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HTML5 is coming, and a growing number of companies are trying to kick the Flash habit, even if on a limited basis. The latest: popular online document sharing service Scribd.

According to the startup's CTO, "We are scrapping three years of Flash development and betting the company on HTML5 because we believe HTML5 is a dramatically better reading experience than Flash."

It's a big move for the company, which hosts tens of millions of documents containing more than 100bn words in total. All of those documents are currently displayed via a Flash-based reader, but starting tomorrow, 200,000 of the most popular will be available through an HTML5 interface. Eventually all of Scribd's documents will be served up through the HTML5 interface.

One might assume that Adobe has reason to be concerned about all of the companies looking beyond Flash to HTML5. After all, Flash is a big part of the company's portfolio of web technologies.

But Adobe isn't admitting concern -- publicly at least. Instead, it's aware of the web's evolution and plans to be an integral part of the HTML5-enabled internet. At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco yesterday, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch told the audience, "We're going to try and make the best tools in the world for HTML5."

Speaking of those "who want to wall off parts of the web" and naming Apple specifically, Lynch said that "what's going on now...[is] like railroads in the 1800s. People were using different gauged rails. Your cars would literally not run on those rails. That's counter to the web."

With that in mind, Adobe appears to be focused on positioning itself as a provider of tools that make it easier for developers to build solutions that work on all of the popular internet and mobile platforms -- with a few exceptions, of course, like the iPhone.

Lynch may or may not be right about the nature of the web, but Adobe has little choice but to bet its future on extending its design and development tools to new technologies, even if it isn't the owner or creator of those technologies. That, of course, has an immediate implication: trying to find a place for Adobe's products as more and more companies get interested in HTML5. This is a good thing for the company, as Adobe's refusal to move beyond Flash would probably prove to be a costly mistake over the long haul. Obviously, it remains to be seen just how prominent a role Adobe can earn in the HTML5 universe, but by recognizing that HTML5 is going to change the game for RIAs, Adobe is choosing to try to stay relevant before the market decides for it.

This said, Adobe would probably be making a mistake if it neglects Flash too much. For all of HTML5's purported virtues and Flash's well-established disadvantages, there is still a place for Flash on the web. To be sure, there are plenty of applications which don't require Flash, and it will probably be a good thing as those applications are transitioned away.

One of the primary reasons Flash gets a bad rap is that it's often used in situations where it's not necessary, or where alternative technologies would be a better fit. But Flash is still appropriate for certain kinds of applications, and hopefully as the ratio between these and the 'bad' Flash applications becomes better aligned, it will be easier for companies and developers to move away from ideology and simply choose the right tools for the job.

Patricio Robles

Published 6 May, 2010 by Patricio Robles

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

2392 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Lorne Pike

You're right that it's good for Adobe to recognize the inevitability of change, and to embrace rather than try to slow html5's advance. Unfortunately for them, companies dominant in any market have seldom transitioned well as new technologies emerged. The railroads were better positioned than anyone to be leaders in the airline industry, as they were the only ones with advanced scheduling and transportation experience. US manufacturers could have profited rather than suffered from globalization since they had the retail channels in place and had huge branding advantages over unknown manufacturers from other countries. Newspapers and magazines were the ones who logically could have gained the most from the Internet, since they were established and respected gatherers and presenters of information and advertising. Yet in all those and countless other cases, the leaders were never able to adapt and paid a hefty price, sometimes in an astonishingly short period of time. It will be interesting to see if Adobe can fare much better.

over 6 years ago

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Hexacreative

Later, Apple will love Adobe. And the internet get more faster, because no Flash content. And the website developer and designer very happy. Adobe can reach an maximal profit for they new products. Ever After. But, a nightmare for Flash Developer or Flash Designer.

over 6 years ago

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Matthew Fabb

Those who have actually been following Adobe closely realize they haven't adandoned Dreamweaver in an attempt to push the Flash IDE. In the end they make money making tools, the better they are the more they sell. Adobe has always pushed for more and better HTML, CSS and JavaScript support in Dreamweaver. Meanwhile, they demoed a number of cool HTML5 features coming to Dreamweaver last October at their Adobe MAX conference. Also Adobe AIR 2.0 has great HTML5 support, using the same version of WebKit as used in Safari 4.

In other words, Adobe isn't doing anything new, it's just people are now paying attention because of what's happening with the whole Adobe vs Apple battle.

over 6 years ago

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Brian Swartzfager

Matthew is right: while Adobe does focus a lot of attention on Flash, they have continued to make tools like Dreamweaver that support website development with modern HTML, CSS, and JavaScript techniques.  Adobe is not "turning to HTML5"; they're already there.

over 6 years ago

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Ted Nyberg

Fact is a lot of what Flash has been used for is done better by HTML 5. Things that aren't done better by HTML 5 are instead done a lot better by Silverlight.

Flash, love to say goodbye, love to watch you leave! :)

over 6 years ago

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