October 29, 2014

Is HTML 5 Going to Replace Flash?

Whenever a new technology is introduced, the established platform points to the weaknesses of the new product in the hopes of maintaining its market share, which is the exact same thing the new player does in order to make a name for itself. The current battle going on between Flash and HTML5 has its proponents and detractors for both platforms, and depending on the audience you are trying to address, one can be noticeably better than the other.

The battle between these two platforms is primarily being carried out to determine which one provides the best video delivery service. The ubiquity of smartphones with video cameras and broadband technology has increased the need to find the best platform to deliver video. Flash has an established video delivery platform dating back to 2002, when Macromedia released the first iteration of Flash Player 6.

Since that time, the platform has continually introduced new features, which now provides Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) and RTMPe playback. This provides the security feature that allows users to stream video content and other assets to flash applications with encrypted chunks of video to the viewer so it can be played on the device. After the content has been viewed, the chunks of content are deleted so the entire file is not exposed on the viewer’s device, ensuring its protection.

Flash also enjoys browser support because it runs in a virtual machine, and no matter what browser is being used it delivers a consistent experience for the end-user.

The obvious weakness everyone points out regarding Flash is it doesn’t work on mobile. Considering the vast majority of people are now using mobile technology as their primary computing platform, not having access to this huge audience is a big hurdle for Adobe (NewsAlert) to overcome.

On the other hand HTML or Hyper Text Markup Language has been evolving since it was released by the World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C (NewsAlert) to include new technologies in subsequent releases of the platform. With HTML5, developers are now able to add video directly to the webpage without a third party plug-in, such as Flash.

When Flash ended mobile support in 2011, HTML5 started experiencing wider adoption as the number of smartphones continued to increase.

One of the greatest benefits of HTML5 over its competitor is mobile availability, and with close to 80 percent of browsers now supporting the platform, video content can be viewed by individuals without having to worry about compatibility issues or downloading a plug-in.

The challenges HTML5 faces is the remaining 20 percent of browsers that don’t support the platform and the limited protection it provides for securing video delivery. Because video files are transferred to the viewer’s device openly, it can be intercepted. This presents a problem for content creators who are trying to protect their assets, and organizations have been lobbying to include a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system in HTML5.

The strengths and weaknesses of Flash and HTML5 have to be weighed based on what you are trying to accomplish with your content. If it is mobile, then HTML5 is the clear winner, but Flash may be the best option for desktops at the moment. As HTML5 continues to develop further, the need to have two different platforms will be pointless and expensive, which could be the beginning of the end for Flash.

Edited by Maurice Nagle


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