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.