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Nowadays, it seems that there is an ongoing battle between two different technologies, Flash and HTML5.  In order to better understand why there is a “conflict” between the two, we shall first see what defines each one of them and in the end, the differences between them.

In one corner we have Adobe Flash which is a multimedia platform that allows the addition of animation, video and interactivity to a website. Flash is mostly used for games, advertisements and flash animations. This technology uses vector and raster graphics to provide animation of text, drawings and still images. It supports interactivity from the user and since it is a bi-directional channel, it can capture input from keyboards, mouse, microphone, cameras or even touch sensing devices. In order to display Flash content on a computer or other device, the user must install a plugin, the Adobe Flash Player. Without this plugin, viewing Flash content is not possible.

In the other corner we have HTML5. HTML5 is a markup language, very important for structuring and presenting content for the World Wide Web. Originally, HTML was created in 1990 and standardized in 1997, this being the 5th revision of the standard. HTML5 is not something that you have to install on your computer, no additional software is required, but it is the web browser’s job to display correctly HTML5 content.

Now that we have an idea about these two technologies, let’s see what makes them different. HTML5 can be used as an alternative to the Flash Player. Both include features for playing audio and video within web pages and both support vector graphics. However, a common misconception is that HTML5 can provide animation and interactivity in web pages, which is not true. To animate HTML elements JavaScript can be used.

So is one better than the other? From the website adoption point of view, Flash is a clear winner.  This technology has been around for many years (firstly introduced in 1996), while HTML5 has started to become more popular only in 2011, when browsers such as Internet Explore, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera started to implement HTML5 in a large degree. Adobe claims that currently, 85% of the most visited web pages use Flash, 75% of videos are viewed using the Flash Player and 70% of games are made in Flash. Is this enough to say that Flash is better? Well, it is not. Recently, some of the most important video sites, including YouTube, Vimeo and blip.tv have started to offer support for HTML5 video. Since these are some of the most accessed websites around, it means that there might be a promising future for HTML5.

One of the biggest complaints regarding Flash is performance. Some users, especially Mac OS X and Linux users have complained of high CPU usage when Flash content was being displayed. Most of these problems have been solved with ActionScript 3.0, which improves the code execution by a factor of 10, but in most cases HTML5 is still considered to be faster. Another important problem with Flash is that there is very little support for mobile devices. Most tablets and smartphones have no support for Flash, or if it exists, it decreases the performance of the device. Since all our work tends to become more and more mobile, it might be a good idea to develop technologies that run perfectly of any device.

Another important topic is the gaming industry. Which technology is the most used? There is no doubt about the fact that currently, Flash is considered to be “king” compared to HTML5 when it comes to the development of games. An interesting figure about the gaming industry can be seen below:

To conclude, can we say that we have a clear winner? For now, Flash is still the dominating technology, but HTML5 is becoming better and better every day and more and more companies are starting to adopt it. Facebook has built a new HTML5 research center, Google is using HTML5 to build their new Gmail platform, and Apple fully supports only HTML5 and not Adobe Flash. If HTML5 continues to gain browser support and have the compatibility that Flash currently has it will become more popular in the future, but if Flash continues to innovate, they will still have a market.

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