The HTML5 standard is a major leap forward for HTML and for the open Internet as a whole. It integrates a number of features that developers have wanted for a long time, many of which were implemented much earlier in Adobe’s proprietary Flash standard. There is now a free and open platform for developing applications that, before HTML5, required expensive software to produce. As such, HTML5 represents a major step forward in the democratization of the medium. Embedded music and video are supported, as well as enough power to create the same kinds of games that were previously confined to Flash. This standard is also fully supported by mobile devices, including iPhone and iPad, which do not support Flash applications. For these reasons, HTML5 presents a powerful challenge to Adobe Flash, but it will probably not be enough to topple the dominant force in web application development.
The History of Adobe Flash
Adobe Flash was for many years the most flexible and powerful platform for developing interactive web content, and the go-to for anyone who wanted to make a browser game or a distinctive splash page. For this reason, the phrase “Flash game” is an instantly recognizable brand – there are also other outstanding uses for Flash in websites. When people think of games that they play in their browsers, they think of Flash because that was the only option for so long. There is not much that can stop that kind of momentum, but Google does show that usage of the search term “Flash games” has been declining from its peak search volume in 2006.
Flash in Game Development Today
Despite this decline in search volume, in 2011 Mochimedia presented a glowing report of the state of Flash game development, reporting an “increase in game traffic and revenues.” They highlight in particular the role that flash still plays in the game-development world, but also the growing importance of the mobile market: 60% of Flash developers use the platform as a springboard from which to later launch a mobile version, and fully 83% of developers either already develop for mobile or plan to within the next year.
Market Comparison for Adobe Flash and HTML5
The Adobe Flash program is a very well designed piece of software that many developers are already very familiar with, and it is still ubiquitous on desktop computers. As such, Adobe has a natural market that does not look likely to go away any time soon. HTML5, on the other hand, by its nature does not have a single core development environment, and it still lacks the level of support that comes from being controlled by a single corporation. A developer who wants as few bumps in the road as possible will still have good incentive to stay with Flash.
The Future of Flash and HTML5
Tugging developers in the other direction is the fact that Flash is still not supported on iOS devices, and Adobe has dropped support for Flash on Android devices, which remain the two most popular mobile platforms in the world. The difficulty of targeting multiple operating systems remains a problem that developers have to face, so cross-platform solutions like HTML5 and Flash are very appealing, and in that regard HTML5 has even greater reach than Flash. Given the importance of the mobile market to game developers, as highlighted in the Mochimedia report, this gives HTML5 a major boost.
HTML5 is definitely a force to be reckoned with, and a strong set of tools for any developer. Even so, Adobe Flash is entrenched enough in the developer community, and carries enough brand recognition in the wider world, that it is unlikely to fall off the map any time soon.
This article was written by Kellen Stevens for ATV Outfitters Hawaii.