Are You Ready for the Post-Flash World?
Flash for mobile is dead. Can Flash for desktops be far behind?
That is the big question facing hundreds of thousands of websites after Adobe, maker of the most popular technology for web video and other interactive multimedia features, said earlier this month it would no longer support Flash on mobile browsers, ceding to the newer, feature-rich HTML5 technology that works – and performs better – on most mobile devices.
For years, Flash has enjoyed a monopoly that is comparable to Microsoft in the past and Google now. Just consider the following, advanced by Adobe itself but citing independent companies such as Forrester, Alexa and ComScore:
- 85% of the top 100 websites used Flash;
- 75% of web video is played on Flash players;
- 98% of PCs connected to the Internet have Flash players;
- 98% of enterprises use Flash to deliver videos;
- 70% of games are delivered using Flash
- Developer community of 3 million
Even though Flash remains near ubiquitous on PCs, web developers such as Robert Accettura give the technology a life of no more than 24-36 months. Some others such as Robert Reinhardt, founder of VideoRx.com, believe the transition to HTML5 technologies will be “slow” but “inevitable,” with the latter the operative word.
If history is any guide, technology change typically occurs more rapidly than we ever realize. In about 18 months since Apple’s Steve Jobs mounted the first serious opposition to Flash’s monopoly – refusing to include the technology in Apple’s iPad or iPhone – HTML5 has soared in popularity and emerged as a consensus technology by biggies such as Microsoft and Google. Just look at the figures below:
- 34% of the 100 most popular websites used HTML5 in the quarter ended September, according to the blog binvisions.com.
- By 2016, 2.1 billion devices will have HTML5 support, according to ABI Research Data.
- Dice.com, the tech job site, has found that resume searches for HTML5 expertise more than doubled between the first and the third quarters.
If anything, HTML5 adoption will likely accelerate, ironically because of Adobe’s abandoning Flash for mobiles.
Given the situation, what are companies and IT heads to do?
As many have pointed out, the current period is one of transition in which web developers will have to work with multiple formats. Some believe HTML5 still lacks some features such as full-screen rendering that is so exciting on a desktop or laptop, or streaming out-of-the-box. Still, many will want to progressively convert from Flash to HTML5 in order to deliver their content. Also, companies can, and should, decide when and how to manage this transition, and when to dive headlong into HTML5. These are tricky decisions critical to the enterprise but those that nevertheless need to be taken at the right time.