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Will HTML5 Replace Flash? Not Just Yet

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Adobe has launched an HTML5 tool – but there are still plenty of reasons why Flash will continue, says Peter Judge

Now Adobe has begun to offer a non-Flash tool called Edge which uses HTML5, you might think the writing is on the wall for the Adobe web content format which has served us for so long. But there is probably a lot of life left in it for several reasons.

Flash has been the default option for animated content on the web for a long while, and when Apple declined to support it in its products, it caused shock, outrage and ridicule. Who would use the iPad, people asked? If it couldn’t do Flash, it would be useless.

Steve Jobs pronounced Flash dead, and refused to allow it on iPads and iMacs, arguing that HTML5 was a true standard, while Flash was proprietary.  Adobe threatened to sue Apple.

What a difference a year makes

Adobe supports HTML5 with Edge

One year on, things look different. Many sites have rolled out HTML5 versions – the incentive of the massively growing iPad market made sure of that.

The most significant of course, is Google’s Youtube, and Google delivered Swiffy, a tool to convert Flash to HTML5.These days, you don’t often hear of iPad users frustrated at their inability to view Flash sites.

Adobe’s decision to offer HTML5 tools is not the end however – the company definitely sees the two technologies existing in parallel for a long time. And there are good reasons why site owners – and viewers – might want to slow the process down.

Firstly, some users might prefer to stick with Flash because it is well understood. Services that block adverts often simply block Flash from playing without a user request – this sort of ad-blocking will become harder with HTML5.

That might lead one to suppose that site owners would move to HTML5 as quick as possible – but there are drawbacks for them.

With the current onslaught from Lulzsec and Anonymous, security is to the fore, and HTML5, as a new technology may introduce new risks. This has been known about for more than a year, but this week the European cyber security agency ENISA issued a specific warning about HTML5 and other new web technologies.

Introducing a new web technology now is a complex matter, since the web is increasingly hedged in with regulations such as the European cookie law. We’ll look in more detail at how HTML5 handles that in future.

But for now, don’t expect Flash to disappear in a puff of smoke.