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Little more than a decade ago, you were hot stuff if you called yourself an "HTML programmer". HTML as a markup language is great at what it was designed to do but today's web is about rich internet applications.

RIA technologies such as Flash, Silverlight and JavaFX do what HTML can't. But HTML 5 could change that and lately, this has some asking the question: could HTML 5 make RIA technologies like Flash obsolete?

In answering that question, the first thing to note is that HTML 5 isn't here. The HTML 5 proposal was released by the W3C in 2008 and as usual, any process related to internet standards takes a while. And getting major software vendors to agree on anything related to standards is like herding cats.

But when it's ready HTML 5 will encroach upon the domain of RIAs. And that's not accidental; one of the co-editors of the proposed HTML 5 spec has basically admitted as much.

So should companies that offer RIA technologies, like Adobe, be worried? And should Flash developers thinking about a new profession? On his company blog, John Dowdell of Adobe gives his take. The long and short of it:

...this whole "HTML5" campaign will likely benefit Flash, because few remain who oppose the idea that "experience matters". Things are quite a bit different than five years ago. Silverlight's launch helped boost the popularity of Flash... iPhone helped to radically increase the number of phones with Flash support... the "HTML5" publicity helps marginalize those few who still argue that images, animation, audio/video and rich interactivity have no place on the web. Flash will be able to deliver on those heightened expectations, regardless of what each separate browser engine does.

He has a point.

Personally, while it's hard to say what impact HTML 5 may have on the futures of technologies like Silverlight and JavaFX, I don't think Adobe and Flash developers have much to worry about. Flash is pretty much ubiquitous, has been implemented widely by many users in many markets and doesn't suffer from the messy dynamics of web standards. Even if HTML 5 delivers what we're being told it will and there's reasonably consistent implementation across browsers, I wouldn't expect companies and developers to abandon Flash. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

That said, it will be nice to see what comes of HTML 5. So let's plan to check back in 5-10 years from now.

Photo credit: Noah Sussman via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 June, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (3)



HTML5 could get a big boost with smartphones, if the performance for video, etc. is better than Flash/Silverlight/JavaFX. Better performance translates to longer battery life, which is a important consideration for mobile devices.

over 7 years ago



If html5 is developed with a plug-in option then it won't be held back by any one browser holdout. So if firefox / chrome bake the standard into their browser and ie / safari don't users could just add the html5 plug-in to those other browsers. Thereby having the same user experience across all platforms as java does now. This should also speed up adoption significantly.

Just an idea.

over 7 years ago



A great deal of work has been created in Flash by creative multimedia artists -- masterpieces -- and good money paid by business clients (small and corporate). Given today's global economy, the idea that flash could become obsolete is ludicrous -- and  counter productive to most business interest.

Really, who can afford to redo all of this great work done in flash? And for what? Did i hear someone say, "it if aint broke, don't fix it"? That would be wasteful. Don't you think? Entire websites were developed in flash, advertisements, presentations... Video's...

I don't know about Apple, but most businesses today are suffering from budget cuts. I know mine is. Now is not a good time to worry about or consider scrapping billions in total dollars of work -- because of incompatible technology?

SHOULD NOT THE IDEA OF TECHNOLOGY BE TO ADVANCE SOCIETY --  NOT SET US BACK? If so, more homework must be done so that it is more compatible and truly a success.

about 6 years ago

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