What Else Does HTML5 Need to Defeat Flash? (Part 2)

In part 1 of this article, we analyzed the technical problems facing HTML5. In part 2, we’re going to discuss the problems facing HTML5 commercially.


Microsoft, Google and Apple are clearky the 3 giants of the industry at the moment, and it’s really hard to unify them under a single standard.

“Go, go, go! Fire in the hole!” As Apple declares war on Flash, Microsoft seems willing to watch the fire from the other side of the river. As for Google, it supports HTML5 on the one hand, while on the other it also adds support for Flash in Android. Adobe must find a way to take advantage of the conflict between the giants. The future of HTML5 is at stake.

Let’s suppose that even Adobe is not able to do that. The fighting between the 3 giants would probably ruin the future of HTML5. The famous case of OpenGL is the best example. The initial member of this standard was All-Star Games, but the development and spread was far less rapid than Direct3D due to the endless quarrels around profits. The market is almost entirely taken by opponents, and its application restricted in professional areas.

User acceptance:

No matter how attractive the market promotion is, user acceptance is the final exam standard. At present, HTML5 is not looking like it’s going to be able to bring fundamental change to the desktop in a short period of time, and so there’s a need for a a coexistent relationship with Flash.

The reason for this is that the user doesn’t care about the technology. What they care for is the effect. There is still a long way to go for HTML5 before it reaches the level of effects realized by Flash, and this restricts the willingness of small websites to use canvas. If canvas can’t be popularized then HTML5 is losing a major battle. If the coding problem of video tags can’t be solved, there simply won’t be any way to compete with Flash.


Google, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe are playing cards. Adobe is the banker, and has the best cards. On one hand, the other three want to pull him out of that position. On the other, they don’t want to cooperate with each other. So while establishing an ambiguous relationship with Adobe, Google also has its own plan.

In this game, Adobe dominates the current situation. It seems impossible for HTML5 to take Adobe’s place, because Flash has already taken the ruling position in the traditional desktop market. Even though Flash isn’t perfect, it’s not broken enough to need a replacement. The truth is that the traditional desktop is challenged by new power. There is to be a coexistent period of time between Flash and HTML5 during which the two compete. Adobe has the weapons of Photoshop, Dreamweaver and Fireworks. Webpages cannot be developed without Photoshop, even for the HTML5 webpage. Dreamweaver is the current No.1 choice and canvas applications can be developed usinf Flash CS5.

Flash Player cannot bring direct profit to Adobe, but it symbolizes the standard of the rich media application market. The editor developing Flash is seeing real income. Let’s suppose that in the HTML5 era, the developers still have to choose Adobe products to develop canvas based web interaction. Why then would we need Flash Player? For Adobe, it saves the cost of maintaining a complicated system.

As for Microsoft, it’s a difficult situation. They have the IE card, but they aren’t sure whether it’s a trump card or not. The reason being that IE6 takes a large amount of the market, but the new versions of IE have to compete with former versions. They also have the card of SilverLight, which has a competitive relationship with Flash and HTML5. Support of HTML5 could have a negative effect on SilverLights popularization. Therefore, Microsoft would rather not fully support HTML5. Instead, it will be treated as a supplement of SilverLight.

Apple however has a great plan. They have decided to begin at the mobile platform level, and gradually move to desktop. iPhone is the first successful step. The existence of iPhone proves that Flash is unnecessary in the smart mobile industry. As a matter of fact, the Flash experience in this field is pretty terrible. However, the most important step is iPad. The iPad is almost similar to ordinary computers both in screen size and operation experience. If tablet PCs prove to be comfortable independent of Flash, then why shouldn’t the ordinary PC? If the user gets used to the non-Flash experience of tablet PCs, there’s no hope for Flash anymore. Since iPad came into being, the controversy between Apple and Adobe has escalated, proving the important role of tablet PCs in this battle.

However, is Apple going to realize its dream easily? Apple products perform really well in sales, but aren’t as popular as Microsoft products. The reason being that its culture provides the high-level experience of taste and quality, and that high level experience means a higher price.

Globally speaking, we have developed countries, developing countries and undeveloped countries, where most are without the money to buy Apple products. The people simply can’t pay for the increased quality.

So here comes the question: Is there a company capable of providing a similar experience? What about Microsoft? The answer is no. The reason is that Microsoft provides the service to all people. Its products need to be universal, consistent and not overly expensive. So Microsoft is not motivated to change user experience. They have tried to bring change in Vista, but the result was that XP users got confused and angry.

Maybe, Apple didn’t plan to make iPhones universal at the very beginning. Perhaps focusing on top of the pyramid will guarantee enough income, so does the iPad. It’s not popular enough to challenge the traditional desktop. Users can experience cheaper tablet PCs from other companies, and those tablet PCs will probably support Flash. If things happen in that way, Apple’s plan may end in failure.

As for Google, the result of the war is not too important. As long as users continue using webpages, they doesn’t care whether the web pages are HTML5 or Flash. This doesn’t mean Google is irrelevant though. On the contrary, they are the key factor in this war. Except for YouTube, Google seldom use Flash in their products. Although Flash is functional, it’s not an open product; so Google cannot decide its development direction. An open standard is easier to control for them. Nowadays, the rapid development of Chrome increases Google’s power in HTML5 establishment, but it doesn’t mean they’ll give up on Flash.

Flash is an important tool for Google to restrain Apple. It’s the chip with which Android challenges the iPhone. Last year, Google and Adobe collaborated to put Flash Player plug-ins inside the sandbox within Chrome, which promoted the performance of Flash on safety and resource cost.


From the above analysis, we can conclude that Flash still controls the market of internet rich media. Its fate in mobile platform will be entirely determined by Google’s attitude.

As for HTML5, there will probably be a rapid development that makes it relatively popular in the next 1 to 3 years. It won’t take the place of Flash though. Instead, they’ll be coexistent for a period of time. Considering of the conflicts among the giants, there isn’t much hope for HTML5. It took so long for browsers to accept the current standard, and it’s going to take a much longer time for them to accept new ones. In this transitional era of Flash to HTML5, there is still a long way to go.


  • Windows 8 won’t allow any plugins including Flash or Silverlight…

    In my opinion Flash officially died when Google decided to end the Maps API for Flash by 2014.

    Flash is better in every category except not being on as you mentioned, the tablet. And probably the next generation TV’s.

    But this whole debate is stupid. I’m still making two versions of a website despite whatever technology I use because a 480×320 screens are not the same as 1024×720. And with the different types of browsers and operating systems we need a ubiquitous solution for websites on desktops….which is why Flash was being used in the first place!

    So wtf. We should have had a choice.

    Your conclusion is wrong in my opinion.  Google doesn’t make this decision, Microsoft does with Windows 8 and so the deal is done.

    Have you seen a HTML5 website on iOS5 with a full video background and AJAX interface on an iPad 2?

    Game over.

    Flash will always be king in my book, I hope it makes a come back years down the road through open source.

    What better way to learn object oriented programming than with a tool that you can actually draw an object and animate with in a timeline.

    Yah way to to go Apple, you  killed the best thing the web had going for it.

  • room34

    I’ve been heavily biased against Flash since at least 2001, so filter what I say through that, but I just don’t see Flash having much of a future beyond online games. I hardly ever encounter Flash online anymore, except, annoyingly, on YouTube. I have Flash removed from my Safari and Firefox plugins, keeping Chrome around as a backup for those rare occasions when I absolutely need to look at something that’s running in Flash. (Again, usually just YouTube videos.)

    In my work these days, no one wants Flash. (What a relief!) That it doesn’t work on the iPhone, and especially on the iPad, seems to be the tipping point. Sure, right now HTML5 can’t do everything Flash can do, but among my clients, at least, no one really wants to do those things anyway.

  • Lupusellobo

    This is all nonsense. Flash player is going open source, ie6 is no longer a big player on the market. Microsoft stoped developing silverlight.

    But above all I feel insulted by this line “….and undeveloped countries, where most are without the money to buy Apple products. The people simply can’t pay for the increased quality.”

    I live in Colombia, we are third world country but we are far from living in a hut in the middle of the jungle.

    This post sucks big time!

  • Leonard

    I’ve always liked Flash, It was the IDE that did it. The IDE was amazing. 
    It provided a great t for visual artists (for a long time, I preferred the simple vector graphic tools in Flash, to the likes of Adobe Illustrator), and ActionScript  1.0 (remember that?) offered decent API for the production of simple interactive animations and GUI’s.It certainly beat learning Java AWT / Swing…But now ActionScript 3 (which I haven’t studied in much depth) has overcomplicated things… Almost all of Adobe’s current ‘success’ with Flash can be attributed to Macromedia’s creation of the .flv format and ActionScript 2.Adobe’s decision to change the language from a loose dialect of JavaScript to an esoteric, strongly typed, class based language (I think) has ruined the good work that Macromedia once did in introducing visual artists to programming and making an industry for that cross over of skills.I would argue, that you’re now better off learning Java over ActionScript 3 given the effort needed. Learning Java would certainly give you more options (full control over memory management, greater control over app performance… just about everything you’ll never get from Flash)…I’ll admit to being flippant though.As much as I like the HTML 5 standard (Canvas, SVG, etc), working on an HTML 5 project is nothing like working on a Flash 8… I would say though, that there’d be a great opportunity for a software company to produce a HTML 5 IDE that leverage’s the ideas and theories that Macromedia once put into practice.

    But for that to happen, the web browser vendors need to agree on a standard. :P

  • i think you have a good point of view of the entire problem, but your conclusion i can not agree, adobe wipe out the support for mobile (adobe, not google), they know it’s a lose battle, and the mobile market will be the dominant in a few years
    i dont hate flash, but i think is overused, and the most important, me and all the world want to see webpages on every devices, whit this in mind, adobe lose a big battle

  • Derek

    > Windows 8 won’t allow any plugins including Flash or Silverlight…Not exactly, only in Metro. And IE just have 20% of browser stake.

  • Bobssmoking

    Trust me Flash will be gone when Adobe kills it and does a similer tool for HTML 5. The writing is on the wall

  • Abavisg

    Thank god I am not working with people like you (and you clients). You sound pretty boring.
    Only by stating in the beginning that you are heavily biased against a technology for 10 years and when this technology dominates the web for the last 10 years and more makes me not want to skip the rest of your post.
    I bet in 2001 you were saying: “I am heavily biased against Flash for a couple of years now so filter what I say through that, but I don’t see Flash having much of a future…”