML5 in your application. The following  will help you to compare Flash and HTML side by side in areas including product performance, current usership levels, compatibility with different platforms, etc. exploring some of the more granular aspects of utilizing Flash and HTML5.

1. Current Availability

Flash has been in existence since 1996, giving it a strong base of developers and users in terms of preference and familiarity. HTML5 is weak in usership by comparison due in part, to the fact that it wasn’t even launched as a beta version until 2003, and didn’t undergo a GA release until 2011, more than a decade after Flash.

Another large proponent to HTML5’s weakness in terms of usership is that for Internet Explorer loyalists, HTML5 can only be read on IE9 (the most current version). This alone excludes nearly 57% of IE users from the HTML5 ecosystem and 100% of Windows XP users, since the functionality to install IE 9 within XP doesn’t exist.

2. Website/Application Adoption
Though Adobe appears to be the clear winner in this category, with 85% of the most visited websites using Flash, 75% of video being viewed with the Adobe Flash Player, and 98% of enterprises relying on the Flash Player, HTML5 still has a fighting chance in terms of Website/Application adoption because it is infiltrating many of the Internet’s most popular sites, particularly those that are video based. HTML5 is now used in familiar sites like YouTube, Vimeo, blip.tv and many more.

3. Performance
Right now, HTML5 is the clear winner in terms of performance. Failing Flash performance has been a major problem with the technology for many years, due to its 100% CPU utilization and high memory occupation. Additionally, Adobe does not provide GPU assisted rendering before Flash Version 10.1.

4. Authoring and Developing
Authoring and Developing is a particularly interesting area of the argument between Flash and HTML5. Generally speaking, developing a Flash based application is relatively simpler than it is with integrated development environments from HTML5, a CSS, HTML and JavaScript combination. But if your project boils down to cost and not complexity of coding, HTML5 is the way to go. Currently, Adobe does not offer a free tool for Flash development, and its tools are often quite pricey, especially for the individual developer, making HTML5 a clear choice.

However, a combination of the two is also an alternative for this category. In its last release, Adobe launched its first Flash to HTML5 conversion tool (workable in limited scenarios) where both Flash and HTML5 can be rendered by writing code just once.

5. Features
Though Flash and HTML5 have very similar functionality, Flash currently has three features that are working slightly “better” than those in  HTML5. Sub-pixel measurement with Flash enables a crisper and generally more pleasant user experience. Additionally, Flash supports both web camera and DRM (Digital Right Management) while HTML5 does not.

6. Apple and Flash
At present, Apple products do not support Flash functionality. Apple cites performance as the main reason for disallowing the Flash runtime to be installed on iOS and has been promoting HTML5 as an alternative to Flash for video and other content on popular devices like the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Because of this, HTML5 becomes the more appropriate choice if browser/Apple platform support is a major concern. However, if you find yourself absolutely needing to use Flash and Apple, there is a somewhat complicated loophole in place that allows you to compile your content as a native iOS application through the Adobe iOS packager in Flash CSS Professional.

As you can see, deciding whether or not Flash or HTML5 is best for you is dependent on an abundance of factors even beyond the ones mentioned above. Constraints on budget, developer resources, features, or platform compatibility can all play a role in determining which will ultimately be the right  fit. Additionally, you may also find yourself unwilling to yield any of these features making a combination of the two technologies the most appropriate choice. Whatever your situation, Flash or HTML5 is sure to play a role in your current or future application development and by comparing their features side-by-side you are better equipped to make a decision that will best benefit your application.

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