What Flash versus HTML5 is really about…

Surely you’ve heard the whole ruckus about Flash versus HTML5, Apple versus Adobe, and the Conan vs Leno thing now, right?  Well, before we all get too caught up in these heated debates, let’s take a step back and think about what is really going on here…

For photographers, the Flash versus HTML5 debate that has been raging between Adobe and Apple for several weeks now really doesn’t matter a lot.  Have you noticed that?  Photographers really don’t care.  By and large photographers are mostly interested in seeing where things go because it will define how they push their content (photos , audio, and now video) to their desired audience.  For a photographer it’s all about how to get their content to their destination audience.

You know who else doesn’t care?  The intended audience doesn’t really care either.  I am talking here about the typical average consumer.: John and Jane Doe.   The average consumer is really only interested in getting whatever content they need from a website before moving on.  People will take the content from websites and move on to any one of a number of actions, ranging from purchasing a product, to visiting another website, or where ever else their interests take them.

So then what is all this fuss and hubbub about Flash and HTML5, Adobe, Apple, and Google (where’s Microsoft in all this by the way)?  What this is really about is that Apple and Adobe both want to be the delivery mechanism for our content.  While we don’t necessarily care about how our content gets out there, we creators of content just want to get it out there.  Consumers of content only really care about receipt of said content.

While the delivery mechanism is relevant to the discussion because as a creator I want to be able to deliver content to my audience easily and conveniently, and the delivery mechanism should be (in my opinion) easy to use,  without a high learning curve, and efficient with my time.  It shouldn’t take me 3 hours to write text into a blog post (nor does it).  Equally, it shouldn’t take me 3 hours to run images through my favorite photo editor and publish to the web (and it doesn’t there either).  The same holds true for audio and video – there is always a way.  So if you take a larger scale view of the entire scene,  the delivery mechanism is very relevant, but we’ve still not hit the true  source of the problem now , have we?

Taking it a step further, an argument could be made that it really depends on where my destination audience is reading or consuming that content:  is it their laptop, their desktop, their smart phone, or some other device?  The destination of content is really where the delivery factor comes into play.  With all these outlets available, is there really one tool that can deliver to all of them?  Let’s be realistic – no, there isn’t!

If I am delivering a blog post to a computer for someone to read, there’s lots of additional content I can supplement that with.  You can see that from the Audioboo content, affiliate referrals, archived posts, podcasts, and much more.  You see, I don’t need the entire screen to get textual content delivered to you, so with the extra real estate, I can provide other supporting content.  However, the primary purpose here is to deliver that text content…so when the screen drops in size exponentially, I have to reconsider how much content is pushed out.  Since the types are now reduced, it only makes sense that the vehicle for delivery should adjust somewhat.  In WordPress, a plugin called WPTouch does the job nicely.

So, for me it’s not about the delivery mechanism as much as it is about the content…I see the delivery mechanism as a secondary player in the larger arena.  Primarily there are creators and consumers, with the output in between.  The output can vary widely from the internet to brick and mortar vendors like bookstores, movie theaters, and the like.  Online options are also widely extensive ranging from computers to laptops, netbooks, smart phones, and other devices.  Each device will have it’s own mechanism by which it receives output.  Here’s how the process really lays out from my perspective (click the image to get a larger version via PDF):

Content Lifecycle

The stakes for these companies is why it’s in such a fervor.  Because whoever “wins” here will have a dominant position in the marketplace to promote their vehicle over the other ones.  But if you look at their role in the entire life-cycle of content creation through delivery, it’s a secondary role at best.  However for the companies involved, it’s all about the business model.  Do you honestly think for one minute that Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, and other capitalist entities care about open-sourced communities?  No – their bottom line is profit-margins, and each has different views of the future of the web, where either one or the other has a larger capital stake in the delivery of content.  Sure, they may dance around the ideas of HTML5 (hey look over there, we support that), or DNG (hey look over there, we developed that and gave it to the world for free), the larger purpose is to get consumers with disposable income to travel through their conduits to the web where commerce is at play.

Disposable income in the commercial ventures of the internet – hmmm…sounds like there’s money to be made!

Oh yeah, and the Conan versus Leno thing…what’s up with all that? 🙂

I know there’s other opinions and thoughts out there, so feel free to sound off in the comments or via email – I’d love to hear what others are thinking on the Flash/HTML5/Conan/Leno debates (well, more the former than the latter).  Have a great day everyone and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

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16 comments for “What Flash versus HTML5 is really about…

  1. May 13, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I disagree. Flash or HTML5 is what will DEFINE the USER EXPERIENCE for a viewer. Take, for example, a very nice Flash based web portfolio and compare that to displaying your images on Flickr, a HTML / CSS based website, a JQuery enhanced website, etc. Yes, all of these things are delivery mechanisms at their core. But you cannot ignore the user experience factor. It is the user experience factor that has boosted sales of OSX and kept the iPod Touch / iPhone at the top of the market for a long time. Without a good user experience, people will not want it no matter how great the content itself is. This has been shown throughout the software world countless times. No matter how great it is, if it looks like crap or is hard to use, no one will use it.
    .-= Terry Reinert´s last blog ..Chicago Skyline at Night =-.

  2. May 13, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Hey now Terry, you can’t disagree, that’s not how this works. I am supposed to have all the answers and provide illuminating insights that no one else had thought of! LOL 🙂

    Just kidding (of course), and I do see your point about user experience – that’s definitely a factor that’s not to be ignored, and perhaps I was a little round about in my verbiage, but the point I was trying to make is that users will expect difference experiences based on how they are viewing content. I certainly would not expect the experience of enjoying content on my Droid to completely mimic that of my desktop or that of a movie theater, or that of a physical book. The upshot is that as content creators, we need to consider our output before committing to a delivery mechanism.

    • May 14, 2010 at 6:14 pm

      That is a very good point to make. I agree with that part. But I think that a very large percentage of people don’t understand that they are even having a user experience. The internet is still a magical mystery to a whole lot of people and it will remain that way for a long long time. It is more of a subconscious experience for them rather than something they pay attention too like power users, IT gurus, engineers, and designers do.

      Personally, I would like the same user experience across all devices. One account that is stored in the cloud that I can access from any device anywhere on (or off) the planet. The same GUI and interface and ability across all devices. Complete data unity. That would be awesome… just highly unlikely in my life time.
      .-= Terry Reinert´s last blog ..STS-132 : Space Shuttle Atlantis =-.

  3. Rex Kersley
    May 13, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Anything that presents the content is fine for me. At this stage, I just can’t stand Flash. Not because it is Flash, but Flash sites take soooooooo long to load. I just can’t be bothered to wait for a Flash page to load. So unless I have some prior knowledge of what I am going to see and I think it might be interesting, I simply go elsewhere.


    • May 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm

      When Flash takes too long, I leave too, but that also tells me that the site owner (or content admin) is not very fluent with the technology, because when properly created, Flash can be very fast (even faster than HTML5 in many cases: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/does_html5_really_beat_flash_surprising_results_of_new_tests.php)

    • May 14, 2010 at 6:16 pm

      Don’t blame that on the Flash technology. That is 100% the fault of developers. Flash is a modular technology that allows developers to break up their designs into small fast modules and load them on the fly as users perform actions that require them. But many designers (the ones who *think* they are developers) create one massive SWF that takes forever to load.

      Poor performance is NOT the fault of the Flash platform… it is on the people who are making the Flash products.
      .-= Terry Reinert´s last blog ..STS-132 : Space Shuttle Atlantis =-.

  4. Rex Kersley
    May 13, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks Jason,
    Interesting, but those tests relate to CPU utilisation. I think my problem is bandwidth. The Flash files are too large to download quickly.


    • May 14, 2010 at 7:17 am

      If that’s the case then the author is taking their video and converting it odd. I have ten minute flash audio that starts playing shortly after a little buffer time. I think it has to do with swf versus flv formats. There’s other ways to optimize flash for quicker playback too.

      Another element to consider about the Adobe versus Apple debate is that Adobe figured out a way to make Flash not as resource intensive by having hardware handle it differently, but Apple has resisted giving them access to the hardware for testing, so that’s why Flash doesn’t work on Apple products…yet.

      It’s Apple, not Adobe! 🙂

      • May 14, 2010 at 6:19 pm

        The developers should also make their Flash solutions modular so that each part loads as needed in the background and doesn’t slow down the overall system.
        .-= Terry Reinert´s last blog ..STS-132 : Space Shuttle Atlantis =-.

  5. Mike Caine
    May 14, 2010 at 8:35 am

    What Microsoft, or one of its employees, says is here


    Note the “Flash does have some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance.”

    • May 14, 2010 at 12:41 pm

      Hey Mike, thanks for the link to the article – very interesting…

      The writer is Dean Hachamovitch and he is the General Manager for Internet Explorer. While he does note that Flash does have some issues, he goes on to note that “Despite these issues, Flash remains an important part of delivering a good consumer experience on today’s web.”

      Having said that, it is further interesting to note that both Apple and Microsoft are in favor of the HTML5 and H.264 standard working to get their future browsers compliant with said technology…

      • Mike Caine
        May 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm

        Reliability, security, and performance. They’re pretty big issues to have on any computer or phone though. I know my Mac desktop and laptop run a lot happier with flash blocked.

        After reading the likes of http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/03/01/security-expert-flash-is-horrible/ I’m tempted to block or remove it from my work PCs as well

        • May 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm

          Its interesting because I’ve been running Flash on PC and Mac for many years… and never once had any instability or security issues because of it. Not once that I can remember and I have an extremely good memory.

          In all my experience integrating software together as a software engineer, and I am sure Jason can back this up as an IT guy, the problem is usually not with a single software application. It is when you have multiple software applications running together that problems arise. Just because someone can exploit a Flash application by using a flaw in IE to gain higher access to that Flash content does not mean that Flash is the technology with the problem. Also, if a developer is really just an idiot who knows how to program a little bit and leaves gaping holes in his application that is on him or her and not on the Flash technology.

          And therein lies the problem… you have people with no professional education or a graphics design AA degree running around making absolutely BEAUTIFUL web applications but with the absolute WORST back end code to go with it. But the application looks so beautiful so the person is obviously good at programming right? Very wrong.

          If the world would hire the right people for the job then there would not be nearly as many problems with security. But while you have people trying to save a buck and go with the cheap guy… well… it will cost them a whole lot more in the long run.
          .-= Terry Reinert´s last blog ..STS-132 : Space Shuttle Atlantis =-.

          • Mike Caine
            May 15, 2010 at 2:12 am

            I know when I used to go to http://www.macdailynews.com/ and pop open half a dozen news stories, each in their own tab, I’d frequently have to wait and wait and eventually I’d get an error message re Flash which I could then click on cancel and then read the site pages. I’ve not seen it since I blocked Flash.

    • May 14, 2010 at 6:20 pm

      Wow! A Microsoft employee having the gall to talk about another technology having security issues? Especially one that is high up in the IE food chain…. HA!! Too funny.
      .-= Terry Reinert´s last blog ..STS-132 : Space Shuttle Atlantis =-.

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