If you need effective content on the web that is both interactive as well as engaging, then your solution utilizes Adobe Flash as well as HTML5. Some consider HTML 5 to be the better technology as almost 82% of the web browsers support this. However, others argue that Flash has been around for a longer duration and is even compatible with desktop applications. If you analyze the features of both technologies, it will become evident that both offer practically the same output and functionalities. But are there any differences that could make one of them superior? Let’s find out.

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What is HTML5?
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HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and is the most widely used language for creating interactive websites. It has been around for approximately 20 years and is widely regarded for its ability to filter content in such a manner that the developer decides which content is made visible to the user when a webpage, blog, or URL is accessed. It is also possible to embed animations, video clips, and other multimedia tools by using a text file in HTML. With this language, it is possible to integrate multimedia content for increasing the interactivity of the website. You can even achieve scriptable rendering of 2D shapes with the help of HTML.

The beauty of this technology is that it uses pure codes to generate interactive content. There is no pre-made stuff in HTML5. The characteristics of each element are coded and it is these codes that are rendered by the browser when the web page is accessed by a user. Because of this a page created with HTML5 will show up differently in different browsers. Considering this feature, a lot of flexible options are opened up for developers who want to render their content in a different manner for various platforms. If you want your content to be the same for all browsers / platforms, then this might not be the best option to choose.
The biggest advantage of HTML5 is its ability to render multimedia content without requiring any plugin or player to be installed. It can run on almost all devices and platforms which is an advantage over Flash that does not work on certain platforms. The performance of HTML5 is also commendable for Linux and OS X platforms. With such features and functionalities, this technology could prove to be an effective replacement for other RIAs.

What is Adobe Flash?

Adobe Flash can be best described as a Rich Internet Application tool and a multimedia based platform. Prior to the existence of HTML5, Flash was the preferred tool for integrating animation and a good amount of interactivity to digital content. The graphical abilities of this technology are superior as competent algorithms are used for rendering graphics. This leads to a sharper output of the visual elements. Since it has been around for a long time, users usually assume any form of animation on websites has been developed with Flash.

Flash works with specific flash plugins that are required for rendering the content. The interactive data is stored in virtual containers which are rendered when the appropriate plugin is available in the browser. This technology is platform independent, unlike HTML5, where the information in the containers do not change. So as long as you have the right plugin / support software, you can access the content anywhere. There is no need for the content to be changed for different platforms so it saves a lot of time and energy. However, the downside to this feature is that some of the specific aspects of each platform require certain customizations that are not possible with Flash.

Developers have more creative freedom when using Flash as it supports built-in visual effects. It is also possible to specify values in sub-pixel increments which allow a more detailed presentation for the visual contents in a flash program.

Adobe Flash vs. HTML5

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Let us analyze specific aspects of both technologies to see which gains an upper hand in different areas. This will help us to understand the overall advantage that is provided by each.

-> Development:

In terms of content development, Flash definitely gains an upper hand. The technology has been around for a long time and due to this, the resource pool as well the size of the community is considerably large. People have explored and experimented with a lot of Flash’s features while HTML5 is a fairly newer technology and there is a lot to be explored with respect to its applications. HTML5 may seem to be enticing enough with its high flexibility, but there is no way in which it could catch up to the experience that Flash has achieved. However, there is a possibility that HTML5 might integrate Flash as its content is rendered beautifully in it. This may be the only outcome possible if the technology does not surpass Flash.

-> Deployment:

Flash deployment is relatively easy. All you need to do is to upload the containers to the required server space and subsequently place the codes on the web page. Once this has been done, you are ready to go. Keep in mind the user must have the correct plugin installed or else the content would not render. This seems to be the only major obstacle that is not in the hands of the developers. Even though the plugin is free for download, users hardly take the time to install it. As most platforms do not come with preloaded plugins, this step has to be done manually.

HTML5 has a completely different approach altogether. For this you need to upload the files to the server and create the codes and voila – your work is done. There is no requirement for any plugin to render the content. The browser does that for you. The only downside to this feature is that older browsers either render it incorrectly or do not render it at all.

-> Usability & Performance

There is a clear difference in the processing power required for rendering content in each technology. HTML5 uses much lower processing power than flash based content. This is a great leverage for HTML5 as people now use mobile devices and smartphones with a majority of the devices having mediocre or less performance capabilities. In these instances, the processing uses a lot of power and that causes the entire content to slow down, thereby decreasing the effectiveness of the content’s presentation.

If Flash is to be used for creating different versions for various platforms, then it would require a lot of resources and time as each platform would require their own set of codes and containers to store the information. Now if you combine this with the increased processing time, it comes out to be inferior when compared to HTML5.

Sample Case Scenario:

In order to understand the implications of Flash and HTML5 in a better manner, let us consider the example of Digital Flipbooks. These are digital renders of content that have been documented in PDF files. Post conversion with the PDF to flipbook software, the information is presented in a captivating template with interactive features such as turning pages. Both Flash and HTML5 flipbooks are interactive.

However, when it comes to choosing one of the technologies, people often get into a dilemma. The first that needs to be understood is that there is no superior or inferior scenario for both. HTML5 works best for those flipbooks that need to be displayed across various platforms and therefore need specific customizations to maintain compatibility.

Moreover, this is a good option when a wide range of mobile platforms are targeted, as some may not have flash plugins and may only render HTML content. Flash should be used in situations when the presentation does not have to be specifically modified for each platform and when graphic qualities as well as the details are quintessential.

The Verdict!

As is evident in our analysis and in the case scenario discussed above, there is no winning position for both technologies. There are pros and cons for each, and their applications are completely different. Flash and HTML5 are powerful technologies capable of creating engaging and powerful content that have a decent amount of interactivity. So in a way, both are winners and are reigning champions in their own leagues. Since both have different applications and methodologies, it is safe to say that the preference for either depends completely upon your specific requirements and the targeted platforms. The cold war is only created by developers as well as users to put their perspective across as being more accurate.