May 20, 2014

HTML5 Video Will Conquer Flash

As anyone with an iPad knows, we’re currently in a transitional phase for multimedia where half the content is presented in Flash, half in HTML5. But make no mistake: HTML5 is the future.

Like so many technologies, it took Apple (News Alert) to crown HTML5. It was a serious question whether HTML5 would find widespread adoption as a multimedia technology, back when Apple announced it would not support Flash on its iOS devices. The clock began ticking for Flash when Apple made the move, however, since content producers couldn’t just ignore Apple’s mobile platform.

Now it is common for there to be an HTML5 version of most content presented in Flash, a workaround where content producers can give the full experience if a viewer has Flash, and a lighter version if they instead lean on HTML5.

HTML5 has more to offer than just being the gateway to Apple devices, however. While Apple’s refusal to allow Flash on iOS gave HTML5 the critical mass, it is the extra flexibility of the technology that ultimately will propel it.

With Flash, the beauty is control. From a content creator perspective, there’s complete assurance that Flash will look and act as desired because Adobe (NewsAlert) controls the Flash player specifications and can ensure that Flash multimedia looks like Flash multimedia no matter where it is viewed. This is a good thing for any serious content creator!

But Flash also is a black box, and also it only is available on devices where there is a plugin for Flash. While content creators have control over the look and operation of Flash multimedia, they have less ability to dramatically change the behavior of their multimedia based on real-time variables.

That’s where HTML5 becomes more than just the multimedia experience that plays on iOS. HTML5 has much greater ability to dynamically adjust according to real-time variables such as the location of the viewer, the platform (a mobile version on an iOS, for instance, and a full version for an iMac), or even include profile data if the user is logged into a web site. It is far more adaptable than Flash in terms of dynamic alteration.

HTML5 also is compatible with any device that has a built-in web browser, bringing the widest range of availability. For the serious multimedia content creator, availability and flexibility are quite compelling.

Uniformity is not, though, which is why Flash still exists side by side with HTML5. Not all browsers support HTML5 currently, even if they could. And not all implementations of HTML5 currently are the same, limiting the range of the possible to the lowest common denominator currently.

Then there’s the sticky issue of digital rights management. Firms such as Netflix cannot use HTML5 for content delivery because there currently is no way to protect content from piracy. This is a big problem.

But digital rights management will come to HTML5, and within the next couple years most devices will get on board. The issue of gradual adoption is something the web developer community has seen before, as there also was a time when the web could be styled in theory with cascading style sheets but most browsers didn’t support it in practice. Eventually the world caught up with the technology, and the ability of content creators to more highly style their sites is part of why cloud services have exploded in recent years.

The same will happen with HTML5’s multimedia capabilities. Flash is dead, but it is not buried quite yet. 



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