UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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It’s Now Probably Time To Ditch Flash

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 Jun 2010

From 2001-2005 UKOLN and the AHDS provided the Technical Advisory Service for the NOF-digitise programme.  Our initial task was to summarise the open standards which funded projects should be using in order to ensure interoperability and  to support the long-term preservation of the digitised resources.

The technical standards (which are no longer available on the People’s Network Web site) provided information on various open standards including standards which had been developed by the W3C, including SMIL and SVG.  However, as I’ve described previously, these standards failed to achieve significant acceptance in the market place and so, in order to ensure that the projects could deliver engaging services, the requirement to make use of open standards was relaxed, with such proprietary formats being acceptable provided documentation was provided on the reasons for the use  of proprietary solutions.

That was the position around 2001-2002. But now, as we’ve heard in a TechCrunch post on Scribd’s Decision To Dump Flash Pays Off, User Engagement Triples, there is a growing believe that Flash is on its way out with HTML5 providing a more effective standards-based solution.

You may think that the lesson is that open standards are better than proprietary ones – but I would suggest that this example shows the danger of mandating use of open standards at too early a stage and that alternative open standards may eventually emerge as winners.

The difficulty will be in learning from such lessons and avoiding requiring use of open standards if this will eventually be seen to be a mistaken decision.  Perhaps the lesson from the open alternatives to Flash is that it can take over 5 years before such alternatives are mature enough for wide-scale deployment?

3 Responses to “It’s Now Probably Time To Ditch Flash”

  1. I agree Flash is on its way out, and it’s time to think beyond it. However, it will go kicking and screaming.

    Flash will be the default for video provision for a long time to come, for use on older browsers (non-HTML5) and older kit (FLV needs less CPU than H.264). Flash also does full-screen video, which HTML5 and javascript does not for security reasons. How many times have you full-screened the World cup coverage?

    Also Flash has a 20 year history of providing the animations that we hate, but advertisers love. The canvas tag does not offer the same richness to Flash ad authors, and it’s advertisers who pay for the web.

    Google has a conflicted point of view here. They love advertisers and vaunt Flash on their Android platform, but they are pushing HTML5 like noone else at the same time. I think they will court Flash as an inextricably linked part of the web for many years to come, whilst developing better alternatives over time.

  2. Chris Rusbridge said

    Well I really hope it IS time for Flash to go, so we don’t have more horrible unwebby things like Edinburgh’s Annual Review (see http://www.ed.ac.uk/about/mission-governance/annual-review/introduction). PDF may have its issues, but I found this just dreadful, especially the way it responded to the mouse when I tried moving around the screen; entirely upside down. Horrible.

  3. Adobe still have their ace card to play. An open Flash framework could still stop the HTML5 bandwagon in its tracks. Another problem HTML5 has is its replacement. There will be new cool media people want in their websites (3d video, speech control, 3d models, AR views etc) that it will take years for W3C to ratify into HTML6.

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